The Sheepshead mountain range is found in the eastern part of Oregon, well away from any cities and even towns of any size. This range, is very isolated and is east of the Steen Mountains and the Alvord Desert. This area is most notably an area where cattle range and not much else. It is not a lofty set of mountains and really holds no appeal except for the occasional peakbagger who is interested in prominence peaks. There is no other reason to visit this area, none whatsoever that I can think of. The Sheepshead Range HP is only noteworthy thanks to having 1979 feet of prominence.
At one time, this was a sought after highpoint as it was on the list of Oregon mountains that were said to have at least 2000 feet of prominence or more. Then it was discovered that it fell below the 2000 foot number and was at 1979 feet of prominence instead, which knocked it off the list of Oregon mountains with at least 2000 feet of prominence. That in a way might be a blessing since it is a long way from anything, as mentioned above although it could be combined with a visit to Blue Mountain
, a p2k prominence peak to the south or to pick up the Malheur county highpoint, Stevenson BM
which is just south of Blue Mountain. Still, it comes in at #77 on the top 100 Oregon
Prominence peak list. More information
on it can be obtained at the List of John page.
Since this is cattle country, be sure to open and close gates as you find them.
Heading south from Burns Oregon towards Burns Junction, keep your eyes alert to the possibility of cattle on the highway. I had a close call on this stretch of road and there are no services for 92 miles (to Burns Junction) after you leave Burns so fill up there. Drive south, passing the dirt road that leads to Fields & Denio as you get closer to near the road you are looking for, a dirt track road at an intersection near milepost 73. Take the southwesterly bearing dirt road (close the gate if there is one)and continue on past the Ryegrass Reservoir. Stay on the main road, ignoring a road that goes to the right near a corral and continue on Ryegrass Creek road, until you come to a gate at the Favorite Reservoir, a very small body of water just to the southeast of Small Butte. After a short distance, you will encounter another gate and once again it will be necessary to stop and open and then close the gate as you proceed on. A good pair of work gloves is recommended as sometimes these gates are a bit tricky to open and close and you don't want to cut your self on the barb wire portions.
Continue on the road as it now heads south and watch for a road, a rough one, that takes off up to the west on a steep and rocky grade. Follow this road to a saddle and find a spot to park. From there you can see the summit of the area you want to get to and you can sidehill and work your way up to the non imposing summit area from there. Check out the picture I have posted that shows where Dennis and I parked our trucks. You could drive further but then I would ask, Why? After a long drive to get to this area,
a half mile hike wouldn't be a bad way to stretch your legs. Elevation gain is about 300 feet. The drive in is the adventure. We found no register or benchmark at the time of our visit. If you encounter a stretch of road that you would rather not test your vehicle on, park and walk.
The area is BLM land so there are no restrictions other than using common sense and making sure that you open and close gates as they present themselves and take out everything you bring in. Leave no trace. If there are cattle present, respect their right to be there.
I don't think you would want to camp out there but since it is BLM land, you can camp at reasonable locations. I wouldn't build a firering. Lodging and camping can be found in the Jordan Valley area, the McDirmitt area or the Fields area. Fields has a small campground and a general store and gas station. Also, there was a small gas station at Burns Junction, less than 20 miles to the south. Other gas stations are available in McDirmitt on the Nevada border and at Jordan Valley, about 45 miles east of Burns Junction.
Weather Link for the area
This is an isolated area of Oregon. Take adequate precautions when driving in this country. Services are few and far between and so keep your gas tanks full and carry water, food and supplies in case you have a breakdown. Let someone know where you are heading as there is no cell service in most of the area between Burns and Burns Junction. Plan accordingly.
As road conditions can change and hiking or traveling in this type of country can be inherently dangerous, the above information is provided only as a courtesy. You accept all risk and responsibility for your activities in this area and I recommend that you let others know of your plans and where you will be hiking/climbing prior to heading to this area. Be self sufficient and carry plenty of food, water and shelter in the event of a breakdown. Good quality tires are a necessity on the rough and rocky roads you will encounter as is a vehicle in good condition. Having said all that, have a good trip and please let the author of this page know of changes that you encounter.