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The Alvord Desert: A Guide to Visiting Oregon's Mysterious Desert

The Alvord Desert is a mysterious and remote desert located in southeastern Oregon. With its vast open spaces and scenic mountain views, the Alvord Desert is a captivating destination for those looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. From its wildlife to its hot springs, the Alvord Desert has something for everyone.


In this blog post, we'll provide an overview of the Alvord Desert and how to make the most of your visit. So if you're looking for a unique desert experience, read on and explore what the Alvord Desert has to offer!




Location and Getting There

The Alvord Desert is a mysterious desert located in southeast Oregon. It is one of the most remote regions in the state and is considered by some to be a hidden gem. Located in Harney County near the Oregon-Idaho border, this large desert is well worth visiting for its stunning scenery, untouched beauty, and wide open spaces.


If you plan on visiting the Alvord Desert, the first thing to consider is where to park. There is no single official parking lot for the area, but many visitors park at Fields Station, which is located near the Alvord Desert. Be aware that there is limited space at Fields Station, so arrive early to ensure you can find a spot.


The Expansive Alvord Desert
A view of the expansive Alvord Desert

Next, you'll need to decide how to get there. For those coming from out of town, you have two main options. The closest major cities are Boise, Idaho, and Bend, Oregon.


From Boise, Idaho:

1. Drive south on I-84.

2. Take exit #273 onto State Highway 20 E.

3. Drive East on Hwy 20 to Hwy 205.

4. Turn right onto Hwy 205 S and drive for approximately 18 miles until you reach Fields Station.


From Bend, Oregon:

1. Drive south on US-97.

2. Turn left onto State Highway 20 W.

3. Drive West on Hwy 20 to Hwy 205.

4. Turn left onto Hwy 205 S and drive for approximately 18 miles until you reach Fields Station.


When driving through the Alvord Desert, it's important to be aware of potential issues that could arise. The road is unpaved and rough in some areas, so make sure your car is up for the task, and you have the proper tires for off-roading.




Additionally, be aware of changing weather conditions that could make driving more dangerous. Be sure to bring plenty of water and supplies, as there are no services nearby.

Steens Mountains
The Steens Moutains near the Alvord Desert

By taking the time to understand where to park and how to get there, you can safely visit this incredible destination and explore the Alvord Desert's unique beauty.



Weather

The Alvord Desert in Oregon offers some of the most breathtaking views in the region. The desert is a great place to go for outdoor activities, camping, and stargazing, but it is important to be aware of the climate in the area.


The Alvord Desert experiences a semi-arid climate throughout the year, with temperatures ranging from the low 40s at night to the mid-80s during the day. In the summer months, temperatures can even get as high as 100 degrees. Rainfall is light, averaging about 3 inches annually, with most of it falling during the winter months.


Alvord Desert View
The incredible Alvord Desert

Due to its dry climate and lack of shade, many visitors choose to visit the Alvord Desert during the spring or fall months.




These are usually milder than summer months and offer cooler evenings. If you're planning a trip to the Alvord Desert, make sure to pack lightweight clothing that breathes well and can be layered for colder nights. Sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses are also essential items for anyone visiting the desert.


It's also important to bring plenty of water and snacks, as you may not have access to these items in the area.



What to Pack

Visiting the Alvord Desert in Oregon can be a great adventure, but there are certain items you should bring to make sure you're prepared for the journey.


If you plan to hike around the desert, it's important to bring plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes. It's also important to bring snacks to keep your energy levels up, especially during long hikes. You may also want to bring a first aid kit in case of any injuries.


If you're planning to camp in the Alvord Desert, be sure to bring appropriate camping gear such as a tent, sleeping bag, and camping stove. You'll also want to pack warm clothing and extra blankets to stay warm at night. A flashlight or headlamp can come in handy if you want to explore after dark. Don't forget to bring along any toiletries or other items that you may need for your stay. (Read more about camping below!)


Finally, if you're visiting during the summer months, it's always smart to bring bug spray to protect yourself from pesky insects.




Hiking

More experienced hikers can head out on the nearby 3-mile round-trip Abert Rim Trail which offers dramatic views of the Pueblo Mountains and Abert Rim, one of the steepest escarpments in North America. The trail is fairly rugged and steep, but the views are worth it.


The Alvord Desert also offers longer hikes, such as the 8-mile round-trip Steens Mountain Loop Trail. This trail takes you through various landscapes of the Alvord Desert and along the top of Steens Mountain, where you can admire breathtaking views of both deserts as well as Harney County below. The terrain of this hike varies from rocky slopes to sandy flats and is perfect for exploring this rugged desert environment.


Tree in the Alvord Desert
Exploring the Alvord Desert often presents unexpected surprises

No matter your experience level, the Alvord Desert has something for everyone. With its vast array of trails and spectacular views, you can explore and discover all that this mysterious desert has to offer.


Photography

The Alvord Desert in Oregon is an incredible place for photographers. Located in southeastern Oregon, the Alvord Desert is a vast area of dry lake beds, hot springs, and stunning mountain views. It is a photographer’s paradise with its vast expanse of terrain, providing plenty of opportunities to get some amazing shots.


Whether you’re looking for a stunning landscape shot or a close-up of some of the desert’s unique flora and fauna, the Alvord Desert has it all.


Popular spots for photography include Steens Mountain, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, and the Alvord Hot Springs.


Steens Mountains in the Alvord Desert
The incredible Steens Mountains in the Alvord Desert

Steens Mountain provides breathtaking vistas, especially during sunrise and sunset, when the colors of the sky are especially vibrant. Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is a great spot for wildlife photography.


The refuge is home to deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, and other animals, making it a great place for photographers to capture these animals in their natural habitat. The Alvord Hot Springs is also a popular spot for photographers as they can take advantage of its therapeutic pool as well as its stunning desert views.

No matter what type of photography you're interested in, the Alvord Desert is sure to provide plenty of opportunities for you to capture some truly amazing shots. So if you're looking for a great place to take photos, head to the Alvord Desert for some spectacular views and photo opportunities!


Camping in the Alvord Desert

Camping in the Alvord Desert is permitted, although it does not have any specific campground. Campers should be aware of the potential for extreme temperatures during the summer months and have an emergency plan in place.

Alvord Desert Campsite
Camping in the Alvord Desert

If you're planning to camp in the Alvord Desert, you'll need to bring all your own camping supplies with you, including a tent, sleeping bag, and cooking supplies. Be sure to bring plenty of water, as there are no sources of drinking water in the area. You should also bring plenty of sunscreen and extra clothes for cold nights since temperatures can drop below freezing at night.

Nearby campgrounds within 20 miles of the Alvord Desert include Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge and Plush Horse Corral. Hart Mountain has three camping areas, with amenities including fire pits, picnic tables, and restroom facilities. Plush Horse Corral offers more rustic amenities, such as outhouse restrooms and hand-pump water spigots.

Alvord Desert Camping
Multiple RVs in the Alvord Desert camping areas

Overall, if you're planning to camp in the Alvord Desert, you'll want to be well-prepared. Bring plenty of supplies and be prepared for extreme temperatures and remote settings. With that said, the Alvord Desert offers an incredible experience for those looking for adventure!


Facts about the Alvord Desert

The Alvord Desert is an expansive desert with a stunningly beautiful landscape of sagebrush, juniper, and rolling hills that is unlike anywhere else in the world. Visitors to the Alvord Desert can expect to find some of the most unique sights, sounds, and experiences around. Here are some interesting facts about the Alvord Desert that you might not know:


1. The Alvord Desert is known for its dry lake bed, which is the only one of its kind in the United States. The dry lake bed often fills up during the wetter months, providing visitors with the opportunity to enjoy a lake in the middle of a desert.


2. The Alvord Desert is home to some incredibly unique wildlife. Visitors may spot wild horses, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and even pronghorn antelope roaming through the desert.


3. Although the Alvord Desert may seem like a desolate wasteland, there is actually quite a bit of vegetation growing in the area. Some of the native plants include sagebrush, juniper, greasewood, rabbit brush, and pinion pine.



4. The Alvord Desert is situated in an area known as The Rain Shadow due to its low rainfall rates. It receives less than 5 inches of rain each year, making it one of the driest places in the United States.


5. In the winter months, the Alvord Desert can become a real winter wonderland! Temperatures can drop as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit and snow can sometimes cover the ground for days at a time.


FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Alvord Desert:


What is the elevation of the Alvord Desert?

You might be surprised to learn that the Alvord Desert is at an elevation of around 4,060 feet.


How can I get to the Alvord Desert?

The Alvord Desert is located in southeastern Oregon, east of Steens Mountain. The nearest major town is Fields, Oregon. To get to the desert, you’ll need to travel east on Highway 205, then south on Highway 78. You can also reach the desert from Burns, Oregon, by taking State Highway 20 and then heading south on gravel roads.


What is there to do at the Alvord Desert?

There are lots of activities to enjoy in the Alvord Desert. You can go camping, explore the unique and vast terrain, or watch as wild horses roam free. Hot springs and playa lakes are also available for swimming, sunbathing, and other recreational activities.


What should I bring with me when visiting the Alvord Desert?

When visiting the Alvord Desert, you’ll need to pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks. Bring a map and compass if you plan to explore the desert terrain, and leave no trace principles should be followed if you’re camping or using the hot springs. Additionally, make sure you check the weather forecast before you go – thunderstorms can happen suddenly in the desert, and you should be prepared.


Are there any restrictions I should be aware of?

While visiting the Alvord Desert, it is important to adhere to all of the rules and regulations of the Bureau of Land Management. Make sure you do not camp within 200 feet of any streams or hot springs and that you always stay on designated roads or trails. You should also be aware that target shooting is strictly prohibited in this area.


We hope this guide has answered some of your questions about visiting the Alvord Desert! Be sure to do your research before visiting, and always respect the environment around you while exploring this unique part of Oregon.


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