Unique Astronomy Site: Steens Mountain

Steens Mountain Oregon Outback
Courtesy of BLM (https://www.blm.gov/visit/steens-mountain-wilderness)

Steens Mountain Wilderness is a great place for astronomy as it is so far away from city lights. Its remote location, also leads to it being hard to get to.

The Steen’s Mountain Wilderness is a Bortle Scale Black Zone, which provides the best viewing possible. The only issue is its far drive from civilization, so please plan accordingly for logistics such as food and gas. The wilderness area is indeed open to the public; therefore, the public can use anything in terms of astronomical gear. 

Note: A special use permit is required for large groups and those who will be commercially use (ie selling the astronomical photos for money or doing stargazing tours). More information can be found here

Warning: Steens Wilderness and surrounding areas does constitute a desert. Please pack accordingly and check out the following Bureau of Land Management site for what to expect. https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/recreation-activities/oregon-washington/steens-mountain


  • How far outside of Portland? 370-450 miles depending on the route, so like 7-8 hours or so.
  • Google Maps Location


  • Parking should be part of the cost of using the areas. Entry is free
Courtesy of BLM (https://www.blm.gov/visit/steens-mountain-wilderness)

Overnight Accommodations

Primitive camping is allowed on all Bureau of Land Management lands, unless otherwise marked. 
There are several different camping spots inside the Steens Mountain boundary. See the BLM Brochure for more info: https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/documents/files/OR_SteensMountain_CMPA.pdf

A few of the campgrounds on site are:
1) Mann Lake –> Located inside Steens Mountain, this area is wonderful and allows pets. But the site is not reservable and more info can be found here
2) Fish Lake Campground — 23 campsites open June to October at 7,400-feet of elevation, 20 miles from Frenchglen. Not reservable. Contact Info And More Info at https://www.blm.gov/visit/fish-lake-recreation-site
and https://www.outdoorproject.com/adventures/oregon/camping/fish-lake-recreation-site-campground
3) Jackman Park Campgroundā€”6 spots that are 3 miles beyond Fish Lake at 7,800 feet of elevation. Reservations are not required. More information available courtesy of the outdoorproject
4) South Steens 36 family campsite at the heart of the wilderness area https://www.blm.gov/visit/south-steens-campground



Current Seeing Conditions/Forecasts

The chart above is courtesy of ClearDarkSky.com and the chart below is courtesy of Clearoutside.com.

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