The Alvord Desert is in southeastern Oregon and is a spectacular spot to spend some time in. Mostly on BLM, the Alvord Playa is the highlight, but it's far from the only thing there. With plenty roads to explore, hiking to experience, and hot springs to soak in, we've been several times - and I'm sure we'll be back again.
Note: The Alvord Desert is a very remote area, plan accordingly. Know where you can get fuel and water, and carry extra. If you are travelling alone, be extremely cautious - if you get stuck out here, it could be many days before someone else comes along to help.
Our Trips to the Alvord
If you've decided the Alvord is for you, here are several places I'd recommend visiting.
Alvord Playa (stories)
No trip to the Alvord Desert is complete without visiting the playa. At 10 miles long and 5 miles wide, it's perfectly flat and provides and experience like no other as you accelerate across it. Immediately around your vehicle, the world whizzes by - but further away, it looks as though you're standing still. It was here that the women's land speed record was set by Kitty O'Neil in 1976, her speed clocked at 512.710 mph. And, it was here in August 2019 that Jessi Combs made her final run.
Driving on the playa, here following the final tracks of the great Jessi Combs.
Steens Mountain (stories)
Steens Mountain looms large over the Alvord Playa, and is home to the highest road in Oregon. It's a bit of a drive, but take the time to reach the summit - the views are to die for!
Looking out over the playa from Steens Mountain.
Local Hot Springs (stories)
Right on the playa, you can enjoy a soak in the Alvord Hot Springs while you relax and enjoy the stars above. Usually the springs are not crowded, and you may have the pools all to yourself. In addition, there are several more rustic hot springs around, but be careful if you find them, temps in nearby springs are scalding - 180°F or more!
A local hot spring, it's colors striking in the middle of the desert.
Borax Lake (stories)
The geothermal activity of this site has resulted in the lake being uphill from the surrounding area - the lake essentially sitting on top of a hill of borax that has been pumped out of the ground, the lake itself contained within short borax walls. Accumulating at somewhere near 150 tons/year, it looks like there's snow on the ground, likely what drew the Rose Valley Borax mining company to the area in 1892. For 10 years, Chinese laborers gathered borax from the ground, mixed it in long boiling vats with water to purify it, and then transported it via mule team wagons to Winnemucca, NV. The lake, and it's surrounding hot springs and the it-sure-looks-like-snow-on-the-ground-but-it's-borax are well worth checking out.
That's not snow, it's borax. At Borax Lake.
Fields Station (stories)
If you're headed to the Alvord, Fields Station is your friend. Be sure to check their operating hours, but they are the only gas around - for 75 miles or more - and I hear they have amazing milk shakes as well. Stop in, say hi, and thank them for being there. Adventure and exploration in this region would be much harder if they weren't around!
Fuel and food. Two necessities you can get only at Fields Station.