Steins Pillar Hike

Steins Pillar Trail #837

Distance: 4 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Loss: 200 ft.

Description: This out and back hike ends at its culminating point and namesake Steins Pillar.  This mellow trail meanders through a forest with giant ponderosa pines and on a clear day views of the Cascades.  There is a viewpoint (a sign marks it) about half way to Steins Pillar.  If lucky, there may be some rock climbers visible from openings in the trees. This minor detour is well worth it to get another perspective of the pillar.  From this viewpoint there are two other prominent rocks in front of Steins Pillar so only the top of the pillar is visible.  Continue on the trail till the trail ends at the base of the pillar.  From the base of Steins Pillar the enormity of the rock is evident, standing 350 ft. tall and 120 ft. in diameter. 

Steins Pillar is formed from welded volcanic tuff about 44 million years ago. There were three successive hot volcanic avalanches that formed the welded tuff in the area.  During the cooling period the vertical contraction joints split the rock vertically.  Over time erosion cut away at the continuous welded tuff along the vertical splits forming Steins Pillar and the two other rocks in the area.  

There is a viewpoint from the road which will give an unobstructed view of the Steins Pillar along with an informative sign about the pillar's formation and history.  Driving directions are below. 

Directions from Bend: For Steins Pillar Trailhead begin on US-97 N toward Redmond/Portland.  Continue on US-97 N for about 15 miles.  Turn right on OR-126/SE Evergreen Ave. Follow OR-126 for about 17 miles. OR-126 becomes NW 3rd St/US-26 E. Continue on US-26 E for about 7 miles.  Turn left onto Mill Creek Road (Forest Service Road 33).  Take Mill Creek Road for about 6 miles then turn right onto Forest Service Road 3300-500.  In approximately 2 miles the trailhead and parking area will be on the left.

Steins Pillar Lookout- after turning left off of US-26 E onto Mill Creek Road (Forest Service Road 33) continue for about 8 miles. The pull off will be on the right. 


Twin Pillars Hike

Twin Pillars Trail #832 Out and back from twin pillars south trailhead

Distance: 11 miles round trip

Difficulty: Strenuous

Elevation: 1,900 feet

Description: The trail starts by following the East Fork of Mill Creek for nearly 3 miles. The creek is in a steep canyon that manipulates the trail back and forth across the creek eight times. Throughout these crossings, the species composition shifts dramatically from dense riparian vegetation to ponderosa pines and then an expansive burned area. The beginning of the trail is in a stand of ponderosa pine along the west side of the canyon. After the first creek crossing, the trail enters a dense canopy of douglas fir and ponderosa pine. The trail drops back along the creek which is dominated by alder and willow trees. As the trail ascents into the Mill Creek Wilderness, the outside of the riparian area is populated by a mixed ponderosa forest with a sparse understory. Fire scars on old growth ponderosa pines are visible around the fourth and fifth creek crossing, demonstrating the species fire resistant nature. By the time the trail reaches the sixth and seventh crossings, there is hardly any understory underneath the fir and pine forest. This allows for a view of an extensive burned area with may standing snags and dense bushes. The trail ascends on the way to the eight crossing where both larch and ponderosa pines coexist in an open canopy structure. Then the trail heads down and across Belknap Creek before the eighth and final Mill Creek crossing.

Leaving the moist soils of the riparian area behind, the trail takes a steep western turn out of the Mill Creek drainage and across the rolling landscape of the wilderness. There are sprawling views of the lighting caused fire from 2000 that left most of the area with charred snags, save a few pockets of larch hiding in the sun soaked ravines. For about 2.5 miles the trail goes through the burned area before reaching the base of the pillars. Half a mile into the burned area, the trail crosses Brogan Creek before gaining 1,400 feet of elevation in 2 miles. After a series of steep and sharp switchbacks, the trail arrives at the base of Twin Pillars which proudly stand 200 feet tall. The view from the pillars into the Mill Creek Wilderness is breathtaking with glimpses of the Cascades on a clear day. Head back the way you came after soaking in the beauty of the wilderness and listening to the howling wind.

Driving Directions: Begin on US-97 N toward Redmond/Portland.  Continue on US-97 N for about 15 miles.  Turn right on OR-126/SE Evergreen Ave. Follow OR-126 for about 17 miles. OR-126 becomes NW 3rd St/US-26 E. Continue on US-26 E for about 9 miles and turn left onto Mill Creek Road. Travel down the road for 11 miles. Just before Wildcat campground, veer to the right to park at the Twin Pillars South Trailhead.