Frenchglen, in the Oregon Outback


The best reason to go inside is for a cold drink, maybe some snacks, and to check out a few of the antiques that are on display, like that old washing machine…

… and the old post office sign, up on the top shelf.

Outside, there’s one of these boxes with some kind of a telephone inside it.  I did some research and discovered that they used to be fairly common, back in the dark ages.  My Bluetooth device wasn’t able to connect to the phone, so I can’t confirm that this is, indeed, some kind of communications device.  But if it is, it may very well be the only way to reach the outside world from Frenchglen.

I was most excited to visit Frenchglen, because it’s the starting point of an excellent dirt backroad, that leads all the way up to the top of Steens Mountain — the high point of the wilderness area, at 9,733 feet.   Sure, the weather was lousy, but I wasn’t going to let that spoil my trip to the top.

Now let’s think about this for a moment.  I was in Frenchglen, elevation 4,203 feet, in a cold, drizzly rain, and I was planning to drive to the top of a mountain, gaining more than 5,500 feet of elevation.   I wonder if I might run into…

… some snow?  Why yes, I might.  And I did.   It started off as a few flurries, and a thin dusting.  No problem, I thought.  I’m in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.  I should be fine.

I pressed on until I reached this point.  True, the snow wasn’t very deep, just yet.  But, the muddy slush on the dirt road was starting to frighten me.  Worse yet, the prospect of turning out of those ruts, in order to make a multi-point turn, was also pretty intimidating.  But, I knew it wasn’t going to get any better.

I made the turn safely, took a few pictures, and then headed back downhill.

Even in the rainy, cloudy weather, the lower end of the road was quite pretty.  I’m sure it’s a remarkable view from higher up.  I’ll have to swing by, the next time I’m in the area, and try to do it again.

The Bottom Line

If you’re exploring southeastern Oregon, you can’t help but drive through Frenchglen.  Stop for a few minutes and see it all.  If the weather is favorable, take the drive up Steens Mountain.  If it’s rainy in Frenchglen, keep in mind that it might be snowy at higher elevations.


Frenchglen is located about an hour’s drive south of Burns, Oregon — which itself is located several hours from anywhere.  From Bend, Oregon, drive two hours east on US 20 to Burns, then turn south on Route 205 and drive for another hour.

Frenchglen is located 72 miles north of the Nevada/Oregon state line, and the town of Denio (don’t expect a big casino).  You’d have to drive 100 more miles south to the next sizeable town, Winnemucca, Nevada.

There are no east-west routes out of Frenchglen, aside from primitive backroads.

Drivelapse Video

Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive around Burns, then south to Frenchglen:

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