You can see this giant pillar from the road, as it pokes above the trees like some great stone guardian of the forest. It looks like a giant outlier; a lonely monolith left isolated within a sea of evergreens.
Stein’s Pillar is one of Oregon’s overlooked geological gems. If you hike to the stone, you won’t have to fight through throngs of hikers to spend some time within its impressive shadow.
The 350-foot-tall pillar is actually a remnant of an ancient volcano. It’s essentially a relic from when the Ochoco Mountains once spewed spurts of lava and filled the air with clouds of ash, dust, and debris. Thankfully, the landscape is much quieter now, and the hike to the pillar makes for a pleasant outdoor experience.
People have been drawn to the pillar for centuries, and it’s believed to have been used as a sacred place for the Shoshone. The rock was named Steins Pillar after Major Enoch Steen, who visited the area in the mid-19th century. (Steen’s name was frequently misspelled, and the people who named the rock after him used one of its most common misspellings.)
Today, rock climbers try their hand at climbing up its sleek sides. Even if you’d prefer to keep your feet on the ground, touching the ancient natural skyscraper still feels like an almost magical experience.
Know Before You Go
It is best viewed at a distance from the Mill Creek Road; however, there is a relatively easy trail to the base of the pillar. There are no facilities (water, restroom, etc.) of any sort at the trailhead, so be prepared. The hike to the pillar is about four miles round-trip.