Eastern Oregon is Outdoor Recreation

Eastern Oregon is Outdoor Recreation Main Photo

3 Aug 2022


Oregon is a state defined by its natural beauty. The state’s eastern portion often gets overlooked by the thickly forested mountain ranges and oceanfront that draws visitors to the western side. But Baker, Grant, Harney and Union Counties all contain marvelous natural beauty, filled with seemingly endless options for outdoor recreation. Active outdoor enthusiasts flock to the region year-round to experience the majestic mountains, sparkling lakes, rivers and trails crisscrossing thousands of acres of public land. Whether the desired pursuit is backpacking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, horseback riding or scenic road trips, Eastern Oregon will not disappoint!

Head to the Mountains 

Hiking enthusiasts seek out the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness for its hundreds of trails traversing the rugged high country, inspiring vistas and phenomenal fishing. Hunters and wildlife viewers find many species of animals, including Rocky Mountain Elk. The Blue Mountains are also home to the Mount Emily Recreation Area, which has separate motorized and non-motorized areas to challenge all levels of cyclists, ATV enthusiasts, mountain bikers and horse riders.

The Steens Mountain Wilderness covers more than 170,000 acres of public land. Visitors enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding and hunting in these high desert wildlands that are some of the most remote in the country.

The following resources provide knowledgeable information for getting out and enjoying the mountains and forests of Eastern Oregon. 

Oregon Adventures (Eastern Oregon)

Malheur National Forest

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

Umatilla National Forest

Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort

Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort is the most well-known outdoor recreation center and year-round family fun in Eastern Oregon. Just off I-84 in the Blue Mountains between La Grande and Baker City, the resort is a popular draw for skiing in the winter, which at 7,100 feet, is the highest base elevation in Oregon. Summer brings many opportunities like camping, hiking, amazing trout fishing, mountain biking and more. 

Water fun

The John Day River offers excellent fly fishing for trout and smallmouth bass.  Fly fishing for trout on the Wallowa and Grande Ronde Rivers are nearby La Grande in the spring, with the steelhead fishery heating up in the fall. Those preferring the lake experience head to Magone Lake to fish for the stocked rainbow trout population. 

Spending time on the water may be misleading concerning the Alvord Desert outside Burns, but folks come from long distances to find the hot springs there. The desert is a nearly 100-square-mile dry lake bed with wide open, flat land popular for land sailing. 


Bird lovers will appreciate the grandeur of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 187,000 acres of crucial wildlife habitat set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The Refuge is an essential stop along the Pacific Flyway as a resting, breeding and nesting area for hundreds of thousands of birds and other wildlife.

Scenic Drives

The Blue Mountain Scenic Byway allows nature lovers to appreciate the entire area in a 150-mile day trip without ever leaving the car!

Driving through the John Day River Territory would only scratch the surface of the phenomenal sights to see there. The State of Oregon touts the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds as “one of the seven wonders” of Oregon!

The Cove-Union Farm Loop takes visitors through working farms and orchards that display the agricultural tendencies of Eastern Oregon. 

In town

Man-made recreation includes many phenomenal opportunities in the region, with five golf courses and multiple swimming pools, including the unique Cove Hot Springs Pool. Sports enthusiasts are drawn to the John Day Sports Complex for baseball, softball and soccer tournaments throughout the three snow-free seasons. 

Residents and locals seek out several high-quality golf courses in the region. Baker City has the Quail Ridge Golf Course and Union is home to the Buffalo Peak Golf Course. Grant County has three golf courses - John Day Golf Club, Seneca’s Bear Valley Meadows Golf Course and South Fork Golf Course in Dayville.

Local resources bring the best of Eastern Oregon to you

Plenty of small businesses and entrepreneurs offer their local knowledge and resources to assist outdoor enthusiasts in finding and preparing for their excursions. For more information about these businesses or others in Eastern Oregon, please contact the Economic Development department at Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative today!

Outdoor equipment and sporting goods companies like Blue Mountain Outfitters in La Grande or Baboon Creek Outfitters and The Trailhead in Baker City offer a full range of gear, clothing, local maps and more, as well as guide services for area trips.

The Mountain Works is where bicyclists, skiers, climbers and skaters get their gear in La Grande.

Alpine Archery and Fly in La Grande provides expert service, gear, guided fly fishing trips and an indoor archery range.