Attractions and Recreation
Eastern Oregon is an outdoor lover’s paradise with recreational opportunities for anyone who loves beautiful scenery, thrilling adventure or the joy of a lazy afternoon casting a line. The region is defined by majestic mountains, sparkling lakes and rivers, hiking and biking trails and four seasons of outdoor activities. Thousands of acres of public land offer backpacking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, horseback riding and more. The John Day River and Magone Lake provide opportunities to fish, swim and relax on the water. Heading to the river or lake after work on the weekend is a favorite local pastime.
Photo (left) is courtesy of Travel Baker County.
Click the drop downs below to learn more about attractions and recreation opportunties in Eastern Oregon.
Attractions and Recreation
Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort
Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort is the most well-known and popular center of outdoor recreation and year-round family fun in Eastern Oregon. With the highest base elevation in Oregon at 7,100 feet, the resort is a popular draw for skiing in the winter, while summer opens up the wilderness for camping, hiking, mountain biking and more.
The 2020-21 winter season was the busiest the resort has ever been and that trend is expected to continue as winter recreation lovers will likely still travel to small ski areas to escape the crowds and high prices of larger ski areas.
Tucked in the Blue Mountains just off I-84 between La Grande and Baker City, the ski resort has a triple chairlift, a vertical drop of 900 feet and a summit elevation of 8,000 feet. With a terrain primarily for intermediate and expert-level skiers and snowboarders, Anthony Lakes Resort attracts visitors from throughout the Pacific Northwest. In the summer, Anthony Lakes Resort is transformed into the perfect getaway and destination for weekend fun. They offer a campground, hiking and mountain biking, with the Starbottle restaurant serving locally sourced food and microbrews. Best of all is the view of Anthony Lake and other high-mountain lakes!
Mount Emily Recreation Area
The Blue Mountains are also home to the Mount Emily Recreation Area (MERA) in Union County. Visitors enjoy separate motorized and non-motorized areas to challenge all levels of cyclists, ATV enthusiasts, mountain bikers and horse riders. MERA has 3,700 acres of opportunities for mountain biking, hiking, off-road driving and horseback riding just minutes from La Grande.
Strawberry Mountain Wilderness
Hiking enthusiasts seek out the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness for its hundreds of pristine trails traversing the rugged high country, inspiring vistas and phenomenal fishing. Hunters and wildlife viewers find many species of animals, including Rocky Mountain Elk. Elevation ranges from about 4,000 feet to 9,038 feet.
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge offers a unique experience in the region – a large wetland reserve. Bird lovers will appreciate its grandeur, with 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.
Campgrounds are common throughout the Refuge, with numerous different facilities. Roughly 50,000 individuals visit the Refuge annually, primarily for wildlife observation and photography. About 96% of the visitors are non-local, with a group averaging four individuals typically staying two days.
Blue Mountain Scenic Byway
Eastern Oregon is home to great scenic byways with vistas that will take your breath away. The Blue Mountain Scenic Byway allows nature lovers to appreciate the entire area in a 150-mile day trip without ever leaving the car! Gazing upon crystal clear, sparking lakes and admiring the prairie land as it rolls by are some of the most pleasurable adventures in Eastern Oregon.
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is 2.4 million acres of rugged landscape, calling for explorers and outdoor recreationists. Whether hiking amidst scenic views along high mountain lakes, seeking elusive trout or four-wheeling through the forests, there is something for everyone in this outdoor wonderland of northeastern Oregon.
Malheur National Forest
The Malheur National Forest provides a high desert retreat unlike any other. Hiking, camping and more await those who appreciate the outdoors.
The Lodge at Hot Lake Springs
The recently renovated Lodge at Hot Lake Springs still reflects its beginnings in 1906. The region’s Native Americans used the hot springs themselves before nineteenth-century colonization. In addition to the 15 renovated rooms in the lodge, the Thermal Pub and Movie Theater at Hot Lake complement the hot springs perfectly, offering a relaxing experience for all ages.
John Day River Territory
The John Day River is one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the continental United States, with a basin draining more than 8,000 surrounding square miles. The federal National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act protect the Territory and make available numerous recreation opportunities, including white-water rafting, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, camping and more.
Steens Mountain Wilderness
Harney County is home to the Steens Mountain Wilderness, some of the most remote land in Oregon. Over 170,200 acres of high desert offer camping, sightseeing, and exploring the open country via numerous hikers and horseback riders.
The Alvord Desert extends more than 35 square miles in the shadow of the Steens Mountain Wilderness. The prominent basin and desert plateau are visually stunning, drawing visitors into its grandeur. Local hot springs and camping accent the experience perfectly.
Cove-Union Farm Loop
The Cove-Union Farm Loop is a 55-mile drive through the bountiful farms, working orchards and ranches of Eastern Oregon. Visitors can stop in and purchase locally-raised products and learn how each locale operates.
Minam River Lodge
The ultimate wilderness retreat exists amidst the Eagle Cap Wilderness at the Minam River Lodge. Access is restricted to hikers, horseback trips or charter planes. The lodge has been restored but is grounded in its natural surroundings, with electricity provided by solar power and heat from a central wood-burning fireplace. Water is supplied by a mountain spring.
Silvies Valley Ranch
Guests come to Silvies Valley Ranch for a glimpse into the Old West amidst today’s modern amenities. Get away from it all with outdoor activities like shooting, cattle roundup, goat herding, fishing, exploring and more. Relax after hiking, biking or playing a round at one of the award-winning golf courses at the Ranch with a soak in the spa. Finish the wonderful day with excellent dining and retiring to your lakeside cabin or luxury suite.
Man-made recreation includes many phenomenal opportunities in the region, with five golf courses and multiple swimming pools. Sports enthusiasts are drawn to the John Day Sports Complex for baseball, softball and soccer tournaments throughout the three snow-free seasons.