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Snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, winding rivers and breathtaking desert landscapes all await the eastern Oregon visitor. This “Big Sky” country takes visitors back to old Western movies from flat-topped buttes to narrow canyons that are all rich with history. Trek where the early pioneers traveled along the Oregon Trail and explore natural wonderments from the Painted Hills in John Day to the Lehman Hot Springs in La Grande.
The settlement of Baker City grew up around a mill built in the 1860s by J.W. Virtue to process ore brought from the first hard-rock gold mines. For more information about attractions pick up a self-guided walking-tour map at the visitor center on Campbell Street.
Baker City Historic District: Pass through the 110 historic buildings which include about 64 early buildings, some constructed from volcanic tuff and stones.
Oregon Trail Regional Museum: Located just a few blocks north of the visitor center, at the corner of Campbell and Grove Streets, this museum features a collection of pioneer artifacts gathered from the Old Oregon Trail, such as trunks, furniture, china, silver, and glassware. Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Closed during winter months.
Zephyr Bakery: A great vibe and menu full of delicious goods. Located in the heart of historic Baker City, the Zephyr embraces the familiarity of old-fashioned shops with a menu catering to modern diets and tastes.
Community pride and small town spirit characterize Hermiston. Situated on the northeastern edge of Oregon in the northwest corner of Umatilla County, Hermiston is centrally located between the major cities of Portland, Spokane, and Boise.
Echo Historical Museum: A historical pit stop just off the beautiful Columbia River Highway. The museum itself is found in a beautifully restored building constructed in 1890. Learn about the brave founders of Hermiston and other towns in northern Oregon.
Hat Rock State Park: Looking for some good hiking or fresh water beaches? Take a day trip with the whole family to Hat Rock State Park. The iconic rock landmark got its name from Lewis and Clark as they explored the Columbia River landscape.
Columbia River: Located six miles to the north of Hermiston, it offers many water sports including boating, swimming, fishing and wind surfing.
Heading north from Baker City to La Grande, take a detour onto old U.S. Highway 30 to experience the small town charm of Haines.
Haines Steak House: Hearty home cooked meals are complete with steak that is fresh off the range. The restaurant, open for dinner Wednesday – Monday, is on old US 30 in Haines, about 10 miles north of Baker City (541-856-3639).
Incorporated in 1888, John Day is known as an area with a laid-back pace, natural resources and privacy.
John Day Fossil Bed National Monument: Get ready to take a journey into ancient Oregon. Whether you tour the museum at Sheep Rock, hike a trail at the Painted Hills, or picnic at Clarno, you will be sure to learn more about Oregon’s interesting past.
John Day River: One of Oregon’s finest river canyons. It is a charming and exciting river with incredible scenery and unspoiled beauty. The basalt formations and bluffs are truly impressive, cliffs and palisades tower more than 3,000 feet high above the river.
The John Day is the favorite for bird watching as it is in the heart of the Pacific Flyway. There is great winter steelhead and bass fishing, with the drifting time beginning in spring running through June. The most popular section is the 69 mile section from Clarno to Cottonwood. On this excursion you will encounter Class II whitewater, classic John Day rock formations, and all the relaxation one is entitled to for the perfect family vacation. Your guides will prepare deluxe riverside meals, featuring Dutch oven cooking.
Birding in John Day: The canyons at John Day offer massive vistas and a diverse aviary population. See everything from small falcons to massive Golden Eagles. Gusting winds allow them to fly effortlessly and hunt in the river and landscape below.
Kam Wan Chung Chinese Heritage Museum: Learn fascinating tidbits about the illustrious history of the Chinese community in Oregon. John Day was once one of the largest China Towns in the west. This free tour will open your eyes to the industrious people who helped found John Day.
Grant County Historical Museum: This small town museum takes a different approach to its town’s history. It recounts spooky tales from local legend and records. The eeriness of the stories are punctuated by the very detailed, handmade mannequins. You’ll learn more than you ever expected.
Just a few miles northwest of Union via Highway 203, La Grande features breath-taking scenery, wildlife and waterfowl, historic sites, and plenty of outdoor adventures.
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest: Spread out over 2 million acres, it includes all or parts of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Hells Canyon, Monument Rock, and North Fork John Day wilderness areas. There are more than 1,700 miles of trails. Snowmobiling, mountain biking, camping, picnicking, swimming, boating and water skiing in the mountains, trails and lakes are all available in this national forest. Fishermen can try catching some of the 13 species of fish, including trout, steelhead, and salmon in the many rivers and lakes.
Lehman Hot Springs: Located west of La Grande, it is one of the largest hot springs in the Northwest. Previously a gathering place for the Nez Perce Indians, the springs feature a 9,000 foot square swimming pool with temperatures ranging from 88 to 106 degrees F. Whether you’re looking to relax in a natural Jacuzzi or jump in for a refreshing swim in the larger pool, Lehman Hot Springs is a must-see site.
Ten Depot: This restaurant boasts a local feel with an apparent expertise that moves beyond the small town of La Grande. The location has long been a local favorite and its fame is quickly spreading to surrounding areas. Local favorites include the steak and lamb kabobs.
Halfway between Salt Lake City and Portland, is the area known as Oregon’s Western Treasure Valley. Ontario is best known for its prime agricultural growing land and provides a large part of the world’s zinnia seeds. South of Ontario along Highway 201, the summer zinnia flowers paint the prairies in bright colors.
Four Rivers Cultural Center & Museum: Located in the heart of Ontario, it is named for the four rivers that formed the western Treasure Valley. The museum at the center features information about Ontario’s past, including its first settlers who ranged from Basque to American Indian ancestry. It also includes a theater, conference center, café, and gift shop.
Jolts & Juice: hand-made deli cuisine and a variety of delicious coffees and juices make the menu special. But, perhaps the most unique characteristic to this café is the decoration. Vintage kitch and signs line the walls, floors and ceilings adding to the already fun wooden environment. Pull up a stool at the bar, or lounge in an over-size leather couch to enjoy a meal here.
Leslie Gulch-Succor Creek National Back Country Byway: This byway is well worth the trip, especially if you want to capture some amazing photographs of geologic formations in a rainbow of colors, including beautiful pinks, oranges, purples, and reds.
Hell’s Canyon: Recorded as North America’s deepest canyon with an active river at the bottom, Hell’s Canyon is truly a sight to behold. Stand a mile over the river below as you take in the beauty and breadth of it all. This is a different kind of Oregon beauty than people generally see in calendars.
Malheur Butte: The butte is one of the most distinctive natural landmarks in the Ontario area. Though the volcanic location has been dormant for thousands of years, the surrounding area is still full of geothermal activity, including hot springs and vents.
Enjoy the scenery as you reach Pendleton and encounter sprawling wheat farms, cattle ranches, and high mountain vistas. This Wild West town offers unique glimpses into the area’s past. Make sure to visit the Pendleton Visitor Center for more information about current tours of the area, which may include vintage barns, ghost towns, and lively tales about Pendleton’s early days.
Pendleton Underground: You’ll walk through a section of underground where Chinese laborers lived during the early days of the town. The guided tour starts from one of the local honky-tonks that experienced its heyday in the early 1900’s. Reservations are required and tours runs at intervals between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (541-276-0730)
Pendleton Woolen Mill: Watch as Pendleton blankets are being woven during tours offered of the old-time mill which was founded in 1909. You can also visit the mill store, where robes, shawls, and blankets are for sale. Tours are on a first-come basis Monday through Friday, 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 and 3:00 p.m. (541-276-6911); www.pendleton-usa.com species of fish, including trout, steelhead and salmon, in the many rivers and lakes.
Pendleton Round-Up: If you are traveling through Pendleton during the second week in September, you must purchase tickets for the renowned Pendleton Round-Up. The rodeo began in 1910 when it drew “the largest crowd in Pendleton’s history,” and has now grown into one of the ten largest rodeos in the world. Not only does the rodeo include everything from bareback riding to barrel racing, the week also includes special events, parades and concerts.
Rainbow Café: The city’s oldest continuously open bar and restaurant has offered breakfast, lunch and dinner to cowboys, locals and travelers since 1883. It is filled with antique photos to enjoy while you wait for your famous Rainbow Chicken Dinner.