You’ll discover that east Oregonians are blessed with light fluffy powder snow, hungry steelhead, friendly wildlife, and day after day of bright sunny winter weather. We enjoy our secret runs at ski hills that feel like we own them, ‘cause in a couple of instances we actually do. Folks that live here are accustomed to seeing Rocky Mt. Elk on their morning drive and gridlock is waiting for the herd to cross the road. We love our prized winter fishing holes along wild and scenic rivers, and the exhilaration of riding a snowmobile through trackless mountain meadows. East Oregonians simply know that winter is best paired with a hand-crafted brew from one of our seven microbreweries. That’s what winter is out here.
Navigating the Winter Menu
We have divided our Winter Fun up into six bites:
- Riding~Skating~Gliding: Skiing, Snowboarding, Nordic, Snow Shoeing
- Snowmobiling & Backcountry Experiences
- Winter Fishing
- Wildlife Viewing
- Culinary and “Eastern Oregon Brews Byway” and Relaxing in the Old West
Scroll down to find your special activity and plan your trip to Eastern Oregon.
Anthony Lakes Ski Area With the highest base elevation in the Northwest at 7,100 feet, Anthony Lakes offers simply the best powder skiing. The downhill skiing and riding is amazing, and the Nordic area was exalted by National Geographic Traveler as one of the best in North America. Backcountry and snowcat tours also available. Located between Baker City and La Grande, near North Powder. http://www.anthonylakes.com
Spout Springs Ski Area Located on Hwy. 204 between Elgin and Pendleton, this little family ski area takes skiing personally. With the only night skiing in the region, and some of the best Nordic trails around, this is a perfect family winter place. http://www.spoutspringsskiresort.com
Ferguson Ridge Ski Area Nestled in the far northeast corner of Oregon, near Joseph, you’ll discover Ferguson Ridge, or Fergi as the locals call it. Great family atmosphere. Skiing the way it used to be…just for fun! http://www.skifergi.com/
Backcountry Skiing & Snowmobiling
Wallowa Alpine Huts In the heart of Oregon’s “Little Switzerland” is the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Wallowa Alpine Huts offers a variety of backcountry tour into the WallowaMountains of Northeaster Oregon. With snowpack, in excess of 400 inches a winter, they will guide you into powder-filled wide open bowls, old growth glades, and classic couloirs. Ringed in by peaks just shy of 10,000 feet, Wallowa Alpine Huts offers tours from Joseph and Halfway. Call: 541-398-1980 or visit: http://www.wallowahuts.com/
Mt. Emily Recreation Area Located just outside of La Grande, this area is gaining acclaim as a great family outing for Nordic and backcountry skiing or snowshoeing. With beautiful vistas peering down into the Grande Ronde Valley, and close to the amenities of the University town of La Grande. In the winter months, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing are popular in the mid to high elevations. Ski routes range from low angled climbs and descents along double track roads and open areas to very steep black diamond runs through glades and natural openings. Call the Union County Chamber of Commerce at: 541-964-8588 or visit: http://lagrandenaturally.com/mera/
Sumpter Area & Elkhorn Scenic Byway On the backside of the Elkhorn Mountain range lies the little gold mining town of Sumpter. In the winter, it is transformed into a wonderland of fun with Nordic and snowshoeing in the Sumpter Valley Dredge State Park, backcountry skiing, and sled dog trails. For the folks seeking a faster pace, the snowmobiling is just about endless, traveling along the Elkhorn Scenic Byway. January through April you’ll find weekend events for sled-riders! Call: 541-894-2249, or Visit: http://historicsumpter.com/ or http://www.ehow.com/list_6708640_snowmobile-trails-oregon.html
Salt Creek Summit, Halfway & Hells Canyon Scenic Byway Hells Canyon Scenic Byway is a summer-time “Must See”, but in the winter months it becomes a “Must Experience”. There is a portion of the Byway that is closed to cars in the winter-time, but definitely open to all sorts of winter-fun activities. Accessing the Byway from Joseph, Nordic skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers will find a great jumping off place at Salt Creek Summit. http://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/wallowa-whitman/recreation/wintersports or Visit: http://basecampbaker.com/snowmobiling-in-baker-county-oregon.html
Following the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway from Baker City to Halfway will lead you into the heart of winter opportunities from backcountry skiing, to snowshoeing, to the some of best snowmobile trails in the country. The Panhandle Snowmobile Club grooms approximately 280 miles of trail within the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest that includes miles of varied terrain from 2500 to 8000 feet elevation. The Annual Panhandle Snowmobile Poker Run is held every February on the Sunday of Presiden’t Day weekend. Call: 541-742-7277 or Visit: http://www.hellscanyonchamber.com/recreation.html
Heppner, Ukiah, Tollgate & Blue Mt. Scenic Byway-Umatilla National Forest There is a treasure-trove of winter activities available on the Umatilla National Forest, and along the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway. Again, while portions of the Byway are not open in the winter months to car travel, the route still offers many great family adventures from cross-country skiing, to winter hikes for photography and wildlife viewing, to excellent snowmobile opportunities. Don’t leave out ice-fishing too! Special designated areas and trails include: Sturdevant Springs – This area is located 8 miles west of Ukiah, with 8.5 miles of trail at approximately 4,800 feet; Ellis Area – With a slightly higher elevation of 5,000 feet, this area is located 15 miles west of Ukiah and offers 10 miles of marked Nordic ski trails; Horseshoe Prairie – This Nordic trail system is located 7 miles south of Tollgate, Oregon and has 7 miles of marked trail maintains an average elevation of about 5,000 feet. Horseshoe Prairie Boundary Adjustment Information http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/uma/recreation/horseshoe_prairie.shtml ;
Meacham Divide http://www.onc.org/bmnordic/ Located 19 miles west of LaGrande, Oregon, or 37 miles east of Pendleton, Oregon. From I-84, take Summit Road, Exit 243 and go north 1.7 miles to the Emily Sno-Park. This is Oregon’s second largest Nordic Area. The trail system is over 20 km long comprised of eight trails.
John Day Area and Strawberry Mountains Whether is souring along on a snowmobile, or gliding along on cross-country skis, John Day, Prairie City, Mitchell, and Seneca areas near the Strawberry Mountains have some Eastern Oregon secrets to keep! Prairie Summit: Days are cold and clear and the snow is dry in the highlands near the Strawberry Mountains. Logan Valley and Summit Prairie are popular snowmobile destinations. The scenic, open terrain also attracts skiers, but budget cuts reduced snowplowing near both areas. Access to Logan Valley is now long and tedious. At Summit Prairie, however, the best views are still within easy reach and the road that was formerly plowed provides a new route to the prairie. Explore the huge open landscape and enjoy views of the steep ridges above. Snowmobilers use the area, but they are friendly. The groomed snowmobile trails here are well suited to skating. Read more at Trails.com: Summit Prairie | Prairie City Oregon Cross Country Ski Trails | Trails.com http://www.trails.com/tcatalog_trail.aspx?trailId=SGW016-041#ixzz1f8pIspED
Eastern Oregon Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing Maps Here’s a great resource: http://www.trails.com/activity.aspx?area=12757
Snowmobiling Maps & Info:
Oregon SnoPark Info: http://www.odot.state.or.us/forms/dmv/6642.pdf
John Day River Territory Winter fishing in the John Day River Territory for the beautiful steelhead in the tributaries of the John Day River, or along the Columbia is a chilling adventure that will yield amazing fish stories. Outfitters, guest ranches, special get-aways are available. Contact: http://johndayriverfishing.com/fishing.htm
Northeast Oregon The Minam, the Wallowa, the Grande Ronde…Names that role off a true fisherman’s tongue with a curl and a hint of desire to just not share the secret spots with hungry steelhead. Here you will also find winter fishing deep in Hells Canyon. Contact: http://www.bakercountytourism.com/baker-county-oregon-river-tours.html or www.lagrandenaturally.com or
Southeast Oregon Winter fishing in Southeast Oregon includes such famous rivers as the Owyhee, the Donner & Blitzen, and great ice fishing opportunities on the reservoirs in the area. The Owyhee River may be Idaho’s and Oregon’s most secluded river. Hidden among thousands of square miles of remote canyons and sagebrush desert where Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon meet, the river was named for a group of Hawaiians who disappeared up the river in 1810. Contacts: www.harneycounty.com or www.ontariochamber.com
Wildlife Viewing ~ The Way the West was Once
Elkhorn Wildlife Area ~ Nestled against the steep Elkhorn Mountain range near North Powder you will find the best place to view elk in Oregon. From a knoll on a well-plowed road, you will view a herd of over 150 Rocky Mountain elk. It’s great for the entire family. Informative kiosks tell the story, making for a learning experience for everyone. Contact the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife
Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area & Bobolink Tours Located just outside of La Grande, this amazing habitat is one of the prime viewing areas for many types of birds migrating along the North American fly route. Pelicans, herons, cranes, geese, swan, many raptors, along with smaller birds, coyotes, musk rats, and beavers can be spotted. Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area features the largest hardstem bulrush marsh remaining in Northeast Oregon. Because this area is intended to protect nesting and migrating waterfowl, public access is limited to viewpoints and a one-mile nature trail, except during hunting season. http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/visitors/ladd_marsh_wildlife_area.asp For tours of the area, contact Bobolink Tours in La Grande at 541-963-2888.
Malheur National Wildlife Area One of the crown jewels of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge protects a vast complex of wetlands in southeastern Oregon’s high desert. Located near Burns, Oregon, the wildlife area is adjacent to the Steens Mountain Wilderness, with the Wild and Scenic Donner and Blitzen River flowing into the refuge at its southern boundary.
The refuge is famous for its tremendous diversity and spectacular concentrations of wildlife. Boasting over 320 bird species and 58 mammal species, Malheur is a mecca for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=13570
Jenkins Tours The Jenkins Family came to America from Wales in the late 1800’s, and settled in Harney County near Burns, Oregon to raise sheep and cattle. Today, it raises Hereford cattle on its Barton Lake and Diamond ranches, north of Steens Mountain. Dick Jenkins gives tour of the area relaying the history, heritage, and interaction with the wildlife of the area. From winter birds to wild horses, this is a part of Oregon that truly is one of those ‘secret – only share with your friends’ places. http://roundbarn.net/
Nestled between the plains and the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon, McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge offers habitat for rare and endangered species and is a haven for breeding and migratory birds. The lack of other local wetland habitats elevates the importance of this refuge as a home to a variety of wildlife and plant species in an arid environment. From Pendleton, take Highway 395 south toward the town of Pilot Rock. The refuge entrance is approximately 8 miles from Pendleton. http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=13582
Cozication This Winter ~ Relax in Old West-style Out East
There are plenty of places to gather friends, family, and loved ones to experience a cozy, toasty warm, and relaxing winter get-away in Eastern Oregon. From the #Wallowas at Cornucopia Lodge to the hospitality of Wildhorse Resort and Casino near Pendleton. Soak your bones at Crystal Crane Springs Hot Springs, or take in the history of Baker City while staying at the Best Western Sunridge Inn. It’s time for a ‘Cozication’ out East!
Oregon has more scenic byways than any other state. Oregon probably has more hand-crafted breweries. So it makes sense that Oregon would have the first in the nation ‘BREWS BYWAY’, right here in Eastern Oregon.
Winter Events ~ Eastern Oregon Style
There is an array of events to get your heart racing, warm your paws, and please your ears. Check it out HERE.