Winter brings a whole new feel to Eastern Oregon. The tranquility and peace here seem to deepen with the snowbanks, beckoning even the most casual adventurer to bundle up and explore.
They have a term for that Winter Wunderlust here: Wintercation. And whether you live for light, fluffy powder, the tug of a hungry steelhead, or an evening beside a roaring fire, these Wintercation ideas will leave you wishing for an early snowfall this year.
Own the Mountain
In Eastern Oregon, Winter means the woosh of skis sliding through fresh powder and pristine wilderness. You’ll find plenty of both at Anthony Lakes Ski Resort.
Nestled in the Elkhorn Range of the Blue Mountains, Anthony Lakes boasts the highest base elevation in Oregon (7100 feet). And unlike the state’s better known mountains to the west, you won’t wait for a ski lift here. Alluring scenery, light crowds, and Snow Cat Trips into the area’s untouched backcountry all lend to the feeling that this mountain is yours and yours alone.
Go Off the Beaten Path
Eastern Oregon’s Umatilla National Forest transforms into a winter playground this time of year. One filled with ample opportunities for sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing…even ice fishing.
Near the tiny community of Tollgate, an hour northeast of Pendleton, you’ll find trail systems ready-made for family winter adventures. Horseshoe Prairie provides 7 miles of marked, Nordic ski trails with an average elevation of 5,000 feet. While the Andies Prairie, 7 miles east of Tollgate, offers sledding and tubing fun for the whole family.
After a full day in the snow, Wildhorse Resort and Casino in Pendleton is a smart choice to warm up and relax. The resort features a movie theater, world-class dining at Plateau, and stunning views of the Blue Mountains rising in the distance.
Land the Big One
The wild and scenic John Day River has always been home to some of the world’s best secluded fishing holes. But with robust steelhead runs, Winter is the perfect time to cast your line and land the big one in Eastern Oregon.
You can venture out on your own or hire an experienced guide through Mah Hah Outfitters. Packages include a full-day of fishing on the John Day River along with continental breakfast and a hearty dutch-oven meal cooked right in the boat.
Pitch your tent at the rugged Cottonwood Canyon State Park or book a room at one of the area’s charming bed and breakfasts. Two recommendations: the Craftsman Inn Moro in Moro or Wilson Ranches Retreat in Fossil.
Get to Know the Locals
To really know a place, you have to get to know its residents. In Eastern Oregon, that means not only the weathered cowboy at the local watering hole, but also the herds of Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, bald eagles, bushy tailed coyotes, bobcats and other wildlife that call this place home.
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is a mecca for birdwatchers and wildlife enthuasists. Adjacent to the dazzling Steens Mountain, near the community of Burns, the refuge is home to more than 320 species of birds and 58 types of mammals. The protected wetlands provide a critical stop along the Pacific Flyway; serving as resting, breeding and nesting habitat for hundreds of migratory birds.
Elizabeth Farrar is a freelance writer and travel enthusiast living in the heart of Eastern Oregon. She enjoys photography, yoga, reading, drinking Oregon Pinot and cheering on her beloved Oregon Ducks. To read more of Liz’s work, please visit: www.elizabethfarrar.com.