Take a Grande Tour
One of the state’s 15 “scenic bikeways,” the Grande Tour is a 134-mile figure eight between the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountain ranges. It’s stacked with panoramas of snow-dipped blue peaks and open fields thick with sweet-scented mint and fresh-cut hay. Iron legs come in handy (expect 4,250 feet of climbing), and steel nerves, too (rattlers lurk atop arid summits). Ease saddle sores on the ride’s northern bend in Cove, where the Warm Spring Pool registers 86 degrees and percolates with curative minerals (open seasonally). —BB
Call in a Designated Driver
In an old onion facility in Boardman, Ordnance Brewing awaits with impressive stouts, no-frills mouthwash-cup taster trays, and a mysterious “Toaster of Anarchy” behind the bar. The food cart outside the 21-and-over taproom serves up steak-laden french fry platters, while a hearty meal (or margarita) can be had at nearby Macario’s. In a highly metallic sports-pub setting at Nookie’s Restaurant, Hermiston Brewing offers a crisp Farm City pilsner. A defunct downtown Pendleton car dealership houses Prodigal Son’s family-friendly brewpub, where A Beer Named Sue golden ale is almost always on tap. At 19 years old, Barley Brown’s in Baker City is an elder statesman of Eastern Oregon microbreweries and isn’t afraid to toss a few jalapeño choices on its nearly three-dozen taps. (Watch for Side A Brewing to open inside La Grande’s Eastern Oregon Fire Museum this spring.)
For the Under-21 Crowd
Celebrating the way irrigation and agribusiness shape the region, Boardman’s SAGE Center merits a one-time stop for kids to learn not how a bill becomes a law, but how a potato becomes a curly fry. (Travelers with the munchies will enjoy the conveyor-belt display, too, as well as the real potato snacks available in the gift shop.) Families will want to spend more time at the Children’s Museum of Eastern Oregon, an indoor play space in downtown Pendleton, and the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center outside of Baker City, where you can try your hand at wagon packing. Find a deeper look at the area’s history at Pendleton’s Native-focused Tamástslikt Cultural Institute.
Once a neutral zone for Native tribes and known in the early 20th century as “the Mayo Clinic of the West” (and a place to soothe your syphilis), the natural pools around the Hot Lake Springs B&B smell funny but feel so, so good. The allegedly haunted hotel itself could use some TLC, and piped-in gospel radio makes it hard to sleep in (from $169). The grand tiled lobby and charming themed rooms (one’s dedicated to Clark Gable) at the nearby Union Hotel may not come with ghosts or hot springs, but there are bars and restaurants both on-site and within walking distance (from $89). —MS
Distance from Portland: 2½ hours to Boardman, 4 hours to La Grande, 4¾ to Baker City