The beautiful Wallowas, one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon. Photo: Clark

The beautiful Wallowas, one of the seven wonders of Oregon. Photo: Courtesy of Clark

When most people think of Oregon, they think of the rugged coast, or Portland or lush green landscapes covered in trees. Eastern Oregon, with its wide open spaces, farmland, and far-off mountain ranges, has an open, country feel that we knew existed in Oregon but had never experienced.

Winding east after spending the day fishing on the John Day River, we entered the home of another one of Oregon’s seven wonders: the Wallowas.

Called “the Alps of Oregon,” the 40-mile range extends from the Blue Mountains in the west to the Snake River in the east. At 9,838 feet, Sacajawea Peak in the Eagle Cap Wilderness is the highest mountain in the range.

Different from western Oregon’s Cascades, the Wallowas rises from the high desert expanse and will surprise you with their vertical relief. Offering backcountry skiing in the winter and hiking and backpacking in the warmer months, the Wallowas are a nature-lover's playground.

While we didn't have the time to venture deep into the mountains on this trip, we did find lots to love with the Wallowas, with the neighboring Elkhorn Mountains as our backdrop.

Baker City

The historic downtown Baker City. Photo: Clark

The historic downtown Baker City. Photo: Courtesy of Clark

This cultural oasis, once called the “Paris of the West”, is five hours east of Portland.

Set between the Wallowa and the Elkhorn Mountains, the 10,000-person town became one of the West Coast’s gems in the late 1800s, when the railroad came through to transport the gold and wood mined and logged from the nearby region.

Today, Baker City is still thriving and boasts 100-year-old buildings, a 100-foot-wide Main Street (wide enough for a 30-mule team carriage to easily make the turn) and a local hospitality motivated by a recent resurgence.

Known for attractions like the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and the Baker Heritage Museum, Baker City is the jumping off point for Eastern Oregon adventures, whether it’s skiing, fishing, hiking, eating or simply exploring one of the West’s most underrated places.

Anthony Lakes

A short 45-minute drive from Baker City is a real Oregon gem: Anthony Lakes.

A community-owned ski area with one lift, a handful of groomed runs and access to near-empty backcountry, Anthony Lakes feels like you've traveled back in time in the best way possible.

Lift tickets are just $35 ($17.50 on Thursdays!), they have a great selection of beers on tap at the lodge and the employees are so passionate about being there, it's hard not to fall in love with the place.

Powdery goodness. Photo: Clark

Powdery goodness. Photo: Courtesy of Clark

Lone Pine Café

Set the soundtrack to your breakfast at Lone Pine Cafe. Photo: Clark

Set the soundtrack to your breakfast at Lone Pine Cafe in Baker City. Photo: Courtesy of Clark

Opened two years ago by a couple that migrated east from Portland, this eatery has become the salon of Baker City, dishing up delicious and creative breakfast entrees and the best coffee in Baker City.

Admire the high ceilings, exposed brick, reclaimed wood bookshelves and bars, and the ambiance.

Barley Brown's Beer

Great beer, hearty food and locally crafted makes for good vibes. Located on Baker City’s Main Street, the brewery and tasting room are a local favorite of Eastern Oregon.

Earth and Vine

Despite our trusty Eurovan, nicknamed "Stormy", rented from Portland's Road Trip Oregon, a true road trip wouldn't be complete without a flat tire...or two. PHOTO: Clark

Despite our trusty Eurovan, nicknamed “Stormy”, rented from Portland’s Road Trip Oregon, a true road trip wouldn’t be complete without a flat tire … or two. Photo: Courtesy of Clark

We finished off a fun day of skiing at Anthony Lakes with a special dinner at the lodge, catered by local restaurant Earth & Vine. The delicious wine pairings and finger foods make this Baker City restaurant and wine bar a must-stop through town.

The Prodigal Son Brewery

A flat tire, or two, just acts as an excuse for a locally crafted beer, right? PHOTO: Clark

A flat tire (or two) just acts as an excuse for a locally crafted beer, right? Photo: Courtesy of Clark

While it was a double flat tire that brought us to Pendleton, Oregon, The Prodigal Son made us stay a little while. And we’re happy we did, as we learned another couple (Tim and Jennifer Guenther) originally from the area, who migrated to Portland, moved back to Pendleton to open Pendleton’s first craft brewpub in a 100-year-old building that once housed a Packard dealership.

Try a Beer Named Sue, a refreshing Golden Ale brewed with Pacific Northwest 2-row barley, Vienna malts and balanced with Mt. Hood hops. It’ll make you forget about those flat tires.

Where to Stay:

Geiser Grand

Built in 1889 and renovated by a Florida couple in 1993, the beautifully restored Geiser Grand is a historic hotel with 30 rooms (mostly suites), a gorgeous stained-glass ceiling, 130 chandeliers and the feeling you’re living in the gold and logging boom in the late 1800s.

The lobby of the historic and beautifully restored Geiser Grand. PHOTO: Stifter

The lobby of the historic and beautifully restored Geiser Grand. Photo: Courtesy of Stifter

Blue Door Inn

The Blue Door Inn is a four-room, cozy, historic B&B a few blocks from downtown Baker City. We were greeted by the owner and innkeeper, Gayelle, who had port and chocolates waiting for us by the fire, then were lead to our beautiful rooms.

Feels like coming home to grandma's house, with a smorgasbord breakfast to boot.

Truly, a bed and breakfast experience at the Blue Door Inn. PHOTO: Irons

Truly, a bed and BREAKFAST experience at the Blue Door Inn. Photo: Courtesy of Irons

Anthony Lakes

While there are no resort accommodations on the mountain, there are two yurts available (accessed by a short snow shoe or cross-country ski), as well as a parking lot where you can park your camper overnight (with a few electricity hook-ups).

John Stifter & Janna Irons, @vanventures

To win an Oregon Winter Wonders getaway, click here.

For more information on Eastern Oregon, visit www.visiteasternoregon.com