Tasty Road Trip: the Wallowas and Painted Hills
Driving from Portland to Enterprise may have have taken all day, but proved to be worthwhile when we woke up at Barking Mad Farm Bed & Breakfast with a stunning part of Oregon to feast our eyes upon for the very first time.
The bed and breakfast is run by a lovely couple, Emily and Rob, and sits on a farm featuring horses, cows, lively bison, and mountain views in the distance. Emily is a talented cook who greeted us with a polenta and eggs benedict topped with fresh salsa from Backyard Gardens (founders of the Joseph farmers market) and pork sausage from down the road.
After our delicious home cooked breakfast at the farm B&B, we headed into Joseph. The town, which sits under the towering mountain tops, has an infectious charm to it. Artists painting the scenery lined the streets, while outdoorsy folks admired the town’s famous bronze sculptures over their morning coffee.
We made our way through town and past Wallowa Lake to the Wallowa Lake Tramway. The tram ride to the top of Mt. Howard soared above 4,000 feet. From the top, the most pristine view is of the Royal Purple Overlook with the Wallowa mountains encompassing the entire skyline. As you hike a loop around the top of the mountain, you can see Washington, Idaho and Montana. From the east you can see Hells Canyon and all the rolling farmlands gradually receding into forest and mountain tops. It’s a lot to take in.
After seeing a glimpse of Hells Canyon from the top, it was time to head in that direction. We drove 59 miles from Enterprise to the small town of Imnaha, then continued 22 miles on gravel up to the top of Hells Canyon at the Hat Point Lookout tower. Hat Point sits at 6,980 feet and is the highest point of Hells Canyon on the Oregon side. The views of the canyon and the Snake River are jaw-dropping, and this would prove to be my favorite place on our trip.
Once we took more than a hundred photos at sunset on the drive back to town, we made our way to Lostine Tavern in Lostine, just a few miles past Enterprise. We were treated with the most delicious homemade turkey pot pie served in a cast iron skillet and a refreshing Terminal Gravity ale. Lostine Tavern is the first farm-to-table restaurant in the area, and the food and atmosphere made us feel like we were at home back in Portland. Lostine without a doubt provided our most memorable meal of the trip.
On our last day in the Wallowas, we finished up another tasty breakfast from the Barking Mad Farm B&B and headed to the Hurricane Creek trailhead, just 10 minutes from the B&B. One thing we learned is that you need a full day to dedicate to a single hike to access most of this area’s viewpoints and lakes, making it the perfect place to backpack. Hurricane Creek trailhead is one of the few places that leads to open meadows and viewpoints with less elevation gain and mileage. We made our way to Falls Creek Falls and cooled off under the mist from the falls. We wish we could have continued on this very steep trail to an old mine and Legore Lake, the highest lake in Oregon, but we had our next destination waiting for us ahead.
After the hike, we rewarded ourselves with a pint (a beer made just for the weekend’s Alpenfest was a favorite) at Terminal Gravity Brew Pub before we said goodbye to the Wallowas and made our way to Prairie City. On the road again, we stopped in Baker City for lunch at the reportedly haunted Geiser Grand Hotel and grabbed a bottle of wine to go at Bella Market. From there we continued on the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway on Highway 207, a beautiful drive through old mine towns with a rich history of the Sumpter Valley railroad and the Malheur National Forest. Before reaching Prairie City, we made sure to get a scoop of ice cream at the Austin House, one of the last remaining businesses in the area, dating back to 1905. At last we made it to our room for the night at the Riverside Schoolhouse Bed & Breakfast. This adorable one-room schoolhouse from 1900 sits at the base of the Strawberry Mountains in Prairie City. The Schoolhouse is located just a few feet away from the John Day River and is surrounded by farms. We basked in the beauty of that night’s incredible sunset, watching the sun fade over fields filled with as many deer as there were cows.
We were sad to leave the cozy schoolhouse we had all to ourselves after just one night, but were excited to continue exploring along the John Day River. Our first stop was Blue Basin in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Sheep Rock Unit. We were blown away by the bright blueish-green hued canyon. We hiked both the Island In Time trail into the canyon and above the canyon on the Flood of Fire Trail for even more views. The blue color comes from volcanic ash now turned clay stone. It’s full of fossils of animals dated back millions of years ago.
Between Blue Basin and the Painted Hills, our next destination, we were lucky to find the only place open for lunch, The Sidewalk Cafe in Mitchell. The friendly staff made us laugh as we enjoyed our perfect cheeseburgers, essential on any road trip.
After filling up we made our way to our final destination, the Painted Hills. The vibrant hills look as if they were streaked with red and gold watercolor paints; it truly is a remarkable sight to see. After enjoying the Overlook Trail, we made our way to the Painted Cove Trail and walked through the deep red hills on the boardwalk.
As we headed back home to Portland on Highway 207, we witnessed another awe-inspiring sunset full of gold and blue hues; a perfect ending to a trip full of exploration and indulging in the innumerable bounties offered in Eastern Oregon.
If you liked this, you may be interested in our other Oregon Food Trips. Go see them here!Learn about all of Oregon’s Food Trips
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