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“Grande” is French for “big,” which describes the mountains, the farms and the history that make the Grande Ronde Valley what it is today. It’s a landscape that has the power to make you feel small.
Launch from La Grande
From the Visitors Center in downtown La Grande, follow the Tour Route signs to Birnie Park, where Oregon Trail travelers camped before climbing over the Blue Mountains. The Route heads south along the base of the Blues to a viewpoint overlooking the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Refuge with the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains in the background.
A More Perfect Union
After passing Hot Lake Springs Resort, a spa/hospital that was the Mayo Clinic of the West in the early 1900s and is now being restored by a well-known artist, a short gravel road connects with Oregon Route 203 to Union. Visit the Union County Museum on Main Street, where you will learn all about cowboys and local history. From Union, the Route heads south on Oregon Route 237, then east on Thief Valley Road for 15 miles of gravel road through rugged, wide open range before looping back to Union via Oregon Route 203.
Catherine Creek and Cove
Oregon Route 203 climbs through pine and fir forests to the Catherine Creek Summit and Sno-Park, then follows the tumbling creek past the popular state park and down to Union. Take Oregon Route 237 north from Union to the little town of Cove nestled at the base of Mount Fanny. Cove is noted for its Ascension Chapel, an Episcopal church built in 1869 that has been visited by the likes of Desmond Tutu. There is also a warm springs swimming pool with picnic grounds in town—a refreshing break for summer travelers.
On the Grande Ronde
From Cove, the twisty Grande Ronde River escorts you along back roads past cherry orchards and mint fields at the base of the Wallowa Mountains. Cross the lush Grand Ronde Valley and Oregon Route 82, then turn left for a straight shot south on Mt. Glen Road back to La Grande.
Is any of the information on this page incorrect?
Keep in mind many of the routes listed here travel through remote areas where gas stations are few and far between. And since road and weather conditions can be hazardous, even into summer, we urge you to call 800-977-6368 or check Trip Check before starting out.