Sometimes you just need to get away from it all.
This vast, rugged region of Eastern Oregon is having a craft renaissance right now, which is just one more reason to visit. The rolling hills, Eagle Cap Wilderness, the Wallowas and Blue Mountains, winding rivers and dazzling summer sun will have you daydreaming for days after you return.
So round up your girlfriends and hit the open road. Suit up for your adventure at Hamley & Co. or Montana Peaks Hat Co. in Pendleton, where you’ll find gorgeous boots, hats, jewelry and more. Treat yourself to an exquisite blanket at Pendleton Woolen Mills and show your love for other rural artisans including M. Crow & Co., the 107-year-old mercantile in Lostine; Beecrowbee in Joseph; and Wild Carrot Herbals in Enterprise. Pucker up for some whiskey tasting at Stein Distillery in Joseph, which also makes vodka, rum and cordials.
Take a hike at Zumwalt Prairie Reserve, about 25 miles northeast of Joseph. Spot eagles, hawks and wildflowers in full bloom on your hike here, at the state’s largest private nature sanctuary. Up for more adventure? Book a guided rafting or fly fishing trip through Hells Canyon on the Snake River.
If you want to see these towns when they’re hopping, come during the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival from July 1-3, the Pendleton Whiskey Music Festival on July 16, Chief Joseph Days from July 26-31, or the Pendleton Round-Up, Sept. 14-17. If you do, make sure to book your room early.
Where to stay? The newly remodeled historic Jennings Hotel in Joseph — funded through a Kickstarter project last year — is hip with its modern, comfy boutique rooms and a sauna. Wake up to Stumptown Coffee and decadent truffles made by Arrowhead Chocolates downstairs.
Or choose Baker City as your home base, with a stay at the elegant Geiser Grand Hotel, where you can dine amidst ornate mahogany, crystal chandeliers and a giant stained glass ceiling. Sample the handcrafted confections at Peterson’s Gallery and Chocolatier and mosey through town on a horse-drawn tour.
For a more rustic experience, stay on a guest ranch, where you’ll get to ride horseback and round up cattle, fix fences, learn to cook like a cowgirl and be rewarded with unmatched stargazing at night. Check out the options at Steens Mountain Guest Ranch in the southeastern corner of Oregon; as well as Wilson Ranches Retreat in Fossil or Boulder Creek Ranch in Bates, 50 miles southwest of Baker City.
A little country air, a blue and green palette and a few surprises here and there do wonders to recharge the body and soul.