With a core group of dedicated local bikers building miles of new trails in the region, Anthony Lakes has established itself as a year-round destination for all things adventure. While the area is known for having epic views from an abundance of hiking trails, it’s the new series of singletrack bike trails weaving its way through the ski resort that first grabbed my attention and now has me hooked.
My first experience at Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort was during spring break 10 years ago. I came east after hearing stories of a small ski resort with the highest base elevation in Oregon, consistently dry powder snow and seldom a line to ride the triple chairlift. My ski trip ended unforgettably, sleeping in a floorless tent in the parking lot, eating beef jerky and tuna while using the heat of my breath to warm my frozen fingers. A few years later on a summer trip to Baker City, I discovered a whole new way to experience Anthony Lakes — mountain biking.
I arrived at the resort and immediately found a kiosk with a set of communal bike tools and a map of the area trails. A dirt road, accessible from the parking area, begins an easy climb to the upper trails. Near the top, a signed trail drops over granite boulders, through groves of pine trees and fields of castilleja and lupine. At the bottom of this section lies a panoramic basin holding Hoffer Lakes. From here, there is a fantastic view of Lee’s and Lakes Lookout Peaks. The trail continues back down into the the forest canopy over some technical rock sections until it reaches Anthony Lake.
Once you’ve gone around the campground, you’ll discover a new series of singletrack that, in the winter, make up the resort’s popular Nordic ski trails. Covering this zone are super fun loops of sweeping turns and a variety of short, exhilarating climbs over granite slabs.
After finishing the resort-area loops, I was greeted with a pleasant post-ride surprise: the Starbottle Saloon had officially opened and was serving cold beer and wood-fired pizza. The lodge’s latest addition was a welcomed respite after a fulfilling day biking the trails.
In addition to the trails surrounding Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort, many other tracks crisscross the region, such as the 134.5-mile Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway. My personal favorite ride — and one of the most scenic trials in the state — is the Elkhorn Crest trail.
Starting on the southern end of the crest at Marble Pass, the trail follows the ridge-top through sub-alpine forest, meandering across scree fields and passing under crags and peaks of the highest mountains in the Elkhorn Range. New visitors should be prepared for scarce water, high elevation and great vantage points: the trail reaches heights of 8,000 feet.
Expect to see awesome views of the Baker Valley and expansive peaks of the Wallowa Mountains to the east.
Bikers share the trail with hikers and backpackers, so give right of way, and be sure to keep an eye out for elk herds and mountain goats — both of which densely populate this trail.
Your chance of coming across a mountain goat in the middle of the trail are high. The goats may be running down the trail in front of you, bouncing across a rocky outcrop as you ride by, and they are just plain cool to encounter on a bike ride.
I counted more than 20 on my last ride on the crest.
While the trail north is accessible all the way to Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort for hikers, a short section of wilderness blocks access for bikers and requires an alternate route down to the valley. Dropping down at the Summit Lake junction will give you an outlet back to your car or to town. This trail can also be done as an out and back.
The dirt road up to Marble pass is doable, but it’s a rocky grind. Save your legs and hire a shuttle from Range Tour & Shuttle Co. in Baker City to drop you off at the pass. If you’re looking for a guide on this trail or any of the trails in the area, they can provide that too.
New fun trails are being carved out in this area every year, and it’s well worth a trip east. The low-key attitudes and friendly locals are, as the ALMR slogan states, Same As It Ever Was, which will keep me coming back every winter and summer.