When it comes to spring break, the pristine landscapes of Central and Eastern Oregon offer a different type of “wild” experience. Just a few hours’ road trip from the city, the stress of exams and social media fade away, giving way to sagebrush plains, craggy mountain ranges and lush forest trails, ripe for camping, hiking, biking and yes, even hot springs. Here are four reenergizing, budget-friendly getaway for the student (or student at heart) in your life.
Skiing at Anthony Lakes
Looking to make some fresh tracks this season? The off-the-grid Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort, 35 miles northwest of Baker City in the northeastern corner of the state, will have you shredding in delight for days. With a base elevation of 7,100 feet (the highest in Oregon) and 21 runs across 1,100 miles of terrain, the mountain here offers some of the best powder in the region. All day on Thursdays, half-price lift tickets are in effect. If you ask us, the best part may be eating a cheeseburger (with some hot cocoa, of course) in the yurt restaurant, Creston’s Grill, at the summit. Discounts for lift tickets, rentals and lessons for groups of 10 or more are available. You may want to glamp out in one of two backcountry yurts at the top of the mountain, fully equipped with heat, kitchenette, sleeping gear and an outhouse restroom — or drive down the mountain to stay in cozy lodging in Baker City or La Grande, both sweet towns for cruising or chilling on your rest days. Check for any minimum age required for property rentals (18 or older for Oregon State Park yurts).
Hot springs in Southeastern Oregon
If you’re looking for some solitude, or a quiet place to recharge and catch up on good books with good company, a road trip to southeastern Oregon may be in order. Crystal Crane Hot Springs in Burns, about two and a half hours east of Bend, is one of a several mineral hot springs in this area with serious rejuvenating powers. Spend time soaking in the outdoor springs or one of the indoor tubs, then stroll down the path to one of the comfy cabins. You can also stay in a teepee here, complete with a hot mineral bath in the middle of the tent and a queen-size bed — a cozy retreat for two. Find more hot springs about 80 miles south at the famous Alvord Desert — that great expanse of cracked desert floor at the foot of the Steen Mountains, where you can fly a kite, toss a Frisbee, take selfies to your heart’s delight or just stand in silent awe. Pay a few bucks to soak in one of the covered pools down the road at Alvord Hot Springs, or stay the night in the affordable bunk house on site. Enjoy a super-thick milkshake and a burger at Fields Station on your way home.
Camping and exploring near Bend
Long to make your basecamp in the ponderosa pine forests of Central Oregon? Load up the sleeping bag and snag a site at Tumalo State Park (tents and yurts available) just north of Bend, or LaPine State Park (tents and cabins available), just south of Bend. Both campgrounds are within easy access of the Deschutes River, Smith Rock and trail networks such as the Deschutes Land Trust’s beautiful Whychus Canyon Preserve, which offers seven miles of year-round trails and volunteer opportunities for groups or individuals. When you get tired of walking the trails, riding your bike, trying your hand at fly fishing or just lounging around the campground, head into Bend for a day trip —an excellent place to stock up on provisions and explore. Get your morning smoothie and a vegan-friendly breakfast wrap at Mother’s Juice Cafe (three locations) and settle in for a handmade chai and a pastry at the hip Thump Genuine Coffee, where an outdoor fire pit offers stunning views of the Cascade Range against clear blue skies. Just a half mile away, the Box Factory is another cool hangout, where you can comb through the racks of gently used outdoor gear at The Gear Fix, grab a salad at The Brown Owl and sip an endless variety of cold-brewed coffee at beautiful new Riff Cold Brewtaphouse. Find more epic adventures in nearby La Pine (30 miles south of Bend), and tasty fare in downtown La Pine at Branding Iron Bakery and Norma’s Red Rooster Restaurant.
Biking and adventuring in Sisters
If downhill singletrack on two wheels is more your speed, find your dirt-filled adrenaline fix at the flowy Peterson Ridge Trail network in Sisters. With more than 20 miles of trails (for walkers, runners and dog walkers too), this popular spot is just steps away from the friendly Old West-style town, where excellent coffee and budget-friendly meals are within a few walkable and bikeable blocks. Try Sisters Coffee Company, Martolli’s Hand-Tossed Pizza, Sisters Bakery and The Rainwater Cafe for breakfast and a great grab-and-go lunch or dinner.
Book a stay at one of many bed and breakfasts for a super chill time; just make sure to check with managers about any minimum age limits on property rentals. Stay at a bike-friendly hotel or rental house, or head 15 minutes northwest to the rustic cabins at Suttle Lodge & Boathouse, where you can listen to vinyl records play next to the lobby fireplace, play lawn games, eat fish and chips dockside, and rent a paddleboard for a spin. Visitors can also sign up for a volunteer work party with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance and help keep Central Oregon’s trails in good condition for all (check calendar for events statewide).