If you’ve been looking for that off-the-beaten path road trip, there’s almost no place in the state more remote than Lakeview, home to around 2,300 people who call Southern Oregon’s outback home. This high-desert town has no stoplight. It’s 100 miles east of Klamath Falls, 140 miles south of Burns and 175 miles southeast of Bend. Despite the distance, there’s a lot to do here if you’re ready to unplug, slow down and embrace the small-town spirit that’s kept this community thriving for 100 years. Here’s what to explore on your next Lakeview road trip.
Giddyup at the Roundup
Lake County’s signature event, the Lake County Roundup (Aug. 3-Sept. 2, 2019), marks its centennial in 2019, and organizers expect the biggest celebration yet as locals return and rodeo fans come from far and wide. Hotels for the 100th annual event are sold out, but glamping-style lodging is still available at Junipers Reservoir RV Resort, with shuttle service to the fairgrounds, about 10 miles away. Junipers is a working cattle ranch, with a large lake ideal for canoeing, paddleboarding, fishing and birding. Bring your Western wear and enjoy the bull riding, barrel racing and other classic events as well as the fair and headliner acts.
Marvel in the Landscape
It may be a desert out here, but these wide-open spaces make for beautiful views that seem to stretch on forever — especially at sunset. Forty miles north of Lakeview, Abert Lake is Oregon’s only saltwater lake and a top place for hang gliding and paragliding. It’s also a geologic marvel worth seeing, notable as the longest exposed fault scarp (where the land’s fault lines have moved vertically) in North America. At Goose Lake State Recreation Area, 15 miles south of Lakeview on the very southern edge of the Oregon border, you can book a tent or RV site to camp, or just spend time watching the large herd of mule deer, bird watching and splashing in the lake. Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, 60 miles east of Lakeview, is an important conservation site for species including the American pronghorn antelope, sage grouse, American pika, California bighorn sheep, redband trout and hundreds of other wildlife and plants that depend on these sagebrush habitats. Bring binoculars, a camera and your wildlife checklist to see how many you can spot.
Find Gems and Stars
Forty miles northeast of Lakeview, the tiny town of Plush is home of the Oregon state gem, the sunstone. Sunstone mining, at the Spectrum Sunstone Mine or BLM’s public collection area, is a popular activity that lets visitors take home little bits of their own sparkly auburn gems. With zero light pollution, Plush also has some of the darkest skies in Oregon, with groups that come to see the Persied meteor shower and other astrological events every summer. Two of the best stargazing spots in the region are Bald Butte Lookout and Drake Peak Lookout — both 14-square-foot fire towers available for rent between mid-June and October. These sites are booked quickly, so look to reserve six months in advance.
Explore on Two Wheels
The rugged intrigue of the Oregon Outback has lately made it one of the trendiest places to pedal. The Oregon Outback Scenic Bikeway is a 90-mile route considered extreme, for experienced cyclists. See the Bikeway guide for route information, travel tips and other resources before heading out. Plan for the next Tour De Outback, a June road-biking event with four routes, ranging from 5 to 90 miles across the high desert on low-traffic roads. The event now hosts a trail run and mountain biking portion as well. Adventurers will also appreciate the new 3.5-mile Bullard Canyon Trail system, which starts in Lakeview and is open to mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians.
If You Go:
The Lake County Roundup draws all the classic fair food. Also in town, the Lakeview Elks Lodge hosts Friday-night dinners with shuffleboard and pool, and locals swear by the breakfast and burgers at Tall Town Cafe. Sit down to dinner at the town’s newest establishment, Julia’s on 395, for a hearty steak, pasta and chocolate cake. For nightlife, tall, cold drinks and live music at the Eagle’s Nest Food and Spirits, and the Re-Ride Room is a special venue set up for rodeo riders and spectators to unwind over drinks and live entertainment during the roundup.
When visiting Oregon’s Outback, expect limited cell service, keep fuel tanks full and bring plenty of water and snacks. Sunscreen is a must in the summer, as shade is limited. See the First-Timer’s Guide to Packing for Oregon for smart travel prep.