What’s up in Union County

From the Blue Mountains down to the Grande Ronde Valley, who is better than the Union County Chamber of Commerce to promote Tourism? We are the Chamber of Commerce and tourist information hub for Union County. We promote businesses and direct tourists to our local businesses.

Things To Do

Unique in Union County

Huckleberry Harvesting

picking huckleberries in the forest

Huckleberry Harvesting in Eagle Cap Wilderness

Each year during the Summer season, wild huckleberries ripen up and are ready for harvest. Huckleberry fields cover the forests floors in higher elevations (~4000-6000 feet) around the Grande Ronde Valley.

When to start picking depends on the previous winter and spring. Later springs bring later harvest, and hot summers often bring early harvest.

 


Mushroom Foraging

morel mushrooms soaking in water

Morel Mushroom Harvest

Mushroom hunting is a favorite local activity in springtime. While most people will not give up their favorite spots for finding their favorite springtime fungi, the mighty Morel, sweet spots share common characteristics: moist (not wet) ground, often or recently disturbed soil, and warm days with cool nights. As the season warms, mushroom blooms move higher into the hills, making it possible to harvest late into spring.

Wildlife Viewing

elk being fed by tour directors

Elk feeding at Elkhorn Wildlife Viewing Area

Long before settlers arrived in Eastern Oregon, the Grande Ronde Valley was recognized by Native Americans for its abundant wildlife, drawn here by the many natural hot springs and lush fields.

Elk and deer frequently visitor, while birds take refuge in the valley’s trees, fields, and marshes.

Hikers are likely to see foxes, bobcats, coyotes, pheasant, wild turkeys, eagles, and falcons. As you travel deeper into the woods, keep a watchful eye for moose, black bear, cougar, and wolves.

Forests

springtime flora overlooking wallowa whitman national forest

Springtime in Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

Spanning 2.3 million acres across the northeast corner of Oregon and western Idaho, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest offers a variety of year-round recreational opportunities. With landscapes packed with rugged canyon lands, scenic vistas, and high mountain lakes, visitors have enjoyed the forest’s diverse landscape and recreational activities for generations.

Umatilla National Forest

The Umatilla National Forest, located in the Blue Mountains of southeast Washington and northeast Oregon, covers 1.4 million acres of diverse landscapes and plant communities. The forest offers a variety of recreational opportunities from camping, hiking, bicycling, hunting to white water rafting! The forests have some mountainous terrain, but most consist of v-shaped valleys separated by narrow ridges or plateaus. The landscape also includes heavily timbered slopes, grassland ridges and benches, and bold basalt outcroppings. Elevation range from 1,600 to 8,000 feet above sea level.

Malheur National Forest

The 1.7 million acre Malheur National Forest is located in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon. The diverse and beautiful scenery of the forest includes high desert grasslands, sage and juniper, pine, fir and other tree species, and the hidden gems of alpine lakes and meadows. Elevations vary from about 4,000 feet to the 9,038-foot-top of Strawberry Mountain. The Strawberry Mountain range extends east to west through the center of the forest.

Wallowa Mountains

seven wonders of oregon logoIn the Wallowas, one of The Seven Wonders of Oregon, you can look down from an alpine summit and see the high desert of Indian country roll out in front of you in one direction, and then turn around and see past Hells Canyon into the next state. Bordered by the Grande Ronde Valley to the West, and Snake River to the East, the Wallowa range spans about 40 miles in eastern Union County and southwestern Wallowa County, and contains 18 peaks over 9,000 feet tall and 31 peaks over 8,000 feet. These mountains have been called The Little Switzerland of America by many.

Mount Emily Recreation Area

Just two miles north of La Grande, Mount Emily Recreation Area (MERA) features 3,669 acres of forest recreation. Enjoy trails dedicated for ATV and ORV use, or mountain-biking. Horseback riders, hikers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers will find marked trails, offering both gentle routes and challenging terrain.

Eagle Cap Wilderness

alpine lake vista in eagle cap wilderness

Eagle Cap Wilderness

The 358,461 acre Eagle Cap Wilderness hosts over 50 alpine lakes and high alpine meadows, bare granite peaks and U-shaped valleys carved out by glaciers. Miles of streams designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers don beautiful and remote fishing areas. Five established trailheads lead from Union County into remote sections of the wilderness.

Snow Sports

snowboarder in the air

Snowboarding at Anthony Lakes

Skiing

Alpine skiing/snowboarding and Nordic skiing,  are among favorite winter activities in Eastern Oregon. With dry powder, short lift lines, and several hundred miles of groomed cross-country and snowmobile trails, Union County is a winter wonderland.

Places to Ski:


snowmobiling at catherine summit

Snowmobiling at Catherine Creek Summit

Snowmobiling

Union County has hundreds of miles of back country snowmobile trails, many groomed, throughout the Blue Mountain and Wallowa Whitman National Forest.

Fishing

fly fishing in the grande ronde river

Fly Fisherman in Action

Fishing Links

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW)
La Grande Office
107 S 20th St, La Grande, OR 97850
(541) 963-2138

Stocked Lakes and Ponds

Grande Ronde Lake: I-84 East. Exit 285-North Powder. Right @ North Powder Lane. Travel 6.9 miles and go left onto Miller Road (dirt road) 1.0 miles to Anthony lakes Hwy. Travel 13 miles (go 0.9 miles past Anthony Lakes Nordic Center turn off. Go right onto USFS rd 43. 0.3 miles to primitive boat ramp.

Jubilee Lake: Hwy 204 (either north from Elgin or east from Hwy 11) to Tollgate. Take FS Rd 64 north approximately 12 miles to the lake.

Luger Pond: Take the Palmer Junction Road north out of Elgin about 10 miles to USFS 63. Follow USFS 63 for about 9 miles, then left on USFS 6306. Luger Pond is 2.5 miles on the right, near Luger Springs campground.

Morgan Lake: I-84 East. Exit 259- US 30 east La Grande City Center. 1.0 miles Right – Walnut Street-Sunset St. 1.0 miles right C Ave. 1 block left Walnut St. Morgan lake rd. 2.3 miles-Right @ Morgan lake Park 0.8 miles to primitive boat ramp on North side of lake.

North Powder Pond: I-84 east, exit 285- @ North Powder. Turn right, then immediate left onto US 30 East. 0.9 miles. Right onto dirt road 0.4 miles to pond.

Peach Pond: I-84 East, exit 265 go right onto OR 203 South. Travel 5.7 miles go left onto Peach Rd. Travel 0.9 miles to the pond.

Roulet Pond: I-84 to LaGrande take exit 261. Take right onto hwy. 82. Stay on 82 through Elgin. Go 3 miles out of Elgin. Roulet pond just off 82 on the left.

Pilcher Creek Reservoir: I-84 East. Exit 285- North powder. Right onto North powder lane. Travel 7.7 miles & go right onto Tucker Flat road. Travel 1.8 miles to boat ramp.

Wolf Creek Reservoir: I-84 east. Exit 283. Right onto Wolf Creek Lane. Travel 3.8 miles to boat ramp.

Thief Valley Reservoir: I-84 East. Exit 265 – Union – OR 203 South. (right) 10.9 miles in Union continue on OR 237 (straight) Go 8.0 miles Go left onto Telocaset Lane. Thief Valley res. (dirt road) 6.0 miles right to Thief Valley Reservoir. 1.8 miles to boat ramp.

Hunting

Whether you hunt for upland game birdswaterfowl, small game, or big game, seasonal game hunting opportunities abound in Union County.

two elk hunters with large bull elk

Successful Elk Hunt

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW)
La Grande Office
107 S 20th St, La Grande, OR 97850
(541) 963-2138

 

youth hunter and his bird dog

Young Bird Hunter, Union County

Arts & Cultural Heritage

Studios and Galleries (intro)

art center east logo from websiteArt Center East

1006 Penn Avenue
La Grande, OR 97850
(541) 624-2800

Nightingale Gallery, Eastern Oregon University

One University Blvd.
Loso Hall
La Grande, Oregon 97850
(541) 962-3584

Indian Art Fest and Powwow


On Stage

 


Museums

Union County Museum

cowboy diorama at the union county museum

Cowboys Then and Now at the Union County Museum

Discover how cowboys and cattle settled the West, view a period black-smith shop, and a bank vault damaged by an explosion during a bungled heist in 1900. The Museum is home to the Cowboys Then & Now exhibit, featuring the history of cowboys and cattle in America. Learn more about this uniquely American tradition, as well as Hollywood cowboys. Kids love to try on cowboy duds and see what it feels like to be a “real” cowboy. The museum also highlights the rich natural and cultural history of the Grande Ronde Valley in its expansive exhibit hall. Step out back and tour the Livery Station and Agriculture, Transportation and Timber building, and pioneer cabin. Located on Main Street in Union, open Mother’s Day through mid-October.

Eastern Oregon Fire Museum

Visit La Grande’s historic fire station, in use from 1899 to 2002. See vintage and antique fire equipment and trucks, some restored to their original condition. Self-tours during business hours, and group tours welcome. 102 Elm St.

 

Parks & Day Use

pavilion at union city park

Union Historic Park

Parks


cove warms springs pool

Cove Warm Springs Pool

Swimming

 

 


golfer on the course

Golfing at Buffalo Peak

Golf Courses

Enjoy either 9 or 18 holes on groomed greens, indoor or outdoor mini golf, or even disc golf.

Buffalo Peak Golf Course is a challenging links style course with breathtaking views of the Wallowa and Blue mountains. Located near Union, this par 72 course offers manicured greens surrounded by native grasses.  Electric carts are available, or walk the multiple elevations.

La Grande Country Club welcomes visitors during daily open play times. This 9-hole course with mature landscape, is tucked into a beautiful country setting. Electric and hand carts are available.Don’t let the words “miniature golf” fool you!

Riverside Greens Miniature Golf  is a professionally designed course with 18 challenging holes for putting fun. The course features fountains, rolling terrain, and well groomed greens. Open May through August.

Maridell Center offers Wild West Mini Golf in downtown La Grande, even after the sun goes down.

EOU Disc Golf course offers an 18-hole course winding around the Eastern Oregon University campus. While the course is open year-round, it may booked for tournaments or closed during limited-time campus events.

Cycling

Cycling Links


road cyclist

Cycling the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway

Road Cycling

Whether cycling the valley or daring the rugged mountain trails, Union County offers biking opportunities for all levels and terrain.

Old Emigrant Hill Bike Route: The Old Emigrant Hill Road follows the path of historical stage lines and Old Highway 30. Rambling through Ponderosa pine forests and wheat-lands of the lower Palouse region, the bike route crosses the Blue Mountains close to the Oregon Trail. It runs within the vicinity of several parks and makes a dramatic descent down Cabbage Hill to Mission, Oregon, rivaling I-84’s decent in both grade and beauty.

Imbler to Summerville: This gentle scenic loop takes you along the foothills of Mt. Emily, past farms and orchards and through Summerville and Imbler.

Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway: The Grande Tour follows the driving byway on low-traffic roads and offers excellent views of the Grand Ronde Valley to the north and Powder Valley to the south. Bike-friendly businesses and services are located along the route, including bike shops in La Grande and Baker City. The figure-eight bikeway consists of two loops: the north loop meanders the Grande Ronde Valley and the south loop covers the Baker Valley via Pyles Canyon and Catherine Creek State Park. Both loops join at the crossroad on Union’s Main Street.


mountain bikers atop mt emily

Mountain biking at Mt. Emily Rec Area

Mountain Biking

Breshears: Breshears offers several trails following dirt roads, OHV trails, and singletrack routes between Mt. Fanny and Mt. Harris. Difficulty and skills vary for each trails, and require well tuned riders to bring a wide range of technical skills.

Mount Emily Recreation Area: Mountain biking is easily accessed at Mount Emily Recreation Area (MERA). There, you’ll find double and single track routes with varying degrees of difficulty. With twisty turns, steep descents, and a rock garden for the hardy, MERA is an excellent choice.

Morgan Lake Hill Climb: Another hardy mountain bike adventure is a ride from C Avenue in La Grande up Morgan Lake Road. The gravel road is a steep climb, but the views and wildlife encounters are worth the grunt. For the average rider, drive to Morgan Lake, then take the gentle trail encircling the lake.

Hells Canyon Bike Route: Hells Canyon Bike Route follows the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway across varied terrain, through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country. Four segments comprise the complete loop through the Grande Ronde Valley, Baker Valley, and on to Hells Canyon along the Snake River.

Motoring

Auto Tours

These drives are favorites among visitors and locals alike. Whether you’re traveling by auto, motorcycle, or bicycle, these trips will take you along some of the most picturesque roads in Eastern Oregon.

Grande Tour Scenic Byway

Drive through pine and fir forests, cherry orchards and mint fields at the base of the Wallowa Mountains, and take sight of Hot Lake Resort as you soak up the views of Union County’s small towns and farmlands.

Trip Check, Grande Tour route

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway

hells canyon overlook scenery

Scenic overlook to Hells Canyon

The route of the Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway is a loop that encircles the Wallowa Mountains, intersecting with Interstate 84 at La Grande and Baker City. Small towns, scattered along the drive, offer visitor services. The entire route is on a paved highway.

Trip Check, Hells Canyon route

Cove-Union Farm Loop

This self-guided scenic drive (or bicycle ride) takes you by farm stands, greenhouses, pastures, orchards and other agricultural interests on a loop through Cove, Union and La Grande. For a current Cove-Union Farm Loop map, contact the Chamber.

Grande Ronde Car Show

Union County Timber Cruisers Car Club an annual Grande Ronde-A-View Weekend Car Show sponsored alongside La Grande Crazy Days. Participants are treated to a barbecue dinner to start the weekend event. On Saturday, the car show will be held on Adams Ave in downtown La Grande. Following the car show, a Poker Cruise throughout the beautiful Grande Ronde valley will be offered ending at the Senior Center for a dinner.


Motorcycle Routes

La Grande is the ideal starting point for some of the best day rides a motorcyclist could hope for. Amazing scenery, great roads and friendly people make for a perfect weekend ride. Local motorcycle enthusiasts recommend these three rides to help you get acquainted with all the great things in and around Union County!

La Grande – John Day – La Grande

This 265-mile ride starts after a hearty breakfast in La Grande and takes you east on Hwy 203 through the historic town of Union. From there you’ll ride up the curves of Pyles Canyon (Hwy 237), past the Elkhorn Ridge wind farm and into North Powder. Cross under I-84, pick up Hwy 30, and travel south through the ranching community of Haines, then into Baker City. From there it’s back roads with amazing scenery all the way into the town of John Day on Hwy 7. Head north on Hwy 395 from John Day and work your way up to Ukiah for more amazing scenery as you ride back into Union County via Hwy 244. This back country road has some of the best views you’ll see in all of Oregon. Forty-five miles after you leave Ukiah you’ll be back on the I-84 East for a short stretch (just 9 miles) and then back to La Grande.

La Grande – Joseph – La Grande

Get ready for 240 miles of some of the most awesome scenery in the Pacific Northwest! This ride starts in La Grande and takes you through the fertile farmland that makes Union County one of top agricultural counties in Oregon. You’ll then ride through some twisty turns as you head up into the Wallowa Mountains. Don’t forget to take a few minutes to see beautiful Wallowa Lake when you get to Joseph. From there you’ll take the back roads to Richland and Halfway. Stopping to see the Seven Devils is a must on this ride. Drop down into Baker City and the final 50 miles is an easy freeway ride back into La Grande just in time for dinner.

La Grande – Weston – La Grande

This 130-mile ride takes in some of the best curves in Oregon! From La Grande, head out through the wheat and grass seed fields into the sleepy little town of Elgin via Hwy 82 north. Watch for Hwy 204 signs to travel up through the magnificent Umatilla National Forest over Tollgate pass. After cresting the hill you look down onto the wheat fields that cover much of the landscape of Eastern Oregon. The ride down the twisty turns into Weston can be dangerous for the inexperienced rider –take it easy on this stretch. From Weston you’ll head west on Hwy 11 to South Market Road (Hwy 331) to Mission. Pick up Old Emigrant Hill Road (CO 937 Rd) to the top of Cabbage Hill. With some of the tightest turns in Oregon, this is a must-do ride. Stay on the two-lane as it parallels the freeway. You’ll have to get on the freeway to travel the last 25 miles back into La Grande, entering I-84 East at milepost 248.

Hiking

hiker on the trail in the eagle cap wilderness

Hiking in the Eagle Caps

The mountains and valleys abound with awe-inspiring hiking adventures for all skill levels. Union County has thousands of acres to explore in three National Forests, including the Eagle Cap Wilderness, two State Parks, and several designated wildlife areas. And if a light day hike or picnic is more for you, Union County offers endless opportunities for both.

Hiking Trails

 

Find wide open spaces all around the county to enjoy a hike just for the day. If you plan to visit any of the areas below, be sure to check requirements for a Northwest Forest Pass.

Anthony Lake Recreation Area: A variety of hiking opportunities in a beautiful Alpine setting at 7100′ base elevation. From La Grande, travel east on I-84 to North Powder Exit 285. Follow the signs approximately 18 miles.

Bald Mountain: From Union, take Hwy 203 southeast for 8.5 miles to Catherine Creek State Park. Continue past the park for 1.2 miles to junction with FS-2036 on the left. Travel on FS-2036 for 6.6 miles to junction with FS-2038.

Bird Track Springs Wildlife Area: West of La Grande on I-84 take Starkey/Hilgard Exit 252. 4.5 miles on OR Hwy 244. Across the road from Bird Track Campground.  1.5 mile riverside nature trail  with gravel surfaces.  Excellent for bird watching.

Catherine Creek State Park: 14 miles SE of Union on OR Hwy. 203. 1.5 mile loop from campground to hill-top-viewpoint.

Eagle Cap Wilderness: Five established trailheads lead from Union County into remote sections of the wilderness.

Glass Hill: From La Grande, eastbound on I-84 to Exit 270; drive two miles southwest up Ladd Creek road. Park at 3500′ where a road forks to the right (north). Hike north on this branch road for 100′ to a “Y.” Turn left (west) to a corral. Go northwest up the ridge, keeping north of a fence line. When the fence line veers west, continue northwest in open woods to the summit ridge. Go north to the summit tower.

Jubilee Lake: Northwest of Elgin. From OR Hwy. 204, Tollgate, drive 12 miles east, then north,  on gravel road FS 64 to the campground. The trail goes around the lake at an elevation of 4700′.

Lookingglass Trail: Northwest of Elgin on OR Hwy. 204. From Woodland campground, walk 0.3 miles northwest on OR Hwy 204 then 1 mile east on road FS 3725. Turn left on road FS 3701 and descend north to the trailhead, five miles from OR Hwy. 204. Descend to Lookingglass Creek, 3050′. Ascend two miles northwest along the creek, leaving the creek at 4000′. to continue ascending northwest. Reach OR Hwy. 204 at Spout Springs, 5450′. Turn left (east) 2 miles to the starting point at the campground. 2o miles round trip.

Meacham Divide: Summer hiking on 10k of nordic ski trails. From I-84 Exit 243. Go north 1.7 miles on the FS 31, Summit Rd.

Morgan Lake: A great way to take a gentle walk outside and enjoy some incredible views. 3 miles southwest of La Grande. C Avenue to Morgan Lake Road.

Moss Springs Trailhead, Mt. Fanny: From Island City take OR Hwy. 237 east to Cove, then 10 miles east of Cove to the campground at FS 6220. This is a steep gravel road but it accesses several scenic trails into the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the trail drops to the Minam River. Northwest Forest Pass required.

Mount Harris Lookout: From Imbler at MP-12, drive two miles  east on Hull Lane, then 0.5 miles north on Grays Creek Road. Park at Striker Lane, hike east and south on the road to the summit.

North Fork Catherine Creek: 19 miles southeast of Union on OR Hwy. 203, then turn left onto N. Fork Catherine Creek Road, FS 7785. Access Eagle Cap Wilderness trails. Northwest Forest Pass required.

Rock Springs: From La Grande travel east on Highway 82 (Wallowa Lake Highway) for 20 miles to Elgin; In Elgin continue on Highway 82 for 5.1 miles to Hindman Road; Turn right on Hindman Road (County Road 59) and go about 8.5 miles and road will become Forest Road 62; Continue on Forest Road 62 for 9.5 miles to trailhead on right side of road.

Winom-Frazier Complex: 200 miles of ATV, motorcycle, bicycle and hiker trails. I-84 Exit 252 to OR hwy. 244, west 20 miles to FS 5160. South 6 miles to Umapine Trailhead.


Urban Walks

Turns of The Brick, La Grande

La Grande’s turn-of-the century buildings reflect the practical, down to business attitude of the area’s hardy settlers. Business people here built for practical use, for durability and general quality.  By simply turning and rearranging the structural bricks, masons created distinctive patterns and detail, which are still there today, above contemporary store fronts.  This self-guided tour will introduce you to La Grande’s historic turns-of-the brick. It takes about an hour and crosses 13 blocks.

Historic Homes Walking Tour, La Grande

This walking tour reflects a time of prosperity in La Grande, between 1884 and 1930, when many of the residential areas sprang up. The homes included in this tour display a wide variety of architectural styles, including Victorian, Craftsman, as well as a modified Prairie Style, influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Trees of La Grande

La Grande’s Urban Forestry Program  has carried on a tradition of creating an urban forest which began early on in La Grande’s development and which has helped to make La Grande a Tree City USA since 1990. This walking tour highlights many older trees which were planted between about 1900 and 1923.

City of Victorian Heritage

Stop in at the Historic Union Hotel for a map of the walking tour shown in the video on this page.

Where to Stay

historic union hotel lobby

Lobby of the Historic Union Hotel

Hotels, motels, and independently-managed accommodations are available all around Union County to make your next adventure comfortable. Please visit the search results and sites below to find the perfect place to stay on your next visit.

 

Valley Views

The “Big Round” Valley

For thousands of years, Native Americans were drawn to the Grande Ronde Valley to hunt, gather food, and graze their horses. The abundant resources drew several different-and often warring-tribes. For a few months during the summer, the Nez Perce, Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Shoshone tribes lived together in harmony in what they called “The Valley of Peace.”

Although settlers passed through the valley while en route along the Oregon Trail in the early 1840s, few were willing to be deterred from their Willamette Valley goal. But early in the 1860s, many settlers took notice of the Grande Ronde Valley’s resources, establishing farms and settlements. With the discovery of gold, the valley prospered and settlements thrived.

Once part of a great inland lake, the Grande Ronde Valley floor is rich in nutrients, giving rise to Union County’s agricultural industry.

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains indeed look blue from a distance, a formidable range rising to more than 9,000 feet and stretching from the Columbia River southeast to the Snake River. A harrowing obstacle for Oregon Trail pioneers, today The Blues are a pure delight for the adventure-seeker winding past rolling ranch lands, rocky peaks, wild rivers, and offering ample opportunities for recreation.

The Blue Mountains span 4,000 miles in Oregon and Washington, and consist of five sub-ranges. From west to east, these are the Ochoco, Aldrich, Strawberry, Greenhorn, and Elkhorn. The highest peak is Rock Creek Butte at 9,106 feet, and comparable peaks include Strawberry Mountain (9,038) and Mount Ireland (8,304).