Monday, August 6, 2012


This is a nice loop trip one can take from La Grande through the scenic Blue Mountains to Anthony Lakes and back.  There are no services available along the route.  The loop is roughly 130 miles.  Allow about four hours, and more time than that if you want to take more time seeing sights.

From La Grande, go west on Interstate 84 to Exit 252 for Ukiah.  Take the exit and bear left on Oregon Highway 244.  Go through Hilgard State Park and cross the Grande Ronde River.  Head up river 12 miles to the junction with Grande Ronde River Road.

 Nice area about a mile or two up the road from Hilgard Park.

 Just east of Bird Track Springs Campground and interpretive trail.  The trail offers good birding.

 Grande Ronde River canyon between Bird Track Springs campground and Red Bridge State Park.

Red Bridge State Park.  About a 20-minute drive from La Grande, this is a great place for picnicking and for wading in the river.  From Red Bridge park it is about 4 1/2 miles to the Grande Ronde River Road.

Turn left onto the Grande Ronde River Road.  Pictured is the community of Starkey, a little less than a mile from the junction.  The Starkey Station store was not open today when I stopped by.

The road is mostly straight and well-lined for the first few miles out of Starkey.  Until the road becomes US Forest Road 51, this is open range.  Look out for livestock.

Road 51 is a nice river drive.  It is a smooth surface but without easily visible markings or shoulders in places.  There are turn-outs provided occasionally.

Meadow near old Forest Service guard station along the Grande Ronde

Road 51 crosses the Grande Ronde river just before it reaches Tony Vey Meadows.  The road tends to be rough in this area as it skirts along the west edge of the meadows for several miles.  It looks like people are still living at the one ranch in the valley and are working the land.

 Tony Vey Meadows, looking east from Road 51

 Tony Vey Meadows, looking southeast from Road 51

 Tony Vey Meadows, looking east from near the ranch.

From the meadows the road enters forest country at a 20 mph left-hand corner and heads up hill 8.2 miles.  It climbs gradually for a few miles as the quality of pavement is noticeably better, then heads more steadily upward toward Chicken Hill Summit.  This is looking southeast just after you cross the summit.

3.5 miles further you'll come to the end of USFS Road 51 at junction with Road 52.  Turn left here.

Within a couple of miles you will come to a junction where Road 52 ends.  This is a map display at North Fork John Day Campground, showing roads in the area.  Road 52 ends at a corner of Road 73. Take a left at the junction and head east up Road 73 toward Anthony Lake, which is 17 miles ahead.  The road is not overly curvy, and the road surface is good.

ALSO:  if you need food, water or gas you can take a side trip of 8 miles south from this junction on Road 73 to Granite.  This section of road is paved, but it is notorious for potholes.  Take your time, and save your tires.  Granite is a "ghost town" with lots of old, interesting buildings and a colorful local history.  The store is called The Outback.

 North Fork John Day River from bridge near campground

 Looking east up Road 73 toward Anthony Lakes.

View of the Elkhorns, looking south from Road 73.  The road climbs steadily up the south-facing side of a high ridge, affording some great views along the way.

 View southeast from Road 73

 View south from Road 73 near Elkhorn Summit

At Elkhorn Summit, Road 73 is the second highest paved road in Oregon at 7,392 feet above sea level.  Only the Rim Drive at Crater Lake National Park is higher.

 View east from Elkhorm Summit.

 Heading down from Elkhorn Summit to Anthony Lakes.  Gunsight Peak is on the left.

 Anthony Lakes Ski Area without the snow!

 Anthony Lake

 Anthony Lake

Anthony Lake.  This lake and nearby Grande Ronde Lake are two of the only high-elevation alpine lakes one can drive to in northeast Oregon.  Easy day hikes can be made from Anthony Lakes to Hoffer Lakes and Black Lake.  Other hiking trails in the area provide access to Van Patten Lake, Crawfish Lake and Dutch Flat Lake.  

 Mountains above Anthony Lake

 Anthony Lake

 Anthony Lake

 Heading down toward Baker Valley from Anthony Lake

 View from Baker Valley Overlook.  It was a hazy day today, so it was hard to see the Wallowa Mountains.

 At the bottom of the hill, in the Baker Valley

 Baker Valley, looking southeast

Elkhorn Mountains from Baker Valley south of North Powder.  When you see signs indicating North Powder, turn left.  You will reach North Powder in a few miles.  Go straight ahead, under Interstate 84 and into town, following signs for Oregon Highway 237 and Union.

 Main street, North Powder

 Heading north out of North Powder toward Union on Oregon Highway 237

 Highway 237, looking northeast and heading toward Union

 Looking east from the highway at the community of Telocaset.

 Windmills near Telocaset

 Windmills near Telocaset

 View from near Telocaset bridge looking north

 Valley above Pyles Canyon, looking north

 Heading through Pyles Canyon just south of the town of Union

 Valley view near Union, looking west

 Union main street

The Union Hotel

Go through downtown Union, and when you reach the junction for La Grande, bear left on Oregon 203.

There were lots of nice clouds today.

 Sunflower field with Craig Mountain, looking south from Highway 203 between Union and Hot Lake

 Looking northwest toward Mt. Emily from Highway 203 between Union and La Grande

The old sanitorium at Hot Lake is under restoration for intended use as a hotel and restaurant.  There are mineral hot springs here.  Tours are available.  See link on sidebar.

Heading west toward La Grande from Hot Lake on Oregon 203.   When you get to Interstate 84, keep going straight.  At this point the road becomes old US Highway 30, and from that point it is 3 miles to downtown La Grande.

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