From Portland to Crater Lake, Oregon is one of those states that has some iconic landmarks and destinations, yet a myriad of uncovered landscape that is rarely covered. Off the beaten path Oregon is exactly what we explored during our incredible road trip that saw us drive from Spokane, Washington to Salt Lake City, Utah.
We experienced some real hidden gems on our travels through Oregon plus of course we were able to sample a little stretch of the Oregon Trail (come on folks, a trip to Oregon wouldn’t be the same without experiencing the Oregon Trail!). We want to share just a few of our experiences and why we believe off the beaten path Oregon should be on your radar especially if you are planning a USA road trip!
What is Off the Beaten Path Travel?
Off the beaten path…what does it mean to you? Whether you agree that it refers to locations away from the norm or perhaps unknown quantities waiting to be uncovered, we believe the true definition is exploring parts of the world that offer true reflections on local cultures and day to day living.
Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do, you will be certain to find something you have never seen before. (ALExander Graham bell)
Essentially we have found that ‘off the beaten path’ traveling provides the ‘real’ destination as opposed to the tourist traps that we all frequently fall into as we explore different parts of the world.
Just as the great Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell stated above, every time you are willing to head off the beaten path and possibly explore something away from your comfort levels, you will likely stumble across something incredible. I am convinced that we did exactly this during our time spent wandering around the back roads of Oregon but more on that later.
Oregon Trail in Baker City
The infamous Oregon Trail is a 2,200 mile route that runs from the Missouri River to the Oregon valleys. There is no better place to learn about the Oregon trail than by exploring some of the trails and historic landmarks in the state itself.
Baker City, Oregon was the perfect spot along I-84 to take a break on our epic road trip plus at the same time learn more about what the Oregon Trail meant for emigrants that made their way along this trail.
What is the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the words Oregon Trail? Perhaps it’s the computer game or maybe it’s those iconic wagons but the history of the Oregon Trail actually dates back to the Lewis and Clark expedition in the early 19th century.
Baker City has a number of spots scattered around the town that even to this day immediately makes you think about the Oregon Trail. Whether it’s the carriages that you imagine being pulled by mules or oxen, or perhaps the murals on the side of buildings depicting the trail, Baker City is clearly a proud part of this historical route.
We spent a while exploring the Visitor Center and investigating all of the memorials and iconic objects outside that represent the Oregon Trail.
Regardless of how much time you spend exploring Baker City, I think just setting foot in this town gives you a feeling that you are a part of history and certainly inspired us to learn more about what the thousands of emigrants lived through during their trials and tribulations on the Oregon Trail.
Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
If you are really interested in researching the history of the Oregon Trail, head on down to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center which is just five miles east of I-84 and within a short distance of downtown Baker City.
I really wish we would of had time to experience this center as by all accounts it offers in depth interpretations through the trails themselves (four miles of them) and live demonstrations. However, missing out on this did convince us one thing…we will just have to make a return trip out west to Oregon and check this out while heading along I-84.
If you are in this neck of the woods, take some time to check it out and if you have already visited this please let us know your opinions and whether it provides a true depiction of the Oregon Trail.
The Back Roads of Oregon
Miles and miles of scenic wilderness are waiting to be explored and fortunately we were able to capture some amazing memories just from driving through these back roads that you would probably never encounter, unless of course you are an Oregon local.
After passing through the wonderfully named town of Walla Walla in Washington, we crossed the state line into Oregon for the first time and arrived in Milton-Freewater.
Ok…so I am not going to lie and say this was a bustling town because it was far from it, but it was just one of those iconic towns that had a relaxing ambiance. The city hall in particular is eye-catching but our time here was simply spent driving through en route to Baker City.
We were both really impressed by the ‘old’ farm tools that were still being used by the local Oregon farmers. We couldn’t resist pulling over on the side of the road and admiring how these tools continue to help these local farmers thrive.
Even the hay bales are intricately organized and strategically placed on the farmland. I think I am just easily impressed but they certainly provide great photograph opportunities!
The GPS decided to take us along the Weston-Elgin Highway through some pretty dense forest but still providing some equally stunning views and scenery.
As we made our way to lower elevations, we reached the town of Elgin which was a perfect location to appreciate the backdrop of mountains ranges – the Wallowas to the East and the Blue Mountains to the West, and the Grande Ronde River flowing through the heart of the town.
We have so much fun exploring off the beaten path destinations and we want to share our experiences with others to hopefully inspire you to leave the tourist trail and find some of your very own hidden gems.
Our journey through off the beaten path Oregon rewarded us with many memories, some of which we had hoped for (e.g. learning more about the Oregon Trail) while others were spontaneous and very random (thanks Apple Maps for sending us on a seemingly ‘wild goose chase’) yet all were amazing!
Don’t let the lack of media coverage stop you from exploring off the beaten path because you never know what awesome locations you will stumble across.