Guidebook

Total Immersion in the Wilderness of Northeast Oregon

A deep dive into the best trails, rivers, and lakes of Northeast Oregon.

Description

There’s no one right way to travel: travel can and should look incredibly different from person to person, and from one season of life to the next. The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly a season of life that has dramatically impacted how and where we travel.

After my three-month Total Immersion tour through three different European countries, which you may have read about here on FATMAP, I temporarily re-integrated back into life in Colorado. And even with a global pandemic raging, I realized that I wasn’t ready to sit in one place for too long. I wanted to continue traveling, but slowly… and health-consciously.

A delightful series of unplanned events led me to spend a month and a half living, working, and exploring in northeast Oregon. Since Oregon is filled with epic mountain towns such as Bend, Hood River, Oakridge, and more, I had spent a respectable amount of time in Oregon before… but never in the northeastern corner.

But Northeast Oregon is entirely different from the better-known destinations further to the west. This region is a wild and sparsely-populated area of the nation, with mountains ranging from rolling hills to jagged, rocky peaks. The area is dominated by the Blue Mountains and the Wallowa Mountains, but unfortunately for mountain bikers, most of the Wallowas are protected by the expansive Eagle Cap Wilderness—the largest wilderness area in Oregon. While mountain bikes may be banned, the Wilderness Area does make for great hiking and peak climbing! And aside from some small swathes of wilderness, the Blue Mountains are largely open to mountain biking.

Northeast Oregon is possibly best-known for its impressive web of wild and scenic rivers—most notably, the Grande Ronde. This region is also home to some beautiful lakes, including the idyllic Wallowa Lake framed by the soaring peaks of the Wallowa Mountains.

During my time in the area, I did my best to explore as much as I possibly could… but this wild and untamed landscape is home to a lifetime of adventures. In this guidebook, I’ve shared an array of my favorite adventures from my Total Immersion into the landscape of Northeast Oregon. Read on and learn about the best mountain bike rides in MERA, to exploring the Umatilla Rim Trail, to hiking deep into the Eagle Cap Wilderness, pedaling endless gravel roads in the expansive national forests, and exploring both lakes and rivers on my standup paddleboard. This guidebook can easily help you plan an epic multi-sport itinerary to rival the most popular mountain destinations in North America... with a fraction of the crowds!

Umatilla Rim Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Umatilla Rim Loop

34.6 km
902 m
902 m
Loop of the Umatilla Rim Trail with nearby dirt roads.
Moderate
Private
North Fork Catherine Creek to the Meadow
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

North Fork Catherine Creek to the Meadow

3 - 4 hrs
16.2 km
474 m
474 m
A locals' favorite hike in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Moderate
Private
Eagle Ridge Out-and-Back
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Eagle Ridge Out-and-Back

22.9 km
1,068 m
1,068 m
Out-and-back ride on the Eagle Ridge Trail near Tollgate.
Moderate
Private
Catherine Creek Mixed Surface Ride
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Catherine Creek Mixed Surface Ride

27.6 km
351 m
351 m
Out-and-back from Catherine Creek State Park to North Fork Catherine Creek Trailhead.
Moderate
Private
Catherine Creek -> Sand Pass Lariat
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Catherine Creek -> Sand Pass Lariat

47.1 km
1,071 m
1,072 m
Mixed surface ride near the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Difficult
Private
Fox Hill Road -> Rob's Hill Road Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Fox Hill Road -> Rob's Hill Road Loop

25.3 km
588 m
588 m
Short but steep gravel loop from downtown La Grande.
Difficult
Private
Morgan Lake

Morgan Lake

2.1 km
Beautiful lake just above La Grande.
Easy
Private
Wallowa River: Lower Diamond Road to Minam

Wallowa River: Lower Diamond Road to Minam

16.5 km
Swiftwater paddling on the Wallowa River
Moderate
Private
Wallowa Lake: Downwinding

Wallowa Lake: Downwinding

5.5 km
Point-to-point SUP on Wallowa Lake
Moderate
Private
MERA: Tom G Special Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

MERA: Tom G Special Loop

18.0 km
655 m
655 m
One of the best routes to maximize the descending at MERA.
Difficult
Private
MERA: North Knob -> Dead Bull -> Snag Trail Moto Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

MERA: North Knob -> Dead Bull -> Snag Trail Moto Loop

15.9 km
499 m
499 m
Singletrack gems on the moto legal side of MERA.
Difficult
Private
MERA: North Knob -> Dead Bull Moto Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

MERA: North Knob -> Dead Bull Moto Loop

12.1 km
395 m
395 m
A ripping loop on the moto side of the mountain.
Difficult
Private
MERA: North Knob -> Caffeine Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

MERA: North Knob -> Caffeine Loop

23.9 km
851 m
851 m
Ride from the low point to the high point—and back!—of the MERA trail system
Difficult
Private
MERA: Red Apple and Soggy Bottom Loop

MERA: Red Apple and Soggy Bottom Loop

4.2 km
96 m
96 m
A short, flowy beginner loop.
Easy
Private
The MERA Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

The MERA Loop

12.2 km
363 m
363 m
The eponymous trail connecting the larger MERA trail system together.
Moderate
Private
MERA: Sasquatch Figure-8
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

MERA: Sasquatch Figure-8

14.3 km
445 m
445 m
A MERA loop variant with more climbing and flow-filled descending.
Moderate
Private
Thief Valley Reservoir

Thief Valley Reservoir

5.7 km
Great SUPping at Thief Valley Reservoir
Easy
Private
MERA: Dirt Circus Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

MERA: Dirt Circus Loop

9.3 km
315 m
315 m
The first downhill mountain biking-only trail at MERA!
Severe
Private