If you’ve never been to an enchanted forest, I found one for you. The Elkhorn Mountains in eastern Oregon is one of these forests everyone should experience. You can find these mountains west of Baker City, Oregon, a fairly short drive from Boise, Idaho. Boise to Baker City, Oregon is about a 1 hour and 15 minute drive through mostly sagebrush and wide-open hills and plains. As you’re driving you begin to wonder if this road trip is a good idea because there is not much scenery to interest you. As you near Baker City, you’re still wondering what you got yourself into. You then follow OR-7 through ranch lands along the Powder River. Once you enter Wallowa-Whitman National Forest you know why you came. The spell is cast and you’re in a world of enchantment.
THE PERFECT GETAWAY
If you want to get away from it all, you’ve come to the right place. Boise is the nearest metropolis to Baker City and you find that following the Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway places you away from tourist crowds and masses of people. The 106 mile loop begins and ends in Baker City and takes you to elevations reaching 7,395 feet at Elkhorn Summit (you just might encounter snow on the summit).
The byway passes by campgrounds, trails for hikers and mountain bikers and plenty of history for you history buffs. Fill up your gas tank before you leave Baker City and pack a picnic because there are few services along the way. Plan to spend at least 4 – 5 hours enjoying the drive if you’re just planning a daytrip, but I promise you’ll want to return again and again and stay longer. Your trip along the byway reminds you that even if you can’t find a wealth of gold like those prospectors of old, you’re experiencing a treasure of beauty that is just as valuable.
ONE PLACE YOU MUST VISIT
Sumpter (30 miles west of Baker City). Gold was discovered here around 1862 and this town sprang to life. After the many mines began to lose yield, the dredging started and produced over $10 million in gold. The dredging ceased in the 1950s and the Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area was developed years later. The 1,240 ton YUBA-style dredge is on display and you can walk through at your own leisure and view the inside of the dredge. There is also a Sumpter Valley Railroad tour that runs between Sumpter and McEwan, a 5-mile trip, on weekend’s and holidays from Memorial Day through the end of September.