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County Loop

Baker Oregon Runabout

Baker City. Too cold to ride here in the winter, thunder storms are not uncommon in the spring, and the place can be blazing on a summer day, but in the early fall Baker City and its surrounding county can be a great escape and a way to stretch out the riding season when things are starting to get soggy out toward the coast.

Photo: Downtown Baker City in early June during the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally. Photo courtesy of Steve Folkestad

Steve and Eric Folkestad celebrate the area early each June with their Hell's Canyon Motorcycle Rally. During years of heavy snowfall, it's still too early to reach the high roads like Anthony Lakes, or tour over the Wallowa range on the Hells Canyon Scenic Loop, but there's still some good riding to be had. Trips to the Dooley Mountain Summit, Ukiah and the Devil's Tail entertain riders throughout that weekend.

But regardless of what's going on in the highlands on either side, there's a nifty loop tour around the city you can grab and enjoy just about any time of year. Enter our Baker Oregon Runabout.

This county loop begins right in town with the starting point being the Sun Ridge Inn. We stay off the interstate by moving you east to Airport Road and then north to SR 203. A right onto SR 203 takes us up into the craggy highlands on the western slopes of the Wallowa range. A barren area dotted with farmland, the corners start to take hold and before you know it you're in the middle of nowhere and having a great time. You climb in elevation, and if you slow down and check your rear view mirror you'll note some nice views of the Blue Mountains range to the west. Your elevation drops again as you glide down to the Powder River, then back up as you drift through the tiny areas known as Pondosa and Medical Springs. Hardly towns, these areas were certainly more bustling in the days of mining and ranching, but today, like so many towns in the back country of Oregon, they are nothing more than a few structures and dots on the map.

CLICK HERE
to download a printable map with turn by turn directions.
 
CLICK HERE
to download a universal GPX file for your GPS.

Continuing north on SR 203 you'll wind your way to the top of Catherine Summit and down into Catherine Creek. Ready for lunch? If you packed a sack lunch, Catherine Creek State Park awaits nestled alongside the waterway for which it is named. Or if you want to dine, there's a burger or sandwich with your name on it just north in Union at Gravy Dave's.  

From Union head south out of town on SR 237 through Pyles Canyon to North Powder. The obvious return route to Baker City would be the straight as an arrow US 30, but there's still more exploring to do. Continue west along the North Powder River, then head south on the Anthony Lakes Highway. At the Haines turnoff you have options. Ride east into Haines and enjoy the Eastern Oregon Museum, or continue south as the road becomes Pocahontas and delivers you back into the north end of Baker City, but not without a broad view of the agricultural fabric of this area. Our loop ends on Main Street where The Geyser Grand and Barley Browns offer riders a place to relax.

At 2.5 hours road time, it's hardly an all day ride. But if you woke up late, it's too cold in the early morning to ride, or you simply want to kick back in town most of the day and get a short ride in, this runabout does the trick with nice scenery and some good twisties to boot. And remember, regardless of what time of year it is, morning in Baker can be pretty chilly, even when daytime highs are in the 90's, so pack your layers - you know - the ones you packed when you came over from the soggy coast.

em>SR/Fall 11


For more rides around the Baker City area and beyond, be sure to check out The Sound RIDER! Guide Through Central and Eastern Oregon.

For information about the Hell's Canyon Motorcycle Rally, visit www.hellscanyonrally.com .


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