Cover image: Burger Pass is just the tip of the iceberg when exploring the Wallowa Mountains. All images Renee Patrick.
I’ve lived in Oregon for over 10 years now, and have enjoyed exploring the far reaches of the state. What continues to strike me is the incredible diversity found here, and I still get surprised when people think the whole state is a wet, green rainforest. Sure, the west side of the Cascade Mountains get a lot of rain and is home to most of the larger cities in the state, but almost half of Oregon is desert! In fact, we have desert, mountains, coast, and rainforest. There are wild rivers, alpine peaks, hot springs, and alkaline flats. I’ve just got to share some of the diversity with you in my top 5 hikes.
1. Burger Pass, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa Mountains, Northeast Oregon 8.8 miles round trip
The stunning Wallowa Mountains in the northeast corner of Oregon are hard to get to, and that’s why it’s such an amazing place to hike. Burger Pass lies on the quiet west side of the mountain range, but once you reach the pass, be prepared for some incredible views. One could spend a lifetime exploring the peaks and valleys found in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and this one is sure to wet your appetite for more.
2. Cannon Beach, Northwestern Oregon Coast, 10.2 miles round trip
When beach hiking sometimes you just have to ditch the shoes.
The Oregon Coast is rugged, but this hike takes you along the sandy beaches and away from the crowds of the popular sea-side city. Heading south from Cannon Beach Trail head will take you past scenic Haystack rock, past tide pools and sea caves. Be on the look out for sea lions, or if you lucky, whales!
3. Wildhorse Lake, Steens Mountain, Southeastern Oregon 2.6 miles round trip
Don’t be fooled by the short distance of this hike. It’s almost all elevation loss and gain! Steens Mountain is a 50-mile long fault block mountain in the remote and stunning desert of eastern Oregon. Wildhorse Lake lies just below the 9,734 summit of the mountain, and can hold a gorgeous array of wildflowers in late spring. Check your maps for hotsprings in the area!
4. North Fork John Day River, North Fork John Day Wilderness, North Central Oregon, 45.8 miles round trip
This Wild and Scenic River is full of wildflowers and quiet.
This hike follows the Wild and Scenic North Fork of the John Day River. It’s remote and wild, and the river literally sparkles with gold. Mostly fools gold that is, but there are still gold panners in the area who spend months on the banks of this river looking to strike it rich. This area is quiet and beautiful...and you just might want to bring your fly rod in case you like fresh fish for dinner.
5. No Name Lake beneath Broken Top, Three Sisters Wilderness, Cascade Mountains, Central Oregon, 4.8 miles round trip
No Name Lake is stunning any time of year.
This is one of my favorite hikes in my backyard of Bend. Just a short way from town one can find themselves at an incredible blue lake just below the jagged Broken Top Mountain. A glacier drips ice into one end, while the volcanic rock that surrounds it makes a quiet little basin. Snow can linger up here quite late in the season, but for those who like to backcountry ski will probably have it all to themselves until mid summer.
* The lighter Oboz Emerald Peak or Aurora would be great for the Oregon coast or river walk, while the sturdier Switchback or Luna shoes are more appropriate for a Cascades hike, and go big with the Wind River II B-dry for your more strenuous mountain hiking.