City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
The Summer Lake Hot Springs Bath House was originally built in 1925 and houses a large indoor artesian mineral hot springs pool.

Featured Article

Adventure Awaits in the Oregon Outback

Plan a Road Trip to Explore the Rugged Landscape That Sets the Oregon Outback Apart

OREGON OUTBACK SCENIC BYWAY

Just south of La Pine, veering east off Highway 97 onto Oregon Route 31, lies the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway. Stretching 171 miles, this two-lane rural road winds gently through some of the most rugged, remote and breathtaking landscapes of the Central Oregon Desert region.

With warmer weather and longer days ahead, a road trip to this region can offer peace, quiet and a slower pace to explore new horizons. Reminiscent of the Old West, the Oregon Outback promises wide open spaces and unique natural attractions that many are surprised to find in the Oregon high desert. Designated a National Scenic Byway on Oregon state highways, the further east you drive, the drier the climate. Dusty trails wind through juniper and sagebrush. Wildlife abounds, on the ground and in the air. If you are ready for an adventure, pack your bag and remember that this is a remote area of our state, so plan accordingly. 

ROUTE

Take US Highway 97 south from Bend. Just past La Pine is a junction with Oregon Highway 31 and the north end of the Byway. Travel south on Highway 31 toward Silver Lake and Lakeview. The Byway turns onto US 395 just north of Lakeview and continues south to the Oregon/California border.

VISIT & HIKE

Fort Rock is a tuff ring, or the ring of an ancient volcanic crater, that was set in an ice age lake bed. Located 27 miles east of Highway 27, Fort Rock State Natural Area offers hiking trails and a chance to explore this ancient formation that rises up like a mirage out of the surrounding plains. StateParks.Oregon.gov

SILVER LAKE & BEYOND

EAT & STAY

Cowboy Dinner Tree: This restaurant was once a stopping point for ranchers moving cattle from summer feeding grounds in the forest back home for the winter. Cowboy Dinner Tree became a restaurant in 1992, utilizing the original building that was nestled nicely next to a huge old juniper tree. A family owned and run business since the beginning, this restaurant sits in the middle of a seemingly desolate plain with 360 degree views that go on forever. Visitors often come just for an unobstructed view of the stars at night. A simple yet hearty menu, the family-like setting, authenticity, charm and rich history attracts visitors from all over the state and beyond. Cowboy Dinner Tree also offers four rustic cabins for overnight stays. The menu consists of a 30-oz. custom cut sirloin steak or a whole rotisserie chicken, fresh salad with homemade dressing, soup or cowboy beans, homemade rolls, baked potato and homemade dessert. Shop in the gift shop for local arts and crafts or locally raised beef offered by 1875 Beef. No alcohol is served, but there is a choice of iced tea, pink lemonade, coffee or water. Located just a few miles outside the town of Silver Lake in the Oregon Outback. Reservations required. Cash only. 50836 E. Bay Rd., Silver Lake, OR. 541.576.2426. CowboyDinnerTree.com

 VISIT

Summer Lake Wildlife Area: A bit further east from Cowboy Dinner Tree you will find the Summer Lake Wildlife Area, known as one of the best places in Oregon to view migrating waterfowl, shore and other waterbirds. From swans to pelicans, songbirds to eagles, you are sure to be amazed at the diversity of birds and other visiting wildlife found here. Indeed, Summer Lake is a stopping off place for many sensitive, threatened or endangered species, including tundra swans and peregrine falcons. If you have ever considered starting your own Bird Life List, a list of the species of birds you observe throughout your life, this is the perfect place to start! Established in 1944 to protect and improve waterfowl habitat and provide a public hunting area (closed from Oct.-Jan.), it is now a popular destination for wildlife viewing and environmental education due to its geographic setting, the abundance of wildlife and species diversity. The best time to visit for migratory bird viewing is April-July. There is an 8.3-mile driving route through the area with lots of hiking and viewing areas as well. At the north end of the wildlife area is Ana Reservoir with fishing, picnic and camping opportunities. Restrooms, maps, bird checklists, parking permits and other information is available in the headquarters lobby. 53447 Hwy. 31, Summer Lake, OR. 541.943.3152 MyODFW.com

SUMMER LAKE & BEYOND

Visitors to Summer Lake Hot Springs, located near the small town of Paisley, will experience a place where time seems to stand still. Enjoy the healing mineral waters of the artesian hot springs, take a hike to nearby Summer Lake or along the many nature trails. Stay a day or a weekend, with over 12 unique cabins and dwellings, RV sites with full hookups and a five-acre dry camping area. There are several outdoor hot springs pools, and an indoor pool housed within the large iconic Summer Lake Bath House, first built in 1925 and listed with the Lake County Historical Society. This 45-acre resort offers a vast and diverse landscape, with mountain views to the south and the desert to the north, abundant wildlife, solitude and quiet (no TV or wifi, just cell service) making this historical area of the Oregon Outback the perfect place to slow down, relax, reflect and recharge. 41777 Hwy. 31 (MM 92), Paisley, OR. 541.943.3931. SummerLakeHotSprings.com

Beyond Summer Lake

If you continue along the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway you will cross the Chewaucan River several times. This river offers amazing opportunities for anglers to cast a line for rainbow and native redband trout. Further along, at Valley Falls, Hwy. 31 joins U.S. 395. To the east is Abert Rim, rising up nearly 2,500 feet and stretching for 30 miles, the largest exposed fault scarp in North America. This has become a popular launch site for hang gliders and paragliders alike. As such, the nearby town of Lakeview is known as the “Hang Gliding Capital of the West,” and is also “Oregon’s Tallest Town,” with an elevation of 4,800 feet. Oregon’s only geyser is located within a hot springs resort just one mile north of Lakeview.

About 15 miles south of Lakeview at New Pine Creek on the Oregon-California border, the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway ends. If you travel very far along this remote and breathtaking byway, you will feel like you have stepped back in time. No matter how brief your visit, if you mingle with the locals, you realize how important community is to these residents. This is true rural living, remote and wild, yet loved by those who call it home. As you set out on your road trip, remember that services can be few and far between, so fill up with gas, pack some water, snacks and other necessities. Prepare to be amazed and feel the stress slowly slip from your body and mind. That is the magic of the Oregon Outback.

 

  • Fort Rock is a well-known landmark and geological wonder along the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway.
  • The original building that houses the Cowboy Dinner Tree restaurant is said to be the original cabin from the early 1900's used by ranchers moving cattle.
  • Tundra swans are one species of waterfowl found at Summer Lake Wildlife area during their annual migration.
  • The Oregon Outback is a mix of desert landscape and distant mountains as seen from Summer Lake.
  • The Summer Lake Hot Springs Bath House was originally built in 1925 and houses a large indoor artesian mineral hot springs pool.
  • Native plants of rabbit brush, sage brush and juniper dot the landscape of the Oregon Outback High Desert, hardy plants that can withstand drought conditions.