Map Quest

A Road Trip through Out-of-the-Way Oregon

Partway between Portland and Bend, a quiet stretch of high desert holds a quirky escape.

By Allison Williams February 7, 2023

Image: Levi Hastings

1. Spring Forward

When white settlers descended on Oregon, a collection of Wasco, Warm Springs, and Paiute bands gave up some 10 million acres of land in exchange for the Warm Springs Reservation. The Museum at Warm Springs and its cultural artifacts sit in a dense cluster of buildings along Highway 26, but farther south the route crosses the Deschutes River. Pullouts let drivers take in the geologic terraces of the canyon walls and one of the prettiest stretches of road in the region.

2. Start at Rock Bottom

Rising from the Central Oregon scrubby high desert, Smith Rock State Park looks something like an amusement park for rock climbers—basalt lava flow that forms a canyon, jagged rhyolite spires and smooth cliffs rounded by the Crooked River. A scenic trail surrounds the castle of rock, while a harder one goes up and over the not-that-bad Misery Ridge. Rock climbers scale classic routes like a bulbous lump with the appropriate name Monkey Face.

3. Depart at the Depot

The poor railroad depot in the town of Terrebonne has been yanked around the tiny settlement since it was first built in 1911, even abandoned for decades before being rescued and refurbished. Now the bar of the Terrebonne Depot restaurant was made from the old-growth fir that once served as floor beams, and the dining room dishes banh mi and seared salmon in a town best known as a refueling spot between natural wonders.

4. Finish Fuzzy

Don’t call the alpacas of Crescent Moon Ranch “llamas,” though they certainly have the long necks and funny gait. Resembling a kid’s stuffy but with a barnyard smell, the animals produce delectably soft yarn ideal for socks and sweaters—sold here in a boutique built into the farm’s old potato cellar. (Most products are made elsewhere, but the yarn is ultra local.) Guests can take self-guided tours through the fields and even feed the animals; babies start arriving on the scene in early spring.

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