Located in Oregon’s ‘Little Alps,’ the Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort will transport you back to simpler times. Surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Elkhorn Mountains in northeastern Oregon, this location might be a bit remote from Portland or Boise. Still, it’s well worth the effort for its snowshoeing and skiing opportunities.
“Anthony Lakes is an easy-going, down-home, family-friendly ski area,” said Chelsea Judy, marketing director. “Life is simple here. It’s a place with no cell service and great folks!” The resort is a 5-hour drive from Portland or 2.5 hours from Boise, making this an overnighter trip.
Known as “The Friendliest Little Ski Area in America,” Anthony Lakes has that locals-feel where you’ll probably know the lift operator’s name by midday, and that’s primarily because of the friendly vibe, not just because there is only one lift (I’m not counting the rope tow).
Though the area feels small, over 1,100 acres of skiable terrain are bisected by several runs for every ability. The snow is often light, and the area receives about 300 inches (762 cm) annually. Alpine beginners can hit the rope tow and work on technique and turns before heading up the hill. Plus, there are plenty of snowshoeing opportunities at Anthony Lakes for those who need a break from the hills.
Getting to Anthony Lakes
To reach Anthony Lakes, take Exit 235 off I-84 near North Powder, which is about halfway between La Grande and Baker City. Follow the signs on the Anthony Lakes Highway to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest boundary, where this road becomes better known as FR73.
Pay attention to the quaint, hand-painted sign that says the resort’s parking lot is open or closed. From here, it’s a twisting narrow 2-laned paved road up to the resort; though the road is maintained, be prepared for winter driving conditions.
At the Baker Valley Overlook, about 5.5 miles (8.8 km) from the resort, there is good cell service if you need to call someone. Or stop and snap a photo of the distant Wallowa Mountains standing tall over the Baker Valley. If you’re not from here, imagine wagon trains of emigrants passing over the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s on their way to the promised land. You’re seeing what they saw.
From the Overlook, continue up to the ski area’s base located at 7,100ʹ, the highest in Oregon. Here’s where the ticket office, lodge, rentals, and Starbottle Saloon are located, as well as the triple chair that whisks skiers and snowboarders up to the top.
The resort is open Thursday through Sunday. Due to COVID-19 regulations, the resort highly recommends that you purchase lift tickets, rentals, and lessons online before even turning off the Interstate.
Furthermore, like the commercial says, “Don’t leave home without it.” This reference targets your Sno-Park permit, which is necessary for parking at the resort or Nordic Center. Washington and Idaho residents, your permit is valid in Oregon.
Read More: Oregon Winter Sport Resorts
Anthony Lakes Snowshoeing Options
In addition to the alpine runs, the resort grooms over 30 km of Nordic tracks for skate and classic skiers. Snowshoers can also take advantage of these ski trails (stay to the right of the groomed tracks and follow trail etiquette) or cut a course along a few dedicated snowshoe trails around Anthony Lake.
These trails loop around the frozen Anthony and Lilypad lakes, coursing through coniferous forests or open meadows. There’s no shame in stopping to snap an image of Gunsight Mountain (8,342ʹ) or Van Patten Butte (8,729ʹ), two of the rugged Elkhorn peaks that tower over the terrain.
If you’re not from here, the Elkhorns are part of a larger mountain chain, the Blue Mountains. These mountains were once an island archipelago near the equator that, thanks to plate tectonics, crashed into North America millions of years ago. These tropical islands became accreted to the mainland (think pulverized) and were later intruded by granitic rocks called plutons (about 155 million years ago). Then, they were caked with flowing lava before undergoing glaciation during the last Ice Age. In short, they are geologically unique peaks.
Grand Ronde Lake
There’s the short, 0.5-mile-long trail (0.8 km) down to Grand Ronde Lake, following the closed campground road to the lake. Then, wander around the lake edges and surrounding forest before climbing back up to the parking area.
Read More: Top 10 Snowshoeing Tips for First-Time Snowshoers
Black Lake Trail
Another option is to take the Black Lake trail, which starts at the Nordic Center and traverses through the woods before a short climb up to the lake, which sits at the base of Gunsight Mountain. Blue diamonds mark the trail but at the lake, wander the frozen edges to gain views of Van Patten Peak, Lees Peak, and Angell Peak. The trail up to Black Lake is about 1.2 miles (1.9 km) and gains about 500 feet (152 m).
If the lifts are closed, snowshoers can follow the Road Run up to the top for a commanding view of the nearby peaks. It’s about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the summit and, if it’s sunny, don’t forget to put on sunscreen – you’re closer to the sun at this elevation!
Read More: Must-Have Winter Skin Care Tips for Snowshoers
If you’re traveling with a dog, then shoeing or skiing around Mud Lake, which is across the road from the Ski Patrol hut, is a great option. This off-leash area is a great place to wear out a car-bound pooch.
Another option is to continue along the closed NFR73 from the upper parking lot. This road is mostly through the woods but does offer a few mountain views. Keep an eye out for snowshoe hare, pine marten, and other wildlife tracks crossing the road in the snow.
Read More: A New Found Passion: Wildlife Tracking and Identification
Unless you live there, it’s a long from anywhere to Anthony Lakes. Fortunately, numerous cool overnight options exist for post snowshoeing or skiing at Anthony Lakes.
Anthony Lakes Accommodations
One option is you don’t have to leave. There are two yurts, Hoffer and Gunsight, that are available to rent and the historic Anthony Lakes Guard Station. You can play and stay right at the resort and enjoy a moonlight excursion or catch the falling stars. These are ski-in yurts, so remember to bring a sled or pack to haul your supplies.
About 5 miles (8 km), down the hill, is the Antone Creek Lodge, with several cabins for rent. Here again, you’re close enough to the resort to return for a nightcap cruise.
Baker City Accommodations
Once down on the valley floor, there’s Baker City with numerous hotels, B&Bs, lodges, and cabins. Staying with a Lodging Partner earns you a discount voucher for a lift ticket or Nordic pass, so inquire about that before you make a reservation.
The Grand Geiser Hotel is a classic step back in time and for dinner, maybe head to Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, the Inland Café, or Sumpter Junction Restaurant. Check their websites for current times and services during this COVID-19 pandemic. For those in the spirit, head to Glacier 45 Distillery and sip on some premium vodka and gin spirits made from Non-GMO and Kosher corn.
La Grande Accommodations
Those wanting a little “warmer” adventure head west towards La Grande and spend the night soaking in one of the thermal pools at The Lodge at Hot Lake Springs. Hot Lake is appropriately named, as the spring water rises to the surface at around 200 °F (93 °C).
The historic lodge is under new management and undergoing upgrades to the 64,000 square foot building built in the early 1900s. This building has been used as a sanatorium, spa, WWII nurses training facility, asylum, and stopover point for travelers for generations. “We’ve been approved for five pubs, two restaurants, a movie theatre, and a concert venue,” said Mike Rysavy, owner.
Along with his wife Tamarah, they also own the next-door Grande Hot Springs Resort, an RV resort with camping, yurts, and a new tiny home to rent. The lodge rooms are all unique and are a mix of historical and modern – you’ll have to return to try them all!
Though many of the rooms are finished, the theatre and Thermal Pub are still under construction. The hot tubs are fired up, and so is the local excitement about the revival of this historic spot. How historical? The Oregon Trail runs right past the lodge, and Native Americans passed through this area for hundreds of years before European explorers came into the region in the early 1800s.
By the Numbers
1,100 acres of terrain
Beauty – free to the beholder
$45 (adult), $40 (student 13-18), college or military (bring ID), $30 (child 7-12), FREE for under 6 and over 70; Bunny Hill Tows – $20; Nordic Trail Pass – $20. Thursdays are half-off lift tickets.
Stay with a Lodging Partner and receive a lift ticket voucher—additional discounts for supporting local businesses on the website.
The lifts are closed Monday-Wednesday, but the Nordic trails and snowshoe routes are open.
Reserve a lift ticket, rentals, or ski lesson online to ensure a spot as the ALMR operates within COVID-19 Oregon guidelines. March and April lift tickets are on sale now.
Would you go snowshoeing at Anthony Lakes? If you’ve been, what are some of your favorite trails? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
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