The family that road trips together stays together or.....they'll wind up hating one another forever. My family took on the challenge of road tripping a total of 650 miles over the course of three days. We wanted to hit some of the popular spots we'd seen on the Internet in Eastern Oregon. From ghost towns to The Painted Hills, to Smith Rock State Park, to an unexpected Les Schwab visit for four brand new tires- it was an adventure. Enjoy the photos I took along the way and get out and explore Oregon for yourself; it's gorgeous!
We set out from our hometown of Sheridan, Oregon which is near McMinnville on the 14th of July at 1230. A quick trip to Safeway to grab some breakfast items, water, fruit, and doggie treats for the dogs and we were on our way. Our first stop was 3 hours and 45 minutes away in the ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon. Shaniko, pronounced Shan-i (like Indian)-co (like coat) was purchased by the Townsite Company in 1899 for $3500. It was to be a stop between towns on the railroad route. Unfortunately, the railroad was unable to finish completion in Shaniko due to the terrain issues. The little town still maintained a small population of about 170 but in 1911 a major fire went through the town destroying several businesses and buildings and it lead to the desertion of the town. Today Shaniko is home to about thirty. They keep the town's history preserved and you can visit the little shops from April to September. It houses a small ice cream shop, general store, cafe, and museum.
Shaniko's little wedding chapel. Inside the ceilings are starting to collapse, but the residents have tried to spruce it up. The door is left open to the chapel so that you may go inside and check it out.
Inside the jail at Shaniko are cells with wrought iron bars, a small desk area, and some decor. My husband decided he'd play the part of Sheriff with the clothing ensemble they had hanging. (Of course no harm was done to the clothing and it was placed neatly back where it came from)
The barn held several antique cars that we loved looking at! A vintage carriage, ambulance, and several old trucks/cars.
There was also the old post office and cafe.
After visiting Shaniko and driving a ways we decided to head to the campsite which was about an hour from Shaniko in Moro, Oregon.
Cottonwood Canyon State Park. This state park has bathroom facilities (luxurious porta potties) but no showers. It was $10 for a tent camp site and be prepared for the wind. The canyon can get super windy and our tent being bigger was difficult to put up and keep secure due to the wind.
That said, it is a gorgeous campsite. The river is right near the campground and you could probably fish there. The day use area has nice grassy areas with picnic tables and the ranger station is very aesthetically pleasing.
Keep a look out for the windmills in this area. They are gorgeous!
Day 2: More Ghost Towns & setting up camp near John Day, Oregon
We set out from Cottonwood Canyon to our next ghost town of Condon, Oregon. Condon is not technically a ghost town although there are several older buildings. I'd say it's more of an older town with a lot of charm. Luckily there was a gas station there as there really isn't any along those deserted and rural roads near Shaniko. Condon also has Country Flowers book store which is an off shoot of Powell's in Portland. That said, my girls who absolutely ADORE Powell's were very disappointed with Country Flowers book selection. It's a very small selection of maybe 200 books and the rest of the store is very quaint with knick knacks and home-made decor. The friendly staff will help you with your shopping experience and they even gave us a map that came in handy when our cell phone service went out (yes, it gets really rural) The Condon Hotel is quaint if you need a place to stay and the Round Up Grill opens at noon featuring some great burgers.
From Condon we headed towards Lonerock, Oregon. Lonerock is a very small, rural town that is home to only about five families. We were fortunate enough to meet a gentleman who lived there who was the "new kid on the block" as he had only "lived there in Lonerock for 18 years."
He informed us that the only way out of Lonerock was to turn around or take a left out of the town and travel 11 miles down a dirt road, turn right, then travel another 10 miles down another dirt road. These dirt roads led to free ranging cattle in the road that our dogs LOVED to bark at. Be careful on these roads as well and make sure your tires are great, someone knows where you are going, etc as these roads are not traveled hardly at all (we didn't see not one car) and there's no cell service. You break down and it would be a sucky turn of events for you.
We also liked checking out the abandoned buildings along the routes. This home was abandoned and looked as though people had gone through it and grafittied the walls which is too bad. Always make sure that you treat these buildings with the utmost respect.
The main buildings remaining in Lonerock are the jail house and community hall. The rest of the town is older, but not original. Lonerock is only 1 square mile and again only houses about five families. The older gentleman we talked to also stated that they just this year got a new water town for the city. He was quite proud of it.
From Lonerock you drive through the mountains along dirt roads. It's about an hour to get to Hardman, Oregon. Another small ghost town in Eastern Oregon. Not much is in Hardman and much of the town looks to be uninhabited. Although, we did see a gentleman cutting firewood with his trusty dog at his side.
The community center in Hardman was built in 1870. There are a few side streets in Hardman you can go down. You'll find several older buildings and mostly uninhabited buildings.
On to rest....and set up camp at Clyde Holliday State park near John Day, Oregon.
John Day, Oregon
More old buildings on the way to set up camp. This building was an abandoned church. Set off to the side of the highway along HWY 26.
The campground itself was beautiful and very comfortable. It had several amenities including showers and full bathrooms. You could purchase wood for your fire pits at $4 per 2 cubic feet and ice for $2 a bag. The camp site was $24 per night (for tent) and they also had RV parking and teepees. We were bummed the teepees were all rented out. The campsite is located on the river and it's a shaded camp area with friendly hosts.
That evening as we were getting ready for bed we discovered that the gravel roads had only enhanced the terrible wear on our car's tires. We had a really flat tire and the other three had wear so bad it was unsafe to drive on them. Due to my husband being disabled, I had to change the tire (Thank you to my father for teaching me how when I was 15 yrs old. I'm sure he'd be proud of me and the many times I've not had to wait on anyone else to help me change my tire) It would be an early morning the next day to get those tires changed.
Oh, the joys of having to get four new tires. On the upside- this all happened only eight miles from a town instead of on one of the long, windy, dirt roads we traveled! It could have been much worse. Also, the staff at Les Schwab was phenomenal. They got all four tires done and changed within 45 minutes of us getting there. This was such a huge blessing as we had the three kids plus two dogs with us. Sitting in the building is not an option with the dogs. Luckily there was a park right next to the Les Schwab as well- making it very convenient while we waited.
We decided at this point that we may be looking at going home as we were all tired and tired of being in the car. We changed our plans a little and instead of visiting the rest of the ghost towns we were going to visit the Painted Hills of Oregon and Smith Rock State Park then head home. We loved both places.
The Painted Hills of Oregon
It was amazing to me to see these beautiful natural formations. The colors were so rich and beautiful. Several people were there and from the HWY it was only a short 6 mile drive to the top of the painted hills. You can also get out and hike the trails.
The scenery on the drive to Terebonne (Smith Rock State Park) was gorgeous as well.
Smith Rock State Park
This park also has a campground. However, you are unable to have fires and all cooking is done in a large cooking area away from the campsites. You also have to carry your gear to your campsite. This could be a pain, however, the view is so worth it. The rocks at this park are just jaw dropping. We saw people free climbing and it gave me the butterflies just watching them. We also saw people at the very top taking photos of themselves above the terrain below. Again, it made my knees weak and stomach queasy watching them.
Hope you enjoyed the photos. Go out and explore beautiful Oregon as there's so much to see and do!
Mellissa is a Salem, Oregon family & wedding photographer serving the Willamette Valley and beyond. Available for destination weddings as well.