Description - 'Grande' is French for 'big'; this term elucidates the mountains, farms, and history that compose this byway's valley. The route sits between the Hells Canyon and Elkhorn byways and is an easy swing-by from these byways.
Grande Tour tracks through pine and fir forests to beautiful Birnie Park, where Oregon Trail travelers camped before climbing over the Blue Mountains. A viewpoint from these same mountains overlooks the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Refuge and the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains on the opposite side of the valley.
It runs through cherry orchards and mint fields at the base of the Wallowa Mountains and also through the ruins of Hot Lake Resort, a spa/hospital that was thought of as the Mayo Clinic of the west in the early 1900s.
- The Grande Tour Route is known for it's historical, natural, recreational and scenic attractions. Spring through fall is the best time to enjoy this route.
Recreation - Scenic driving, historic sites and camping are the main recreational activities on Grande Tour Route.
Climate - Climate in Eastern Oregon varies greatly with elevation. The higher elevations experience colder temperatures and higher precipitation than the lower elevations. The region is much more arid and experiences greater temperature variations than western Oregon. Much of Eastern Oregon is considered high desert, where in some areas annual precipitation is less than 10 inches. Summer temperatures often reach 90 degrees in the lower elevations. Winters can be bitterly cold here, although there is little humidity. The mountains can receive heavy snowfall. If visiting the region during the summer months be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms and chilly evening temperatures. Snow may be encountered on high country trails throughout the summer months.
Grande Tour Route is located in northeastern Oregon and starts at the visitors center in La Grande.
Directions from :
- Start at the visitors center in downtown La Grande.
- From here, follow the signs to Birnie Park.
- The tour leaves the park and proceeds south the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Refuge overlook.
- After passing Hot Lake Resort, hook onto route 203 to Union.
- From Union, the tour goes south on 237, then east on for 15 miles.
- It then loops back to Union via route 203.
- Route 203 climbs to the Catherine Creek Summit and Sno-Park, then follows the creek down to Union.
- Take route 237 north to Cove.
- From Cove, the Grande Ronde River escorts you along the Wallowa mountains for a while.
- After crossing route 82, it's a straight shot south back to La Grande.