USDA Forest Service photo

With plenty of seldom used back roads, seeing Union County by bicycle is a terrific way to go any time of year. The Grande Ronde Valley is very rider-friendly, and you’ll be on the receiving end of frequent friendly waves and smiles as you pedal through the small communities.

The scenery varies greatly from season to season, and the valley is accessible all year long. Spring riding offers newly planted crops, young tender foliage on the trees and bushes, and colorful pops of wildflowers. Early summer riding offers lush rolling field crops and cool temperatures. In mid-summer, you’ll enjoy the brilliant yellow of canola fields and sunflowers. Into July, you’ll pass farmers harvesting their crops in the warm summer sun. Fall riding brings more moderate temperatures and brilliant fall colors. An outstanding autumn ride is along Hwy 244 from Hilgard State Park to Red Bridge State Wayside.

Mountain bicycling is easily accessed at Mount Emily Recreation Area . There, you’ll find double and single track routes with varying degrees of difficulty. With twisty turns, steep descents, and a rock garden for the hardy, MERA is an excellent choice. Another hardy mountain bike adventure is a ride from C Avenue in La Grande up Morgan Lake Road. The gravel road is a steep climb, but the views and wildlife encounters are worth the grunt. For the average rider, drive to Morgan Lake, then take the gentle trail encircling the lake. In winter, snowy mountains somewhat limit mountain biking, but with ready access to national forest lands, your Union County mountain biking possibilities are nearly limitless.

Be sure to pick up a Cycling Map at the Visitor Center or Mountain Works Bicycles at 1307 Adams Ave. in La Grande.  Mapped routes include a Century loop, as well as many shorter trips and mountain bike trailheads on Mount Emily, Mount Harris, and Glass Hill.

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