I-84 / US 26: The Final Sprint to Redmond

I-84 / US 26: The Final Sprint to Redmond

You may have read elsewhere about the attractions I-80 has to offer as it rambled across the plains from the east. Crossing the Wyoming border into Utah, it is decision time. That’s because near Echo, UT, an I-80 variant emerges: Interstate 84. 

I-84 branches to the northwest, crossing southern Idaho and terminating in Portland, OR. And while I-80 will eventually get you to additional jumping-off points to Redmond, I-84 is the most direct route.

As originally designed, I-84 was originally marked as I-80N or Interstate 80 North.  However, in 1977, federal highway officials altered their guidelines, eliminating directional suffixes. I-84 was born. 

It is only 790 miles from Echo, UT to Redmond, OR and allows you to maximize your time on I-84. However, following I-84 as far as you can takes you unnecessarily way far north before needing to drop back south to Redmond on US 97 at Biggs Junction (Exit 104). The better route is to depart I-84 just after crossing the Oregon border at Ontario (Exit 374). From this point westward, you will be traveling briefly on US 20 to Vale, OR, then on US 26 to Redmond. Exiting I-84 at Ontario, OR cuts 123 miles off your final leg — probably a welcome development after a few days or more on the interstate. 

The first 80-mile stretch of I-84 can be tedious — it passes through the most densely populated section of Utah, the northern side of the greater Salt Lake City metro. With the Wasatch Mountains looming to the east and the Great Salt Lake to the west, there’s little opportunity to avoid it. Once you get to Tremonton, UT, you’re back to wide open spaces. The most telling sign? The speed limit is 80 mph all the way to the Oregon border! We know you want to get to Redmond, but we should mention a few touchstones and bypasses along the way. 

About 27 miles east of I-84 at Exit 40 lies the Golden Spike National Historical Park. Here on the 10th of May 1869, Leland Stanford drove a ceremonial golden spike connecting the Central Pacific Railroad from Sacramento to the Union Pacific Railroad from Omaha. Thus, the first transcontinental railroad was completed.  When leaving Golden Spike, be sure to stop and checkout Northup Grumman’s Rocket Park before getting back on I-84.

I-15 north from Tremonton, UT offers another option and a few other worthy destinations. Lava Hot Springs, Idaho is a 75-mile detour that is a worthy destination along your route. Numerous small motels abound; a favorite is the Alpaca Inn.  We highlight these points of interest on this option in our I-80 to I-84 connector.

Staying on I-84, but starting to tire of the super slab drone? At Exit 211 in Idaho, consider detouring south onto old US 30. This section, known as the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway, dips into the Hagerman Valley, where you’ll find fossil beds and a shallow canyon of the Snake River. Here the abundant springs and rivulets feed one of the largest groundwater systems in the world. And the 90-mile byway only adds 19 miles to your trip. 

By the time you reach Mountain Home you’re about a day out from Redmond. Perhaps you’re in the mood for a big steak dinner followed by a good night’s sleep. Any number of motel waysides cross the horizon from here to Ontario, OR in which none of which stand out. However, we do know where you can get that steak. The Indian Creek Steakhouse in Caldwell, ID is a nondescript quarter-block in the middle of town. Here you can enjoy an enormous ribeye or slab of prime rib, broiled over applewood to perfection. You’ll find it about a mile south of I-84 Exit 28. A sister restaurant, Cowboys Bar & Grill, is located next to a Holiday Inn Express across the Snake River in Ontario, OR, 30 miles further west. 

As we suggested above, your best bet for the last sprint to Redmond is to seek US 26. From Caldwell, Exit 26 in Idaho, will get you on US 26 and cross over the Snake River into Oregon at Nyssa while passing the Sugar Beet Refinery on the Oregon side.  

If you continue on I-84 past Caldwell, you’ll find US 26 by leaving I-84 behind at Oregon Exit 374 to head south on OR-201. Follow the signs to Vale, OR, where US 26 breaks to the northwest. Gas up in Vale… there is nothing but wide open spaces for the next 100 miles. 

If you take the fantastic Dooley Mountain Highway bypass. Look, we know you’re tired and anxious to get to Redmond. So, file this one away and do it in reverse when you’re fresh and just starting out for home.  However, if you’re feeling frisky, take OR-245 just west of the “town” of Unity. The first 21 miles leaves you asking yourself, What’s with the flat backtracking? The next sixteen miles answer the question with an exclamation point — a perfectly engineered roller-coaster that climbs 2,000 feet before cresting and immediately requesting that 2,000 feet back. A left at the tee on OR-7, a wonderful road in of itself, will deliver you back to US 26. Celebrate with an ice cream cone at Austin House. This delectable detour will add sixty miles to your trip — if you don’t turn around to do it again! 

Gas up in John Day. But don’t have lunch or at least save room for pie at the Dayville Café (baked fresh daily), thirty miles west. Only 106 miles remain between you and Redmond. Enjoy the ride through Picture Gorge and over to Ochoco Summit. To the north along these next fifty miles are several units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The monument’s Thomas Condon Visitor Center is two miles north on OR-19 and definitely worth a stop.  And check out the Painted Hills after leaving Mitchell if you think you won’t make it back this way during or after the rally.

At long last, you have arrived in Redmond! If you crossed the country to get here, you deserve an extra pat on the back. Next steps? Check in, take a nap — and prepare to enjoy all that a MOA Rally has to offer. Welcome to Oregon! The good times have only just begun.

You can find a GPS file for this route in the BMW MOA's Ride with GPS organization account here: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/46345466


Ride with GPS is a great way for the MOA to share and distribute maps, GPS routes and turn-by-turn instructions. As with any great service, some best practices in the form of tips and tricks are in order.

  • Each route in Ride with GPS is equivalent to a track in the world of Garmin GPS units and BaseCamp software. So for all the routes, make sure you get the entire collection of routes in Ride with GPS.
    • Ride with GPS allows you to download many different GPS files types, including GPX, for the BMW Navigator series and other Garmin productsWhen downloading GPX files, only download the "GPX Track" version.
    • The "GPX Route" version will leave you at the mercy of the settings on your Garmin GPS, and will take you off the planned route and maybe to unexpected places and road conditions.
  • Once you have the "GPX Track" version loaded on your device and want turn-by-turn navigation, convert the "track" on your Garmin GPS to a "trip."
  • If you don’t have a dedicated GPS device and use your phone for navigation, Ride with GPS also has a number of file formats to work with various navigation apps for phones.
  • Ride with GPS also has its own phone app that will also help guide you! Download now for Apple iOS or Android.

One comment

  1. Corey Dunsky

    I fail to understand the appeal of choosing interstate highways for a motorcycle trip like this. I realize that many folks have limited time and want to get to Redmond expeditiously. Thing is, there are MANY alternatives – US highways, state routes, etc. – that are equally fast and so much more interesting if you really want to see the country on its own terms rather than the micro-Generica glued to the flanks of the interstates. Sure, you’ll have to slow down when going through towns, but perhaps that’s part of the point of it all – moto touring, that is. Two additional benefits are that (a) you’ll contend with little to no long-haul truck traffic or vacationers who are zoned out and on cruise control in the left-hand (fast) lane; and (b) these routes are generally far less patrolled by LEO than the interstates. If ya get my drift…

    You want to get to Redmond but as the MOA has noted, more than half the fun is the trip there and back. Me? I’m coming from the Bay Area. On the interstate (I-5) to US 97, it would take me two easy days. My route? It’ll take five days of rambling down remote twisty roads, camping as I go. You want to see the country, well… don’t just experience the experience dished up by the travel-services industry along the interstates. Get off of them and do a little rambling of your own!

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