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WAVEJourney enjoyed a fall getaway road trip to Oregon’s Little Switzerland to explore the town of Joseph and the surrounding area. Based at the foot of the Wallowa Mountains in Wallowa County, a noteworthy mention must be made of the incredible scenic beauty of this area. WJ’s visit to Joseph, in the northeastern region of the state, was during the annual Oregon Alpenfest event – which we highly recommend. Our excursions in the area afforded us remarkable vistas of the lake and surrounding Wallowa Mountains and we will definitely return for more adventures.
Incorporated in 1887, Joseph has a population of just over 1,000. The town sits at an elevation of 4,150 feet, and attracts visitors that enjoy art galleries, boutique shops, museums, and locally-owned restaurants and cafes. It is a popular base for outdoor recreation enthusiasts that enjoy hiking, backpacking, camping, boating, water sports, hunting, sightseeing, and much more.
WJ’s dining recommendations in Joseph include Ole Town Cafe and The Embers Brew House. Also make sure to stop by Stein Distillery to sample their spirits and cordials.
Next time we go to Joseph, we’d love to stay at Wallowa Lake Lodge and Cabins at the end of the lake (it was fully booked during our visit, so make a reservation in advance).
With a population of approximately 1,950, Enterprise is 6 miles northeast of Joseph. The town sits at an elevation of 3,756 feet, and has a few interesting historic buildings – Wallowa County Courthouse, OK Theatre, Enterprise Carnegie Library, and William P. Warnock House – dating back to the early 20th century.
WJ’s recommendation for dining in Enterprise is Terminal Gravity Brewing – serving a fantastic variety of quality craft beer and delicious pub grub.
A mile south from Joseph’s downtown is Wallowa Lake which is about 3.7 miles long, 3/4 mile wide and has a depth of 299 feet. At an elevation of 4,372 feet, it is the largest of several glacial cirque lakes in the region, and ideal for swimming and boating in the summer months.
Eagle Cap Wilderness is a huge draw for hikers and horsepackers. We managed to squeeze in a lovely morning hike while we visited, and the scenery was spectacular.
Make sure to pick up a map and be prepared for a wilderness hike (lots of water, pack a lunch, proper footwear, warm clothing, first aid, etc.).
There is a daily $5 parking fee at the trail head, so take cash in the correct denomination (no where to get change).
We rode The Wallowa Lake Tramway, built in 1970, up Mount Howard which has a summit elevation of 8,150 feet. Here we enjoyed hiking for a couple of hours at the top with a 360-degree view of the area.
For those that do not have the time to hike, it is still worth the price of admission (on a clear day) to ride the 14-minute (each way) tramway ride up and back just to take in the incredible scenery. If the restaurant is open, be sure to stop there for lunch, a snack or just a drink – best views and good food.
One afternoon we took a scenic 2-hour drive via the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway to see the Hells Canyon Overlook. The expansive vista affords jaw-dropping views of the canyon in the area between Oregon and Idaho – with the Snake River dividing the two states.
The distance between Joseph and Hells Canyon is only 45 miles, but the road is windy and slow going. The scenic highway passes through beautiful old-growth ponderosa forests, and is well worth the drive.