The nickname “Little Switzerland” might conjure up a Sound of Music-like setting in your mind – lush greenery and wildflowers, majestic and maybe even a few snow-topped mountains, plus crystal-clear alpine lakes.
But while the Swiss are known for watches, cheese, chocolate, banks and the Red Cross, Joseph has cemented a more eclectic and all-inclusive reputation, which includes everything from cowboys to artists, bicyclists to brew masters and star gazers to polka dancers.
Joseph, named after Nez Perce Chief Joseph, rests at the base of the Wallowa Mountains in Northeastern Oregon. Neighbors include the glorious Eagle Cap Wilderness, which boasts 534 miles of trails and is the state’s largest natural wilderness, The Hells Canyon Recreation area, the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve, 33,000 acres of natural grassland run by The Nature Conservancy and Wallowa Lake State Park.
I find myself in awe, contemplating possible outdoor activities – hiking, biking, rafting, fishing. Bicyclists can choose from riding rail trails to the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. Hikers and trail runners can hit places like Hurricane Creek, Wallowa Lake and Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site. Glacial lakes have been stocked with Eastern Brook and Rainbow trout.
Meanwhile, I have not left Main Street. As much as the area is known for its impressive natural beauty, it’s also famous for art walks, food tastings and events. Right here, there’s Mutiny Brewing, Stein Distillery (Eastern Oregon’s first microdistillery) and Red Horse Coffee Traders. While those places cover great drinks, good food is plentiful too – with choices like Vali’s Alpine Restaurant and Delicatessen, Embers Brewhouse, Arrowhead Chocolates and the Cheyenne Café.
If you’re sticking around town a while (and why wouldn’t you with so much to see and do), consider camping at Wallowa Lake State Park or settling in at places like the historic Wallowa Lake Lodge, or in town at the Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast or the Indian Lodge Motel.
Joseph truly is a bountiful vacation spot, chock full of choices — almost too many things to see and do in one visit. I’m so glad I’ll be back here with Cycle Oregon in September!