Surrounded by the remote Eagle Cap Wilderness, glacial lakes, working ranches and the wide open spaces of Eastern Oregon, The Wallowas are one of Oregon’s most beautiful secrets. Here are some spots you won’t want to miss when you go see them for yourself:
Ghost Towns: Thanks in large part to the gold rush of the 19th century, Eastern Oregon is home to more than a dozen officially designated ghost towns, many of them former gold mining settlements. Look for the near-ghost town of Sumpter, Cornucopia and Homestead.
Joseph: With the magnificent Wallowa Mountains as its backdrop, it’s easy to see why Joseph developed into a town filled with artists. Discover art galleries and life-sized bronze sculptures on the downtown Joseph Art Walk. Sip on Western flavor at the Stein Distillery tasting room, where the spirits are distilled from grain grown on the owners’ family farm. Try a dark chocolate mocha from Arrowhead Chocolates and pick up some salted caramels for the road.
The Oregon Trail: Don’t miss the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, where you can see the original ruts carved by the pioneer wagons that made the 2,000-mile journey to Oregon during the 1800s.
Wallowa Lake Tramway: If you want to scale a mountain but aren’t quite ready for a climb, the Wallowa Lake Tramway will take you up 3,700 feet to the summit of Mt. Howard, at 8,150 feet. Give yourself time to explore the 2-mile hiking loop atop Mt. Howard, where you can see the high desert of Indian country roll out in front of you in one direction, and then turn around and see past Hells Canyon into the next state. (Note: the tramway reopens for the summer months in mid-May.)
Hells Canyon: You can see a lot from high atop the Wallowas, including the very top of Hells Canyon, a 10-mile canyon carved by the Snake River that’s deeper than the Grand Canyon and a great place for camping, fishing, rafting and jet boating. And there’s no better way to road trip around the Wallowas than taking the scenic route on the beautiful Hells Canyon Scenic Byway.