The 10 Best Things to Do in Joseph, Oregon

Farm and Wallowa Mountains, Powder River Valley, Joseph OR

John Elk / Getty Images

Joseph, Oregon, has a lot to offer anyone who enjoys scenic beauty and outdoor recreation. The small community of Joseph is located at the north end of Wallowa Lake, well known for its trophy-sized fish. It is a place where you can be as active or as laid back as you like.

The town is surrounded by wilderness areas, including Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, and the Hells Canyon National Scenic Area. In the summer, you can enjoy hiking, fishing, and boating.

Winter brings abundant opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. All in all, this is the perfect place to get outdoors and explore!

01 of 10

Explore Wallowa Lake State Park

Wallowa Lake State Park
Wallowa Lake State Park
Wallowa Lake State Park, Joseph, OR 97846, USA
Phone +1 800-551-6949

One of the more popular parks in the Oregon State Park system, Wallowa Lake State Park offers the full list of outdoor fun. Campers can choose from RV or tent sites as well as yurts and cabins. Campers and day visitors will enjoy nature trails, picnic areas, swimming, and bird and wildlife watching.

Wallowa Lake Marina, located inside the park, has a boat ramp and extensive dock space. The marina store offers paddle boat, kayak, and motorboat rentals along with fishing gear and licenses, water recreation supplies, snacks, and gift items.

02 of 10

Take in Views on the Wallowa Lake Tramway

Wallowa Lake Tramway

Finetooth/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0


59919 Wallowa Lake Hwy, Joseph, OR 97846-8334, USA

Enjoy views of Wallowa Lake and the majestic Eagle Cap Wilderness Area aboard a four-person tram car. The Wallowa Lake Tramway takes you to the top of Mount Howard, where you can relax and enjoy the views at the Summit Grill and Alpine Patio.

You can also wander through the mountaintop's interpretive trail system. The sometimes-steep trip between the tram's boarding area and the top takes approximately 15 minutes. The Wallowa Lake Tramway only operates during the year's warm months, typically late May through early October.

03 of 10

Ride the Eagle Cap Excursion Train

Eagle Cap Excursion Train

Mitchell Friedman/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

300 Depot St, Elgin, OR 97837, USA
Phone +1 541-437-3652

The Eagle Cap Excursion Train follows the Grand Ronde and Wallowa Rivers, passing through scenic wilderness, canyons, and cliffs. The 63-mile train ride is scheduled on some Saturdays, June through October. It lasts 3.5 hours and includes lunch. The station to board the Eagle Cap Excursion Train is located in the town of Elgin. Reservations are highly recommended.

04 of 10

Visit the Old Chief Joseph Grave Site and the Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Area

Chief Joseph Grave Site

Angela M. Brown/Chief Joseph Grave Site

Joseph, OR 97846, USA

Old Chief Joseph's remains were moved to this sacred Nez Perce site overlooking Wallowa Lake in 1926. A stone memorial marks the grave site inside the five-acre cemetery, a National Historic Landmark that is part of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail.

The Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Area, located adjacent to the gravesite area, is part of the traditional lands of the Nez Perce Tribe. One mile of trail wanders through hilly grasslands and offers stunning lake and Eagle Cap mountain views.

The trail system can be accessed from the Old Chief Joseph Grave Site or from a parking area slightly north of the grave site. Both are located along the west side of Highway 82.

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05 of 10

Visit the Bronze Foundaries and Take Bronze Artwalk

Joseph Oregon Bronze

Nik Wheeler/Getty Images


The Wallowa region is home to many artists. Over the years, the area has become a hub for sculptors who work in bronze. Several significant bronze sculptures are displayed in public areas around town. These artworks can be enjoyed on Bronze Artwalk, a walking tour of downtown Joseph.

A brochure with the Bronze Artwalk map and descriptions can be picked up at locations around town. You also have the opportunity to visit galleries and showrooms at the local foundries. If you would like to tour a bronze foundry, be sure to make advance reservations with the individual facility.

06 of 10

Drive the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway

Hells Canyon Oregon

Alan Majchrowicz/Getty Images

NF-490, Imnaha, OR 97842, USA

The Hells Canyon Scenic Byway loops through the towns of La Grande, Wallowa, Elgin, Enterprise, Joseph, Halfway, Richland, and Baker City.

While the entire Hells Canyon Scenic Byway is best experienced over two or more days, the Grande Ronde and Wallowa River Valley portions can be enjoyed from Joseph.

The eastern section of the loop is on a rough forest service road that is closed most of the year; be sure to check in advance to ensure the road is open before making the trip.

07 of 10

Delve into History at Wallowa County Museum

Wallowa County Downtown

Danita Delimont/Getty Images

110 S Main St, Joseph, OR 97846-8435, USA
Phone +1 541-432-6095

Located in downtown Joseph, the Wallow County Museum is not large but worth a visit for its reasonable entry fee and comprehensive exhibits.

The museum tells the story of the native Nez Perce from their point of view and adds pioneer history to the area as well.

The artifacts include everything from stills to distill spirits to a Nez Perce teepee. An hour or two max is enough time to budget for this stop, but it’s worth it for any history buffs.

08 of 10

Absorb Some Culture at Josephy Center for Arts and Culture

Josephy Center for Arts and Culture

Dwstruthers/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

403 Main St, Joseph, OR 97846, USA
Phone +1 541-432-0505

For all things art, a stop by the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture is a must. The Center is an art gallery, an events space, and a place where you can take a class in anything from painting wine glasses to astrophotography.

Exhibits rotate so that there’s always something new to see, and they include a bit of everything—women’s art exhibits, photography exhibits, printmakers, and even history on display. Check the Center’s events calendar to see the most up-to-date list of activities, classes, and events.

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09 of 10

Shop at Wallowa County Farmers' Market

Wallowa County Farmers' Market

Wallowa County Farmers' Market

Joseph, Oregon, is located near plenty of agriculture so visiting the Wallowa County Farmers' Market is a fine way to enjoy fresh and local berries, tomatoes, peppers, and other fruits and veggies.

On the one hand, the Wallowa County Farmers' Market is a great place to pick up some fresh produce, bread, or meat for dinner, but it's also a laid-back place to spend a little downtime. The market takes place every Saturday.

10 of 10

Get Outdoors and Enjoy Wallowa Lake, Paragliding, and More

a mountain lake in Joseph, Oregon

Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

Joseph is an outdoorsy kind of place with tons of outdoor adventures just waiting to be had. For one, Wallowa Lake is nearby, and the lake is a great place to grab a boat (Wallowa Lake Marina Boat Rentals has rental boats if you don’t have one yourself) and set out to explore this beautiful and pristine lake.

If you like getting out on the water but prefer to see things from a higher vantage point, Wallowa Paragliding is another option. You can go whitewater rafting or fly fishing on the area rivers, including the Snake River in Hells Canyon, the Grande Ronde River, and the Salmon River.

Last but not least, Joseph’s many trails are perfect for hiking and mountain biking. Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site is a good place to start with level trails, a pond, some wildlife, and a location that’s only a mile from Joseph proper. If you’re willing to drive a little farther afoot, Wallowa Lake Trailhead, Hurricane Creek Trailhead, and the McCully Trailhead are all also solid options.

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The 10 Best Things to Do in Joseph, Oregon