When you visit Wallowa Lake Oregon and the Wallowa Mountains you are not in the Swiss Alps but you will feel like you are.
Wallowa Lake Oregon is just one mile from Joseph, Oregon, a town named after the Nez Perce Chief Joseph. On your way in to the lake from Joseph on Highway 82 you can see the grave of Chief Joseph The Elder, father of the famous Chief Joseph that defied the United States Government in refusing to give up the land of his ancestors.
The lake and the area surrounding it is some of the best outdoor recreation country in Oregon. Wallowa Lake is about a mile wide and five miles long. Popular activities on the lake are boating, fishing, water skiing, and swimming (very cold water). Boats and paddle boats are available for rent.
Around the lake activities include camping, backpacking, hiking, hunting, para sailing, and horseback riding. Wintertime activities include cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Rustic rental cabins are available year round.
At the lake there are three trailheads that go into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. This wilderness
has 541 miles of trails and can be accessed from other locations as well. There are 50 high mountain lakes in this area.
The Wallowa Lake Tram is a gondola lift that runs from the valley floor which is 4,200 feet altitude to the top of Mt. Howard at 8,150 feet altitude. From the top of Mt. Howard and on the trip up and back down you will see spectacular views of the Wallowa Mountains and valley floor including views of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The tram runs from
May through September. Have your camera ready because you will see some great views including the valley floor looking like a patchwork quilt.
At the top is a restaurant called the Alpine Grill where you can get a great hamburger or sandwich which you can eat on the terrace while you are enjoying the spectacular view. When the weather is clear you will have a view of four states. See, you don't have to go to Switzerland to do this.
There is an excellent hiking trail loop at the top of Mt. Howard where you can get even more excellent views. It is an easy hike that kids will enjoy. Either take a picnic lunch or stop in at the grill and make a day's outing of it.
Wallowa Lake State Park is located at the south end of Wallowa Lake Oregon off Highway 82. The park is between the lake an the towering peaks of the Wallowa Mountains.
There are two picnic areas in the park. One is handicapped accessible and has a view of the lake. The other one is between two forks of the Wallowa River.
There are 121 full hookup sites with 36 of them pull-through. The 89 tent sites have water nearby. The park has a dump station and there are laundry facilities available.
Two yurts are available. They have lights, heating, a lockable door, and beds with mattresses. The yurts sleep five and have three bunk beds and a double futon. Outside there is a picnic table and fire ring.
The park has one two-story cabin that sleeps eight. It has two bedrooms upstairs and two futons downstairs. The kitchen has a stove-top burner, refrigerator, and a microwave. Cooking utensils and dishes are not provided. The cabin has a bathroom with a shower. You will need to supply your own linens.
Camping is available year round. However, in the winter only a few campsites for tents and RV's are available. There is one heated restroom block available. The two yurts and the cabin are both rented through the winter. There is no sewer or water from October through April for the full-hookup sites.
Next to Wallowa Lake State Park is the Matterhorn Swiss Village. This is where the Wallowa Tram begins.Matterhorn's Kaffeehaus offers espresso, Italian sodas, Tillamook Ice Cream with homemade waffle cones, and pastries. The Die Alpin Gift Shop has souvenirs and outdoor clothing. At the end of October the village is decked out for an alpine Octoberfest. Swiss and German music,dancing, alphorns, and abundant food including German Sausage and sauerkraut.
Swiss cottages are available for rent year round. For more information on these cottages visit Matterhorn Swiss Village.
Wallowa Lake Lodge was built in the 1920's. It has lovely, spacious rooms with private baths. Some rooms have balconies overlooking the lake. The lodge restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner during the main season. The lodge also has rustic cabins for rent. Most of these cabins have stone wood-burning fireplaces and a view of the lake. Some cabins have an outdoor deck. Wood for the fireplaces is delivered daily. Linens are provided. Most of these cabins are rented in the winter so you can go and have fun in the snow.
To find out more about renting a room in the lodge or one of their cabins visit Wallowa Lake Lodge.
Hiking Trails at Wallowa Lake Oregon
The three trails that begin at the lake will give you a hiking or backpacking experience you will never forget. The trails begin about a mile from Wallowa Lake Lodge. There is a parking area.
On The Chief Joseph Trail you will cross bridges over the West Fork of the Wallowa River, see bautiful waterfalls, walk through an area with wild roses and mock orange filling the air with their perfume, and eventually come to a rock outcrop where you have a view of Wallowa Lake Oregon and the valleys below. This trail continues on to the summit of Chief Joseph Mountain which is 10,000 feet high. You don't have to go that far though. The first two miles make a very nice hike. hike.
The West Fork Wallowa River Trail takes off after the first quarter mile of The Chief Joseph Trail and it goes up for half a mile. On this trail you will see The Refrigerator where cold air rushes down a rock slide, and springs along the way. After three miles you come to where the Ice Lake Trail takes off to Ice Lake five miles away. If you continue on the West Fork Trail you will come to Six Mile Meadow and see other high lakes.
The Aneroid Trail has some steep stretches and enters the Eagle Cap Wilderness before reaching Aneroid Lake at six miles. You can go farther into the Eagle Cap Wilderness on this trail.
If you are going to do more than day hiking in this area, it would be a good idea to buy a good trail guide. Wilderness is just that--wild. You need to be prepared for what you are going into.