Tucked away in the Northeast corner of Oregon is the beautiful mountain community of Wallowa Lake. On the south end of town, Wallowa Lake State Park provides camping, picnicking, fishing, swimming, and boating. The 285-foot deep lake, 3.5 miles long and less than a mile wide, was carved by glaciers eons ago and is surrounded by the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains, also dubbed the “Little Switzerland of America.” The highest is 9,838-foot Sacajawea peak. At the other end of town, hiking and horseback trails lead into Eagle Cap Wilderness where white, shaggy mountain goats are often spotted in the higher elevations. In between the natural areas, you’ll find quaint gift shops, small restaurants, the Wallowa Lake Tramway and historic Wallowa Lake Lodge. Kids love the go-carts and bumper boats, but not to worry, there’s no carnival atmosphere upsetting the tranquility. These modest “attractions” are very low-key.
Built in the early 1920s, Wallowa Lake Lodge was established as a rustic, yet luxurious, resort. A fine dining restaurant, 22 lodge rooms, and 8 cabins share an 8-acre site with many overly friendly deer (but remember they are wild and should not be fed). The property is bounded by Wallowa Lake and Wallowa River, which create quite a charming setting. Even if you’re camping and won’t need a room, check out the lodge’s dining room— a delicious salmon dinner or hazelnut pancakes with marionberry butter and maple syrup for breakfast are some of the best meals you’ll ever have!
On a clear day, take the 15-minute scenic ride to the summit of Mount Howard aboard the Wallowa Lake Tram (summit elevation 8,150 feet). Its enclosed gondola keeps you quite comfortable even on chilly mountain mornings. When constructed over 30 years ago, this tram was the steepest vertical lift in North America. Standing atop Mount Howard provides an incredible bird’s eye view of the Wallowa Mountains, deep blue Wallowa Lake, and the entire Wallowa Valley—including the tiny towns of Joseph and Enterprise in the distance. After feasting your eyes on the amazing panoramic view, have lunch or a snack in the Northwest’s highest restaurant—the Summit Grill—before taking the tram back down.
lake & tram photos by Steve Roundy