Wallowa Lake Tourism and Recreation in Northeast Oregon

"A La Grande Ride Destination"

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by Tesmond Hurd — Updated 7 months 3 weeks ago · Posted Sun, May 28, 2017
Wallowa Lake, located south of Joseph in Wallowa County, Oregon, is one of the most popular, premiere areas for recreation, vacation, and tourism in Northeast Oregon. In 2016, $29.3 million in tourism money was spent here. The lake itself was formed from glaciers, surrounding by high moraines, and towering mountain peaks. It is well know for its cold, clear, blue waters. Opportunities to hike, mountain bike, swim, horseback ride, fish, and boat are almost unlimited in the area. On the south end of the lake, Wallowa Lake State Park offers 121 full-hookup sites (36 pull-through), 88 tent sites with water nearby, two yurts, group tent camping, and group picnic areas. The lake is full of rainbow trout, kokanee, and lake trout. Dozens water ski or tube on the seemingly-endless inland sea, with public and private docks scattered throughout. Upon arriving in Joseph you'll be greeted by the majestic mountains and friendly locals. Wallowa Lake is only 7 miles south on Highway 351. West of the lake is Chief Joseph Mountain and the Hurwal Divide. The renowned Sacajawea Peak towers at 9,838 feet southeast of the lake, and is the 2nd most prominent peak in Oregon, and 18th in the U.S. The western shore is home to numerous private summer properties, and are off limits to the general public. To the east, at the far end of the lake, sits Mt. Howard. The vast 361,446 acres (564.8 sq mi) Eagle Cap Wilderness encompasses most of the mountain peaks in the internal mountain range west and south of the lake. Unfortunate wilderness restrictions do apply in those areas. The historical Wallowa Lake Tramway gondola carries tourists to 8,000 ft. on Mt. Howard, where the Summit Grill awaits with awesome food and cold beer. Find ticket prices on their website.
Constructed in 1970, it is the steepest vertical lift for a four passenger gondola in North America, rising roughly 4,000 feet.
Hiking The Wallowa Lake Trailhead starts at the end of Power House Rd. From there, the Aneriod Lake Trail climbs to the 7,552 foot Aneroid Lake. Over atop Mt. Howard, the Mt. Howard Summit Loop Trail gives a 360-degree view of the local terrain and scenery. The Seven Devils of Idaho can be seen from here too! For the elite and advanced hikers, you'll appreciate the punishing climb to Chief Joseph Mountain Summit, also a favorite backcountry ski spot for locals. Mountain Biking If you looking to get your wheels on the dirt, their are lots of opportunities to MTB. The "unofficial-official maybe-legal-to-MTB trail" Mt. Howard DH trail drops you 3900 feet in 3.5 epic miles. If you want to ride the illustrious moraine, the Wallowa Lake East Moraine MTB Trail is an excellent option. Because of heavy winter snowpacks, there is likely to still be snow on trails in the higher elevations in the early season. All trails are usually opened up and or passable by late July or early August.

All of these trails are located on our EnterActive Map!

Culture and Nightlife If you're planning a great vacation to the lake and want to head into town for the cultural nightlife, then you'll find plenty of options. In Joseph, a local favorite is Ember's Brewhouse where 17 local beers are on tap, along with good brew food. The infamous Terminal Gravity microbrewery in Enterprise has great food and a stellar "copper to honey colored ale with a rich malt character and a clean bitter hop finish" IPA. The best chocolate and coffee in the entire county, probably the state of Oregon, sits in downtown Joseph at Arrowhead Chocolates. If you're looking for good activities for all the family, go-karts, horseback riding, and mini golf are at the south end of the lake—who doesn't like mini golf?! Most people choose to walk or bike instead of drive; why not, it enhances the experience! The last week of July is reserved for the infamous Chief Joseph Days. Many festivities are going on during this time, including four days of PRCA rodeos (more good beer here). The busy season usually lasts Memorial Day through Labor Day. Camping and Lodging Whether you prefer camping in your RV, fifth wheel, or good 'ol fashion tent, there are many campsites available for different accommodations. It's recommended you reserve a spot in advance during the busy season. Of course, the non-camping type have many places to choose from. Here's a list of cabin and cabin/yurt-style lodging to stay near the lake:
  • Wallowa Lake Lodge
  • Wallowa Lake Resort (a personal favorite)
  • Eagle Cap Chalets
  • Wallowa Lake Vacation Rentals
  • Flying Arrow Resort
Lake Stats The Wallowa River flows out of the mountains and into the southern end of the lake creating a delta. On the northwestern corner of the lake, a dam controls water outflow and the rest of the Wallowa River that eventually meets the Minam.
  • Max. length: 3.5 miles (5.6 km)
  • Max. width: 0.75 miles (1.21 km)
  • Average depth: 161 feet (49 m)
  • Max. depth: 299 feet (91 m)

 Wallowa Lake State Park — 45.280936, -117.212795
 Wallowa Lake Trailhead — 45.266917, -117.212843
 Wallowa County Park — 45.334586, -117.218562
 Wallowa Lake Marina — 45.284757, -117.213324
 Mt. Howard — 45.260987, -117.178778
 Chief Joseph Mountain — 45.285600, -117.261100

Wallowa Lake looking north
Chief Joseph Mountain ridge
Wallowa Lake looking south
Looking southeast from the north shore
Aqua, teal water color on the northwest corner
Trail from park to dam, but not allowed to pass the dam
Dam to control river outflow
Wallowa River delta on south shore
Chief Jo