20 Best Things to Do in Joseph, OR

Joseph, ORJoseph, OR
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Oregon has a lot of unique places to visit, and the small town of Joseph is one of the most beautiful.

Joseph is in Wallowa County, Oregon, known as the “Little Switzerland of America” for its natural beauty and exquisite sceneries.

This place is a paradise for all outdoor enthusiasts.

Its proximity to Wallowa Lake, the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and the Wallowa Mountains means no shortage of hiking or climbing opportunities to explore.

Those who prefer relaxing outdoor activities can try fishing and paddle boarding at Wallowa Lake.

Do you want a more low-key experience?

Take a stroll through downtown Joseph and explore the town's art galleries and antique stores.

If you visit in the summer, you might even catch one of the weekly concerts on Main Street!

No matter what kind of activity you're looking for, Joseph has something for everyone.

Check out the 20 best things to do in Joseph, Oregon, if you're in for some adventure.

Reach New Heights with Wallowa Lake Tramway

Welcome sign of Wallowa Lake Tramway
Rick Obst from Eugene, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you're looking for an idyllic view that will take your breath away, then head to Wallowa Lake Tramway.

Wallowa Lake Tramway is one of the state's most beloved attractions, and you can see why from the moment you step on the platform.

Built in 1970, the Swiss-made tram can accommodate four passengers and take them from the bottom to the top in just 15 minutes.

Scenic mountain views from Wallowa Lake Tramway
Finetooth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It's only a short ride to the top—but once you get there, it feels like you've reached the world's ceiling.

From 4,000 feet above sea level, you can gaze out at one of Oregon's most breathtaking landscapes and see for miles in every direction.

The lake looks so tiny that it looks like a puddle that could fit in your backyard, and the mountain peaks look almost touchable.

The Wallowa Lake Tramway is a perfect way to get a bird's eye view of Oregon's beautiful wilderness.

Daytime view of Wallowa Lake Tramway
Laura Ragsdale Photo / Shutterstock.com

Explore the Lake with Joseph Oregon Paddle

The best thing to do in Joseph is to play on the water since the town has several lakes and rivers where you can enjoy fishing, boating, swimming, and more.

Joseph Oregon Paddle is the place if you want to have a peaceful yet fun-filled activity on the waters of Joseph.

JO (short for Joseph Oregon) Paddle offers adventure tours and rentals that provide opportunities for tourists to explore the beauty of Wallowa Lake.

There is something for everyone at Joseph Oregon Paddle, with options for beginners and advanced adventurers.

You can try the Daytime Self Guided tours, where you can bask in the sun while viewing the wildlife around the area.

Otherwise, you can experience the “Glacier Clear Nighttime Adventure Tour,” where you can glimpse the 300-foot deep lake with a kayak whose underside has LED lights.

Listen to the Wallowa Lake Monster “Wallie” stories during the tours, and learn more exciting facts about Joseph.

Stop and Shop at the Sheep Shed

When you visit the small town of Joseph, stop by this unique art gallery and gift shop called The Sheep Shed.

The store is chock-full of handmade gifts and local artwork with a Northwest flair – perfect for picking up a souvenir from your trip.

You can find locally-made items—like hand-woven rugs and exquisite woodwork—or you can find things imported from other countries.

They also sell wool and yarn directly from their farm just outside town.

It may not be as exciting as some of the other activities in town, but it's still worth visiting if you're with kids or have a particular interest in local life.

Learn History at Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center

Located in the heart of the downtown area, the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center is where you can check out the history of the logging community of Maxville.

Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center is a must-visit destination for anyone who wants to experience and learn about the town's history.

Visitors can see how people lived during different periods, how they worked, and what they ate.

The museum has interactive exhibits to educate visitors on how people lived in Maxville before it became a town.

Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center is not just a museum; it is a living, breathing, and evolving story about the history and culture of the Maxville area.

Experience a Thrilling Ride in Joseph Branch Railriders

If you’re ready for some thrilling outdoor fun, then get ready to ride with Joseph Branch Railriders!

The rail riders are custom-made pedal-powered carts that ride along the old rails in the Wallowa Valley.

You can cruise on your own or with your family and friends.

It's easy to turn the ride into a more extended adventure by combining it with other activities in the area.

There are several trails to choose from, taking you through some gorgeous scenery in Northeast Oregon!

You can go on a day trip where you can breathe in the fresh mountain air at the base of the beautiful mountains of Wallowa or experience a nighttime adventure that provides an excellent opportunity for stargazing.

Joseph Branch Railriders offers an experience that is more than just a scenic trail ride.

It's an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful countryside while embarking on a physical challenge.

Have a Sweet Treat from Arrowhead Chocolates and Coffee

Arrowhead Chocolates and Coffee is a local hot spot for chocolate and coffee lovers.

Their shop is in a historic building in downtown Joseph, a great place to spend an afternoon.

They offer a variety of different types of chocolate to suit every taste.

They also have beautiful pastries, cookies, and other delicious treats.

Arrowhead Chocolates and Coffee is not like your typical chocolate and coffee shop.

The shop has won the national “Good Food Awards” twice, proving the high quality of its products.

It's worth checking out if you're ever in the area, so check out what Arrowhead Chocolates and Coffee can offer.

Have Fun Outdoors in Wallowa Lake State Park

Landscape of Wallowa Lake State Park
Jesse Stephens / Shutterstock.com

Wallowa Lake State Park is an excellent place for people who love the outdoors.

It offers many enjoyable outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, boating, camping, and more!

Whether you want to enjoy a day on the water, take in the spectacular views, or have an entertaining evening with friends, you can do it all here.

Scenic nature view at Wallowa Lake State Park
ThelmaElaine / Shutterstock.com

There are also plenty of hiking trails that offer beautiful views and great opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Keep an eye out for eagles as you explore.

For a more relaxed day at Wallowa Lake State Park, rent a canoe and explore every nook and cranny of its shoreline.

The park is open year-round.

While it's busiest during the summer months, each season has its unique charm.

Spring and fall offer beautiful wildflowers and foliage, respectively; wintertime is ideal for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

Downstream of Wallowa Lake State Park
Jesse Stephens / Shutterstock.com

Indulge in the World of Arts in Josephy Center for Arts and Culture

The Josephy Center for Arts and Culture, located at the center of town, is a hub for artists working in all mediums.

A group of community members established the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture in 2008.

They felt that the city needed a community arts center.

The center preserves the history and culture of the Wallowa Valley and its Native American tribes.

The center features rotating exhibitions that feature local artwork and artifacts, including works from nationally and internationally known artists, cultural artifacts from tribal nations, hands-on activities, and educational opportunities.

The Josephy Center isn't just a place to view art; it's also a place to make it.

The center offers classes and workshops for everyone who wants to learn ceramics, printmaking, dancing, jewelry making, wood carving, etc.

Buy Local Products at Wallowa County Farmers' Market

Wallowa County Farmers Market is a great place to shop for local goods and grab a bite to eat.

This market is a beautiful opportunity for you to meet local farmers and ranchers and purchase fresh produce, eggs, cheese, and other dairy products.

The Wallowa County Farmers Market also has an excellent selection of jams, jellies, honey, bread, and other baked goods that will complete any meal.

The market has a fun atmosphere with live music and activities for kids, so you won’t get bored while shopping for essentials.

Visit this local farmers' market and support the community by purchasing fresh and locally grown produce.

If you're looking for things to do in Joseph, Oregon, Valley Bronze Gallery, and Foundry is a must-visit.

Since 1982, the Valley Bronze Gallery and Foundry has produced high-quality art castings.

The gallery features bronze sculptures from local artists and pieces from other artists around the country and the world.

If you are looking for something unique for your home or office, this is the place to go!

Besides metal sculpture, the foundry also displays paintings and prints from national and international artists worldwide.

The gallery has operated since the 80s, so it's no surprise that it's one of the most popular places in Joseph.

Have a Fun-Filled Day in Nez Perce National Historical Park

If you're in Joseph, check out Nez Perce National Historical Park.

Nez Perce National Historical Park is an excellent place for families and people of all ages, and it's incredibly cool for history buffs.

The Nez Perce National Historical Park is an expansive site that preserves many different places significant to the Nez Perce tribe.

This national park is a great place to learn more about the history and culture of Native Americans, especially if you have children.

The park offers self-guided and guided tours, and it also has an interactive visitor center with exhibits that provide some insight into what life was like for the Nez Perce.

Visiting this park is an essential part of Joseph, Oregon, so don't miss learning about a beautiful and ancient culture that has called this place home for centuries.

Taste the Local Flavors in Stein Distillery

Since 2009, this small family-owned distillery in Joseph has produced spirits with a distinctly local flavor that represents the town.

The Stein Distillery makes its liquor from locally grown crops, which ensures the quality of the products and meets the customers' expectations.

The distillery offers an assortment of other spirits and cocktails, including whiskey, gin, rum, and locally made beer.

A visit to Stein Distillery is a must for travelers who want to sample their locally made spirits and those who wish to learn about the spirit-making process.

If you're looking for something to do on a Friday night, consider going to Stein.

The place has a relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff, and great music.

Visit the Wallowology Natural History Discovery Center

If you're looking for something new to add to your list of places to go in Joseph, check out the Wallowology Natural History Discovery Center.

The Wallowology Natural History Discovery Center is a non-profit organization that focuses on charity, education, and science.

This unassuming little museum contains exciting information about the local area, with exhibits on everything from geology to wildlife preservation.

It's a great place to learn something new, enjoy some hands-on learning experiences, and explore nature.

The center offers so many activities.

You can join an educational hike and day tours around local nature sites and catch a glimpse of the wildlife in the area.

You can join a sightseeing tour and see the exhibits about the natural and cultural history of the town.

Visiting the Wallowology Natural History Discovery Center is a great way to spend a day with the family.

Feel the Adrenaline Rush with Wallowa Paragliding

Do you want to do something adventurous and exciting in Joseph, Oregon?

Wallowa Paragliding is the perfect place to go.

Since 1996, Wallowa Paragliding has provided visitors the opportunity to soar above the mountains of Joseph and see incredible scenery.

Wallowa Paragliding offers tandem flights where you will fly with a certified instructor and enjoy soaring on air currents in the Wallowa Mountains.

Their tandems are equipped with safety harnesses, helmets, and goggles so you can see everything around you while still being safe.

You can jump off the launch site at Mt. Howard is 7,950 above sea level, landing on a place in Wallowa Lake.

You don’t need to be an expert in paragliding to try it.

You need an adventurous spirit and a brave heart, and you’re all set!

Browse the Aisles of Simply Sandy’s

If you want something truly unique as a memento of your trip to Joseph, Oregon, you should check out Simply Sandy's antique shop.

Browse their packed-to-the-brim collection.

Don't worry about getting overwhelmed.

Their helpful staff is more than willing to give you the inside scoop on their favorite pieces and answer whatever questions you might have.

You'll find some truly unique items here.

The well-curated selection includes furniture, clothing, glassware, and knickknacks from across periods and cultures.

The shop itself is a diverse representation of the unique atmosphere that brings people together in Joseph.

It's warm, welcoming, and full of treasures to be found in every corner.

This shop is for people with an eye for design or who need inspiration for their own homes.

Admire the Wallowa Mountains and the Nature Scenery at Iwetamlaykin State Heritage Site

Scenic view of Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site
Finetooth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Within the south edge of Joseph, Iwetamlaykin State Heritage Site sits as an outstanding nature preserve and ancestral property.

Opened in 2009, this site is a sacred site for the Nez Perce Tribe.

In fact, the name of the site is of Nez Perce origin and translates to "at the edge of the lake".

Within this nature site, expect to see wildflowers and native wildlife, including bears and deer.

The hiking trails are also a great spot to reminisce and take in the sights and sounds of nature.

From a distance, you'll even get to see the Wallowa Mountains along your route.

You can reach Iwetamlaykin State Heritage Site via Oregon Route 351.

Browse through the Historical Collections at the Wallowa County Museum

It's never too late to take your vacation in Joseph to the next level with a history lesson about the city's past.

Drop by the Wallowa County Museum!

This seasonal museum stands where the original 1888 First Bank of Joseph.

The building boasts a High Victorian Italianate Commercial architectural style.

And over the years, before becoming a museum, the site became a private school and then, a private hospital.

Now, within this historical site are numerous artifacts taken from John Harley Horner, who was Wallowa County's first historian.

Manuscripts and archived documents are also available for those who wish to study more about it.

The Wallowa County Museum is on South Main Street.

Get your much-needed art inspiration when you come by Aspen Grove Gallery.

Located on North Main Street, this gallery contains some of the most prized handiworks of Mark Kortnik and Carol McLaughlin Kortnik.

It has been serving the community since 1988.

Aside from providing fine arts specialties, the gallery is also a must-visit if you're looking to custom-frame your photographs or artworks.

Browse through delicate watercolor paintings, hand-blown glass art pieces, and painted gourds.

There are even displayed photographs of Joseph's most eye-catching spots.

With that said, be sure to make space in your schedule for a trip to Aspen Grove Gallery.

Enjoy a Snow-Capped Ski Ride at Ferguson Ridge Ski Area

People at Ferguson Ridge Ski Area
Buckjoe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ferguson Ridge Ski Area invites you to a winter adventure unlike any other in Joseph!

What once was only a pastime hobby for the Eagle Cap Ski Club soon became a tourist attraction when the site became a permanent ski location for everyone to use.

The skiing area offers 8 trails and rentable gear for your ultimate skiing journey.

Don't wait around!

Bring your whole family for some snowboarding or snowshoeing fun at Ferguson Ridge Ski Area.

This ski facility is on Tucker Down Road.

Go on an Adventurous Hike along Hurricane Creek Trailhead

Joseph is famous for its impressive hiking trails and majestic mountain views.

And Hurricane Creek Trailhead is only proof of this.

This trail is not only a notable access point for the Eagle Cap Wilderness but is also a scenic attraction in and of itself.

Get glimpses of the peaks of Sacajawea and Matterhorn.

While on your trek up, take in the sights and sounds of waterfalls and subalpine meadows.

Get access to Hurricane Creek Trailhead when you head over to County Road 521.

Final Thoughts

From its valleys to its shores, Joseph is an underrated travel destination.

It's a great place to go if you're looking for some peace, but it also has enough going on that you can enjoy a holiday like a local.

The city itself is also home to many top-notch attractions, including one of Oregon's most beloved art galleries.

On top of all this, Joseph is surrounded by unparalleled natural beauty.

You'll find alpine lakes, mountain peaks, and valleys filled with wildlife within easy driving distance.

So, if you’re looking for your next adventure, consider visiting Joseph, Oregon.

Experience all the beautiful things this small town offers; you won't regret it.

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