Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Still 2 weeks left to ride the Wallowa Lake Tramway, visit Wallowa Mountains in NE Oregon

Atop Mt. Howard ... spectacular views in all directions!

Hi all,

Wendy and I took a little vacation to the Wallowas in NE Oregon last week, just as cooler fall weather was kicking in and the fire smoke from Oregon and California disappeared. That made for a perfect time in this quiet corner of Oregon, 3.5-4 hours away by freeway from Boise. 

After doing a 6-mile hike on Hurricane Creek in the Eagle Cap Wilderness on the first day, we decided to take the Wallowa Lake Tramway to the top of Mount Howard the following day. 

I've known about the Wallowa Lake Tramway for years, but I had never done it before. It's been open since 1970. Tickets cost $38 per person for adults, $28 for kids under 11. It operates only in the summer months. I thought it was well worth the expense to enjoy giant views of the Wallowas and Eagle Cap Wilderness, the Joseph Plains, Wallowa Lake and the Seven Devils Mountains in Idaho. 

The trip to the top is super quiet inside these cute, 2-person gondola cars (maybe more than 2 people can fit in the cars with small children). You quickly rise 3,700 feet in vertical gain to the top of Mount Howard (elev. 8,250 feet) in a 15-minute ride. Once on top, you can hike around the cone of Mt. Howard to four distinct viewpoints, and each one of them is totally spectacular! 

Be sure to dress warm for the top, depending on the weather and the time of day. Could be 15-20 degrees colder on top than at the base area. 

After a 2.5-mile hike to those viewpoints, you can return to the tramway summit, enjoy a beverage (including Mimosas!), a cup of soup, or a sandwich for lunch. 

Hiking trail on top of Mt. Howard is a Park Service-like well-manicured trail, good for all abilities.

I've spent a lot of time hiking into the various drainages in the Wallowas and Eagle Caps over the last 40 years, so it was cool to look deep into the interior of the wilderness and rekindle memories. Looking into the East Fork of Wallowa Creek, Wendy and I remembered a very memorable backcountry ski trip into Anaeroid Basin, where we had tons of new powder to enjoy for 4-5 days. 

The tall mountains lording over the West Fork and East Fork of Wallowa Creek made for some great backdrops for photos on the top of Mt. Howard. The southern viewpoint looking out at beautiful Wallowa Lake, the Joseph Plains and the Seven Devils mountain range in  Idaho was just as spell-binding, looking out at the patchwork quilt of farm/ranch fields below amongst all the rest. 

Nice pic of Wendy on top with big peaks in the background.

There's just two weeks left to plan a trip to the Wallowa Lake tramway to enjoy this experience.
It closes on Oct. 4. Tickets for youths aged 12-17 are $35 and kids 11 and under can go for $28. If you can't cram a trip into your fall sked, put it on the list for next year. 

There are lots of other things to do in the Enterprise/Joseph area. There's Nez Perce history as this was the home to Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Tribe. You can visit his grave site in Joseph next to Wallowa Lake, and learn about the Nez Perce War and history. You can visit large bronze statues and art galleries in Joseph.

The cute gondola cars provide fetching views of Wallowa Lake and the countryside below.

You can go hiking or backpacking in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. We did an out-and-back hike on Hurricane Creek to the "Slickrock" granite rock formations on that scenic trail. And we did an 8-mile day hike to Maxwell Lake in the Lostine River drainage. The trail to Maxwell Lake was very well-maintained, making for a pleasant approach in the first three miles, and then a steep final approach in the last mile to the lake. The deep turquoise color of Maxwell Lake was absolutely mesmerizing to me. Perfectly gin-clear pure water high in the watershed. 

Maxwell Lake with Wendy ... gorgeous lake!

Another fun activity would be the Wallowa County barn tours ... You can take a self-guided tour of 31 scenic barns in the Wallowa Valley ranch country around the towns of Wallowa, Lostine, Enterprise and Joseph. The Wallowa Valley chamber has an online tour guide and video to show you the way. 

Lodging: We stayed in a recently remodeled condo unit in downtown Enterprise. Very spiffy. The VRBO rental allows pets and sleeps up to at least 6. There are several hotels in the area as well. Both Joseph and Enterprise are centrally located to everything. See the Wallowa Chamber site for ideas and prices on lodging. In the summer, you could book a camping spot at Wallowa Lake State Park. Gorgeous location.

Food: It's nice to be able to make meals at your vacation rental, so you don't have to go out for every meal. We did dinner at two different restaurants that were notable -- Terminal Gravity just outside of Enterprise (outdoor dining available), and the Stubborn Mule Saloon and Steakhouse in Joseph. Both were excellent and very reasonably priced!   

Have fun!
- SS

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