Oregon 7 Wonders: The Wallowas

The blue waters of Wallowa Lake and towering mountains are in the far reaching northeastern corner of Oregon. Of the “7 Wonders of Oregon,” is it probably the most remote, but oh so worth the drive to the “Alps of Oregon”!

The Wallowas. 7 Wonders of Oregon Series. Splendid Wonders Blog

To reach Wallowa Lake, you drive through the small, but scenic town of Joseph (we had lunch and did a little shopping here, but didn’t otherwise explore too much of the town). On the day we planned to arrive, we didn’t navigate our driving well (we drove into Baker City to go to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center which was way pass the turnoff for Enterprise and Joseph), but we did end up getting to the lake with enough time to enjoy the beautifully hued sunset on the south side of the lake at the Wallowa Lake State Park.

The Wallowas. Sunset. 7 Wonders of Oregon Series. Splendid Wonders Blog
Wallowa Lake. Sunset Jumping. 7 Wonders of Oregon Series. Splendid Wonders Blog

We stayed at the Eagle’s View Inn & Suites hotel in Enterprise which was about 25 minutes from the lake. (There are not a whole lot of hotel options the Joseph area - the few extra minutes drive to Enterprise was definitely worth the savings, and even then, it was pricey by my usual goals (around $100/night) at $142 for 2 queen beds).

The next morning, e decided to get up very early to catch the sunrise on the lake. We were bundled up in sweaters and extra blankets because even though it was the end of August, it was still a bit chilly in the morning!

Sunrise at Wallowa Lake

Sunrise at Wallowa Lake

The Wallowas. 7 Wonders of Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
View from the Eagle’s View Inn and Suites parking lot

View from the Eagle’s View Inn and Suites parking lot

The Wallowas. Lake in the Sunshine. 7 Wonders of Oregon Series. Splendid Wonders Blog

Take the Tramway

Later that morning, we headed out again to the lake to take the tramway up the mountains. The Wallowa Lake Tramway seasonally runs a gondola on a 3700 feet (elevation gain) trip up into the mountains (At the time of our visit in 2018, we paid $35/person for a day pass). Even though it was a little cool at the tramway base, by the time we got to the top, the sun was shining in full force and it was quite warm.

There are 2.5 miles of groomed trails at the tramway summit. They are pretty easy trails - some stairs and elevation gain, but nothing too difficult (I had a really bad headache the day we were here, so trust me that they are not too difficult. I’m not sure if the headache was from the elevation or just the stress of travel since I had recently flown in from Hawaii. And on that note: be sure to bring water to drink and sunscreen if your skin is sensitive since you’ll be that much closer to the sun).

Wallowa Lake Tramway

Wallowa Lake Tramway

The Wallowas. The Mountains. 7 Wonders of Oregon Series. Splendid Wonders Blog

We were told on a clear day you can see three different states (Oregon, Washington to the north, and Idaho to the east). We tried to figure out exactly what we were looking at, but in any case, you could see for miles and miles!

Wallowa Lake from Mt. Howard

Wallowa Lake from Mt. Howard

The Wallowas. On the Mountain. 7 Wonders of Oregon Series. Splendid Wonders Blog

What to Do:

  1. Enjoy the view
    Mountains, mountains, and more mountains… but who could ask for a better view?

  2. Swimming. kayaking, boating
    The water was still pretty chilly, but the blue waters looked oh so inviting for all sorts of water activities

  3. Take the gondola up the mountain (seasonal availability)

  4. Hiking
    There are 2.5 miles of groomed trails to walk to see many different mountain views

  5. Eat at the Summit Grill on Mount Howard
    ”The Northwest’s Highest Restaurant” has select menu options and a gorgeous deck to enjoy the views

  6. Railriders - Joseph Branch
    I’ve wanted to try one of these day adventures, so just making a note here that there is a branch here in Joseph. (Railriders has people-pedaled carts on decomissioned railroads - what a unique way to experience the countryside)

  7. Camping and more
    There is so much more to do and explore than we could possibly do in one day in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (which is 2.3 million acres in three different states!)

The Wallowas. Cousin Adventurer. 7 Wonders of Oregon Series. Splendid Wonders Blog

Things to Know:

  • Enterprise, Joseph, and Lake Wallowa are pretty remote (there are still stores, restaurants, etc), but as always when on a road trip in remote areas, keep an eye on your gas gauge

  • Keep an eye out for wildlife - there’s lots of acres and acres for them to roam!

  • From what I can tell, there is no day-use fee at the Wallowa Lake State Park (all though there are boat mooring and other fees)

  • The Wallowa Lake Tramway rates (2019 published rates) are $35/person for a single day

  • If you go up the gondola, be sure to bring some water to stay hydrated (and sunscreen if you burn easily!)

  • When going up the mountain, there are warnings that if it starts to storm when you are up there to head back to the gondola ASAP because of possible lighting and thunder

Getting the feet a little wet

Getting the feet a little wet

The Wallowas. Eastern Oregon. 7 Wonders of Oregon Series. Splendid Wonders Blog

Oregon 7 Wonders: Smith Rock State Park

You can’t tell how big Smith Rock State Park is from HWY 97. In fact, you might even wonder how in the world the landscape you’ve seen in pictures is going to appear out of nowhere. But as you follow the well-marked state park signs from the highway, the rugged, desert landscape will soon capture your imagination.

Smith Rock State Park. 7 Wonders of Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog

Smith Rock State Park is in Central Oregon about 10 minutes west of Terrebonne. The Crooked River winds through the park, highlighting the iconic 600 foot cliff-face. It was created between 1960 and 1975 with purchases and gifts of land from the city of Redmond and Harry and Diane Kem, and was made popular in 1986 as the birthplace of U.S. rock climbing.

Smith Rock State Park. Grassland. 7 Wonders of Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
Smith Rock State Park. Happy Adventurers. 7 Wonders of Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog

What To Do:

  1. Enjoy the Views
    Even though Smith Rock is known for intense hiking trails & climbing routes, the parking lot is flat and the Rim Rock Trail is an easy walk to some great viewing points

  2. Hiking
    One of the more famous trails is called Misery Ridge, but there are a variety of trails in the park. Check out SmithRock.com to see information on the trails

  3. Climbing
    Smith Rock is known for great climbing (there are close to 2000 routes!) I have no experience or knowledge about climbing, so would recommend checking out SmithRock.com for all the helpful information

If you look closely, you can see all the different trails that loop around the rocks and Crooked River

If you look closely, you can see all the different trails that loop around the rocks and Crooked River

Things to Know:

  • There is a $5 day-use fee required. It should be available through a lot kiosk or at the ranger station

  • This is the state park where we bought a 24 month Oregon State Park Pass which is a fabulous value if you plan on visiting Oregon State Parks many times over a 2 year period (this the only place I’ve seen it available in person, though I’m sure there are other parks where is it available - as well as online)

  • In the film “Rooster Cogburn” (1975) with John Wayne & Katherine Hepburn

The Oregon State Park You Probably Haven't Been To

This state park in the middle of Oregon is one of my favorites:

The Cove Palisades State Park in Culver, OR

Oregon State Park You Probably Havent Been To. Cove Palisades State Park. Splendid Wonders Blog

The first time I happened upon it, my travel buddy, Holly, and I were actually doing a little road trip around Oregon, and had ended up not spending all the alloted planned time at Smith Rock State Park (we just stopped for a quick walk - not the intense hike or rock climbing that Smith Rock is known for).

The Cove Palisades State Park is only 30 minutes from the popular Smith Rock State Park, and looks pretty small on the map, but it wasn’t going to add that much time to our day, so we thought it would be worth a quick stop.

The moment we caught sight of The Cove, our conversation abruptly stopped! (…and it was a very good conversation happening!)

Because this view. Seriously breathtaking.

Cove Palisade State Park. Oregon. Stories of Splendid Wonders

This first time visit happened at the end of April 2017 where, as you can see, there is a bit of green accenting the red and black canyon walls. But I have been there in every season, and it is still one of my favorite places to just go and enjoy the beauty.

Oregon State Park You Havent Been To. The Amazing Cove. Splendid Wonders Blog
Oregon State Park You Havent Been To. Irrigation Waterfall at the Cove. Splendid Wonders Blog
Oregon State Park You Havent Been To. The Cove - Cliff Walls. Splendid Wonders Blog
Oregon State Park You Havent Been To. The Amazing Cove Lower Road. Splendid Wonders Blog

What to Do Here:

  1. Enjoy the views - the water, the sheer walls, and on a good day, the mountains!
    There is a road (SW Mountaintop View Dr) that goes along the rim of with a couple of turnouts that get you to edge (and Viewpoint 1 actually connects to a trail that you can walk south along down the rim).

  2. Drive down the canyon, over the bridge, and back up the other side
    There are a few homes and seasonal camp sites on the west side of the park. As always, make sure you have enough gas in your car because you want to be able to make it back into town

  3. Swimming
    There is a designated swimming area at the Crooked River Day Use park that has picnic tables and restrooms nearby (during the summer there can be an algae problems, but it is still an enjoyable, easy place to swim at)

  4. Boating, Jet-skiing and other water rentals (seasonal)
    There are boat and jet-ski rentals available at the Cove and near it in Culver. Our jet-skiing experience was AMAZING, and I hope to do it again… it was that fun! There are lots of different rental options through Cove Palisades Resort company which has a marina on the water.

  5. Camping
    There are several camping options in the area (camping options). Although I have not personally camped there, I have been told by an avid camper that is a fabulous place to camp at

  6. Cafe on the Bluff & Store (seasonal)
    A little restaurant and store (owned by the Cove Palisades Resort) - the food wasn’t anything spectacular, but the deck overlooking the Cove has pretty great views

Oregon State Park You Havent Been To. Trail from Viewpoint 1. Splendid Wonders Blog

Things to Know:

  • There is a day use fee of $5 (you can get the day permit at the kiosk in the parking lot) or just hang your Oregon State Park permit in your car.

  • the locals call it “The Cove”

  • The Cove is where three rivers meet (Crooked River, the Deschutes, and the Metolius) and was purposefully filled with water (now at 800-900ft depth) after the creation of the Round Butte Dam in the 1960s

Oregon State Park You Havent Been To. Three Rivers Meet at the Cove. Splendid Wonders Blog

Have you been to this Oregon State Park?

How Do You Say "Oregon"? And Other Things You Didn't Know About The 27th State

How Do You Say “Oregon”?

OR-eh-gun or OR-eh-gin (the “g” is a hard g… like “goat”… not the “juh” sound)

Just please do not say “Or-ee-gone”

How Do You Say Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog

What are the main geographical regions of Oregon?

The Coast (yellow), The Willamette Valley (Orange), The Gorge (gray), Central Oregon (blue), Eastern Oregon (red), and Southern Oregon (green)

Regions of Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog

How do you say “Willamette Valley”, “Chinook”, “Wallowas”, or “The Dalles” ?

  • Willamette Valley: “Will-am-et” (it’s NOT like the name William - my brain always liked to add the extra “i”, and the “ette” is only one syllable.. not “et-ee”). It also should be noted that some people just call it “The Valley”

  • Chinook: “Shi-nook” (the “Ch” Indian names have the “Sh” sound)

  • Wallowas: “Wuh-low-uhs” (the “ow” sound is like “Ow -that hurt!)

  • The Dalles: The “Dal-z” (not to be confused with Dallas… which there is one of those too)

There are lots of hard to pronounce names, and my friends still get a laugh (now and again) when I just don’t know the right way to say it - but I do try!

How Do You Say Oregon. Willamette Valley. Splendid Wonders Blog

How do people drive in Oregon?

Well, different people have different opinions on who drives better in the snow or the rain, but FAST would describe pretty much everyone. Highway driving is generally 55mph, but there are areas where you get to go 70mph. My advice: stick with the flow of traffic best you can while being mindful of the speed limit signs

How Do You Say Oregon. Oregon Drivers. Splendid Wonders Blog

What are Jo-Jos?

I wouldn’t know what these are either because I’ve always called them “potato wedges.” Delicious, fried pieces of potatoes that obviously taste just as good, no matter the name.

Beach, Mountains, Snow, Desert, Rainforest, Rivers, Lakes, AND Waterfalls?

I always like to describe Oregon as “dramatic” and not in a bad way. Oregon checks pretty much every geography box, and it is pretty awesome to be able to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the mountains to a fertile agriculture valley over more mountains to the high desert - all within a few hours.

How Do You Say Oregon. Beach. Splendid Wonders Blog
How Do You Say Oregon. Rainforest. Splendid Wonders Blog

Can you pump your own gas?

This one takes some getting used to if you are from the other 48 states in the US. Unless the county has a population of 40,000 or less, in Oregon you can’t pump your own gas (diesel is a different story). So, all you have to do is drive up, turn your car off, pop the cap, and an attendant will ask what you want. (I usually just say “Fill, Regular” and hand them my credit card. But you can request the dollar amount or gallon amount that you want.)

What are the people in Oregon called?

Oregonians. (OR-eh-go-nee-ans) And let me tell you, they’re a pretty great bunch.

How Do You Say Oregon Blog Post. Theyre called Oregonians. Splendid Wonders Blog

The Best Oregon Foods You Will Want to Try

Oregon is a treasure-trove of a state that grows so many different kinds of food (berries, milk, tree fruits, clams, and salmon - just to name a few!)

The list below includes five places to go that is in no way comprehensive, but I do HIGHLY recommend them all and have personally visited many times!

The Best Oregon Foods You Will Want To Try. Splendid Wonders Blog

Tillamook Creamery

Tillamook is a nationally shipped brand, but they are based on the Oregon Coast. The Tillamook Creamery is one of the first touristy places I went to on one my first solo travel trips out there, and I have since visited several times again.. the ice cream is really yummy.

They just opened up a new visitor center at the Cheese Factory in Tillamook (4165 N Hwy 101) where you can see how the their famous cheese is made (from production through packaging) and you can sample - for free - the different types of cheese they make. Downstairs in the center, there is a full cafe where, most importantly, you can choose your favorite kind of premium ice cream. There are sooo many choices, it is hard to pick just one!

Tillamook Creamery New Visitor Center. Favorite Restaurants in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
Tillamook Cheese Factory. Favorite Restaurants in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
Tillamook Creamery. Ice Cream. Favorite Restaurants in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog

Willamette Valley Pie Company

A locally owned & operated company that not only grows their own berries, but turns the produce into delicious desserts. Their pies, muffins, and scones are my favorite. Their retail store (2294 82nd Ave NE - Salem) is a wonderful place to get a coffee, hot chocolate, ice cream, and any number of delicious baked goods. They also have fresh pies to go (or frozen!)

Willamette Valley Pie Company. Pie. Favorite Foods in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
Willamette Valley Pie Company. Strawberry Shortcake. Favorite Foods in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog

Bo & Vine Burger Bar

The locally-sourced burgers here are AMAZING! This is probably one of my favorite restaurants ever because the food tastes like real food and their combinations are very creative, but oh so delicious. I would also highly recommend any of their fries (regular, sweet, or tots), and the super fun part - they have a sauce bar where you can make up your own sauce or choose one of the 20ish options on their “Saucetender” menu! (Located at 176 Liberty St NE in Downtown Salem and they now have a 2nd location in Corvallis) (As of my last visit, they sadly do not do the slider size burgers as pictured any more, but the big-sized ones are just as yummy!)

Bo and Vine Burger Bar. Sliders. Favorite Foods in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
Bo and Vine Burger Bar. Fries and Burgers. Favorite Foods in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog

Mo’s Restaurant

Mo’s is classic Oregon Coast food and it has been a tradition to go there each trip I’ve been in OR! My favorites on their menu include the Clam Chowder (with a side of garlic cheese bread) or their Alfredo Pasta dish. They serve cute little chef salads with mini shrimp (full disclosure: I’ve not always had the best luck with fresh lettuce at Mo’s, but this last time it was pretty good).

They have several locations up and down the Coast (and even at PDX!), but my favorite locations to date are in Lincoln City and Cannon Beach and Florence (I am always on the hunt for restaurants with a view and these are 5-star in the view department!)

Mo's Restaurant. Salad, Chowder, and Bread. Favorite Foods in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
Mo’s at Florence

Mo’s at Florence

Mo's Restaurant. Lincoln City. Favorite Foods in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
Mo’s at Cannon Beach

Mo’s at Cannon Beach

Mo's Restaurant. Fish and Chips and Chowder. Favorite Foods in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
View from Lincoln City Mo’s (pier is being rebuilt after storm damage)

View from Lincoln City Mo’s (pier is being rebuilt after storm damage)


Live Local Cafe

We call it the “Crepe Place” (even though that isn’t the real name!). The crepes are amazing. The loaded toast is delicious. The atmosphere is the best place to sit and relax. I think I’ve liked everything I’ve ever tried here, and I enjoy the fact that you get to support small-town ownership with local foods. (Located on 111 N. Water St in Downtown Silverton. And don’t forget to feed the parking meters during the week… but it’s only like a quarter for an hour!)

Live Local Cafe. Crepes and Loaded Toast. Favorite Foods in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
Live Local Cafe. Grilled Cheese. Favorite Foods in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
Live Local Cafe. Coffee or Tea. Favorite Foods in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog
Live Local Cafe. Crepes and Loaded Toast 2. Favorite Foods in Oregon. Splendid Wonders Blog

Do you know of any delicious Oregon foods I have to try on my next trip?