Visiting Wallowa Lake during the winter might sound like a crazy idea, but it might be just the thing your peace-starved soul desires. And, it can be a lot of fun too!
Many would-be wintertime visitors avoid traveling here, assuming that Wallowa Lake & Joseph is all stuffed up under many feet of snow. That’s simply not true; except for the occasional strong winter storm, the roads are always plowed and driveable. The highways in and out are regularly cleared as well. We can have several weeks of packed and snowy roads, but the temps are typically below 28 degrees, just where tires get a better grip. Check the road conditions here.
While winters at Wallowa Lake do slow you down, it really is a magical time of year. With almost no traffic and the snow absorbing most sound, you’ll be naturally lulled into a relaxed, unhurried pace. Winter here is a blissful ‘peace on earth’ -just like it should be.
Travel into the countryside and witness spectacular winter scenes complete with wildlife as many of the deer and elk are driven down into the valleys. Wallowa County also boasts a large population of wintering hawks and other various birds.
Ready for some casual fun? Go sledding up on Alder Slope; the traffic is light so almost any hill will do. Strap on some skis and take a leisurely jaunt around the local parks at Wallowa Lake or Iwetemlaykin. Throw on some snowshoes and hike up the West Fork or Hurricane Creek Trails. Please, always check the Wallowa Avalanche Center before taking to the backcountry.
Take a short drive southeast 9 miles to our community-run ski slope called Fergi, short for the Ferguson Ridge Ski Area. While it only has a T-Bar and Rope-Tow, the prices are low to match. This is a warm and friendly place with a small lodge and ski/snowboard rentals to boot. It’s a great place to learn to ski or snowboard. The gentle lower slopes are just perfect for the little ones.
A fun event of the spectator kind happens at Fergi in January and includes our furry friends. The Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race is a howling good bit of fun and excitement as Mushers and their teams head into the wild for the 200 mile, Iditarod-Qualifing race.
Want a real adventure? Further to the east of town you’ll find another winter recreational area called Salt Creek Summit. It’s near the Hells Canyon Recreational Area and adjacent to the Eagle Cap Wilderness. This area geared to the intrepid outdoor enthusiast where you’ll find something for every skill level, from beginner to extreme.
Salt Creek Summit is split with snowmobile trails on the east side and nordic/cross-country/snow-shoe trails on the other. Both sides offer marked, groomed or packed trails that extend for miles and miles. This can vary depending on snowfall, so check with the Wallowa Visitors Center first.
The snowmobile side has 175 miles of groomed trails and beyond that you’ll find other trails and roads that will allow you to travel as far as your skill and fuel will take you. The area is large enough to permit plenty of varied, uncongested riding through some of the most beautiful country in the world. Download this map for a better overview or download this big map for a to see all the designated snowmobile trails in Wallowa and Baker counties.
On the western side and across the access road #39, you’ll find nordic trails that lead south into wilderness. Or, you can go north and take a short loop or travel the Redmont Trail back down to the Fergi ski area. Download this map for an overview.
The Nordic Ski Club operates and rents a few ski huts in the Wing Ridge area for those looking for an overnight ski adventure. Visit their site for details.
About every 3rd year or so the Wallowa Lake freezes over. For whatever reasons, people just cant resist getting out on frozen water. Walking, skiing, skating, playing hockey and riding bikes are common activities. Ice fishing can also be very productive.
So next time you’re thinking about getting out of the rat race and into the outdoors, come to Wallowa Lake where you can do both!