Wallowa Lake Tramway – Joseph, Oregon - Atlas Obscura

Wallowa Lake Tramway

Joseph, Oregon

The steepest tramway in North America provides stunning views of the out-of-the-way Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon. 


The Wallowa Mountains have been called the Oregon Alps. They are a rugged, glaciated range in northeastern Oregon, with peaks near 10,000 feet that consist of granite and metamorphic rock that is very different from the better-known Cascade volcanoes.

Much of the Wallowa (wuhl-OW-uh) Mountains lie within the Eagle Cap Wilderness, one of the first wilderness areas in the country (originally established as the Eagle Cap Primitive Area in the 1930s). A large lake of glacial origin, Wallowa Lake lies immediately north of the range and is the main point of access.

As might be expected, views of the high country in the Wallowas usually require a grueling hike. There’s one exception, however: views via the Wallowa Lake Tramway. Still the steepest tramway in North America, it rises some 3,700 feet from a station near the south end of Wallowa Lake to the summit of Mt. Howard at 8,256 feet. There is a network of hiking trails at the summit, plus what is said to be the highest restaurant in Oregon, the Summit Grill at the upper tramway station. 

Know Before You Go

Take Oregon State Route 82 to Joseph and follow it through town, where it turns into Oregon SR 351. Continue following 351 along the east side of Wallowa Lake to the little settlement at the south end of the lake. Keep left at the turnoff to Wallowa Lake State Park; the tramway station is about 1/4 mile ahead on the left.  

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December 24, 2021

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