This region in far northeastern Oregon is known for its lovely mountain scenery, its outdoor sporting activities (skiing, hiking, backpacking and fishing) and its historical connection to the Nez Perce Indians. La Grande is known as the gateway to the majestic Wallowa Mountains. The Anthony Lakes Ski Area lies southwest of town. The prime spots for backpacking are in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area. In addition to the usual haul-and-sweat outings, it's possible to take a llama trek through the mountains, letting the beasts of burden carry your gear.
In the heart of the Wallowa Valley, the town of Joseph is named for Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce: This was the ancestral home of the Nez Perce tribe before it was forced to flee in the late 1800s. This and other events in the history of the valley are the subject of the Wallowa County Museum (open late May to mid-September). Joseph has a flourishing art community, with numerous galleries to browse. The town's bronze foundries are utilized by sculptors from all over the nation. Chief Joseph Days (rodeos, traditional Native American dancing) take place the last weekend in July.
Just a few minutes south of Joseph is Wallowa Lake, a beautiful moraine lake that is heavily used for recreation. It is allegedly the home of the Wallowa Lake Monster, a large but only occasionally seen creature—Oregon's version of the Loch Ness Monster. Nearby is the Mount Howard gondola, an aerial tram that provides a breathtaking ride to the top of the 8,300-ft/2,530-m mountain (open May-September). 260 mi/420 km east of Portland.
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