Joseph is a small mountain town in northeast Oregon. Situated six hours east of Portland at 4,150ft above sea level, and surrounded by the towering Wallowa and Seven Devils mountains, Joseph is a rather picturesque small mountain town.
With a population hovering around 1,000 Joseph maintains a thriving main street (yes, they literally have a Main Street) equipped with local breweries, bank, library, cafes, and art galleries.
The physical town of Joseph is less than one square mile. Though, the community is often referred to as Wallowa County, as the surrounding unincroporated areas add to the recreation and other opportunities. The county borders Idaho to the west and Washington to the north.
Enterprise, the closest larger town, is just five miles away with larger town comforts such as a Safeway grocery store and a BJs warehouse club.
For such a small town Joseph has plenty of events and celebrations packing the calendar. From a classic car show, to traditional Fourth of July celebration, triathlons, Native American celebrations, sled dog races and more. For the locals, a summer-long farmers market with accompanying concert series offers access to local fresh produce.
While there isn’t exactly a dedicated bicycle shop in town, the local hardware store has kept up with local demand by expanding their bike offering to an entire room. Several of their employees were even sent to the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, OR to be schooled on the basics of bikes.
A beautifully pristine lake nestled between snow capped 9000′ mountains, nearby Wallowa Lake offers camping, hiking and boating. There is even a tram that can be taken up to the top of the mountain. Bring along your mountain bike, and you’ve got the equivalent of a shuttle-ready mountain biking nirvana.
There is also a recreational train, the Eagle Cap Train, offering relaxing scenic rides through the local mountains.
There is a local ski run, void of the tourist drawing amenities it is a locally-run area. With one t-bar and one rope tow up the mountain and a 640′ elevation gain its the perfect little mountain for kids, beginners or just drama-free fun.
For such a small town there is a shockingly long list of local storefronts:
Joseph’s Sheep Shed is a local yarn shop and fiber gallery.
Bee Crow Bee is a local shop offering a line of carefully handmade bath & body products.
Mad Mary is a shop offering “everything fun & fattening”. It’s a fun gift shop and soda fountain all in one.
Lodging options are plentiful. From B&Bs like Barking Mad Farm where you can stay in a turn of the century farm house with views of the mountains. To the basic Indian Lodge Motel and the East Street Cottages.
Though they certainly feel all four seasons, the weather in and around Joseph is rather mild, as being in a valley surrounded by mountains shelters the area from many of the extreme weather fronts.
The local economy, while healthy, does rely on government jobs (being the largest area employer). Average income hovers just below $30k, with the average two bedroom house priced around $100k.
The lifestyle in Joseph, OR is summed up pretty well by the county chamber:
“When you are 65 miles from a McDonald’s or a Wal-Mart, and two and a half hours from a mall, you will find a whole new definition of the phrase for quality of life – It’s a “way of living”. Here, the focus is definitely not on consumption. It’s on family and community. It’s on entrepreneurship. And perhaps above all, it’s on outdoor beauty and recreation.”
We first heard of Joseph when Russ & Laura rolled through and interviewed Dan Price. Then Tammy at Rowdy Kittens visited while on a writing retreat. Joseph, by all accounts, is a delightful mountain town.
This is the first in a series of posts profiling mountain towns. Let us know where your favorite mountain town is to see it featured in a upcoming post.