Motels in Joseph, Oregon

by Ethan Shaw

Joseph, Oregon, is in the far northeastern corner of the state, near where one of the deepest river gorges in the world -- Hells Canyon -- and its tributaries form a rugged boundary with both Washington and Idaho. Set at the foot of the Wallowa Mountains, which soar straight up from the Wallowa Valley to heights better than 9,000 feet, Joseph is known for stunning scenery, bronze foundries and cultural history: the town is named for Chief Joseph, a Nez Perce leader. Motels in town give you a roof over your head while you are exploring this diverse area -- and won’t overly stress your pocketbook.

Joseph Motels

As of 2010, a number of motels served Joseph visitors, including the Indian Lodge Motel and the Mountain View Motel and RV Park, both situated off Highway 82. The Indian Lodge has16 rooms; the Mountain View has nine units, including three cabins. Other motels lie not far west in the nearby, slightly larger town of Enterprise (the Wallowa County seat), like the Ponderosa Motel.

Getting There

The main access to Joseph is from the nearest major travel corridor, Interstate 84. Between Portland and Boise you can exit at the small city of La Grande, across the Wallowa Mountains from Joseph and the Wallowa Valley. You can then drive to the adjoining town of Island City and pick up Highway 82 -- Wallowa Lake Highway -- to get you to Joseph, roughly an hour and a half later. Alternatively, you can drive south of Clarkston, Washington, through the canyon of the Grande Ronde River to Enterprise.

Attractions

Staying in a Joseph motel gives you access to some of the most extensive and scenic wilderness in the Northwest. Just south of Wallowa Lake are trailheads providing access to the heart of the Wallowa Mountain high country, most of which is protected in Oregon’s biggest federal wilderness area, the Eagle Cap Wilderness. To the east lies Hells Canyon country; driving from Joseph to the outback town of Imnaha takes you to this otherworldy area’s stunning fringe. If you aren’t the type to sling on hiking boots or take a pack trip into the wilds, you can get a taste of mountain ecology and vistas on the Wallowa Lake Tramway. This 15-minute gondola ride, just minutes from Joseph, takes you to the top of 8,150-foot Mount Howard. There is also much family-style entertainment at the south shore of Wallowa Lake.

Seasonality

Joseph’s motels are open year round, but you should consider seasonal factors in planning your trip. The Wallowa Valley can see fairly severe winter weather; blowing snow is not uncommon. Nonetheless, the views of the snowbound Wallowas are spectacular at this time of year. Check the Oregon Department of Transportation’s “TripCheck” website or call the toll-free number to stay abreast of changing conditions. Several annual events may limit the number of available rooms, particularly in the summer; celebrations include the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo and the Bronze, Blues, & Brews Festival.

About the Author

Ethan Shaw is a writer and naturalist living in Oregon. He has written extensively on outdoor recreation, ecology and earth science for outlets such as Backpacker Magazine, the Bureau of Land Management and Atlas Obscura. Shaw holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and a graduate certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Wisconsin.