Wallowa Lake Vacation Tips
At the beginning of July the whole family went on another adventure together. This year we decided to skip the long lines and busy cities for a more “get one with nature” type vacation. Now don’t get me wrong we are a camping family. My parents have turned into the glampers with their trailer and amenities. While Tom and I still rough it with tents and buckets to pee in.
We decided to do Wallowa Lake because it’s so close to Nampa, ID plus the State of Oregon offers great deals for disabled vets or vets in general for that matter. I actually forget how close it is sometimes. The trip is about 4 hrs and with kids it’s the perfect time frame to be in the car.
So what’s cool about Oregon is that as a vet you can apply for a discounted state pro camping pass. And what I mean by discount is, like pretty much free! We booked Willawa lake camp ground for 7 nights. Guess how much we paid with this pass? $43! Now Wallowa Lake camp ground is state ran with full hookups on one side and dry/tent on the other. Ranging from $22-35 a night in their season times.
Wallowa Lake is a ribbon lake 1 mile south of Joseph, Oregon, United States, at an elevation of 4,372 ft. Impounded by high moraines, it was formed by a series of Pleistocene glaciers. On the south end of the lake is the small community of Joseph.
It’s an absolute beautiful drive and it was so fun to see all the quaint little towns along the way.
Ok so let’s get to it! Now if you think camping at Wallowa Lake is a great idea and are ready for peace and quite or a restful vacation. I am going to tell you now that you will be greatly disappointed. The state park has been crammed full of campers! As in they made more campsites then ever before. So be prepared for lots of kids screaming, lots of traffic, and just not your normal woods camping. Also the sites are so packed in, there is no way I would be comfortable pulling in a big rig. Just warning you to be ready to get cozy with your neighbors.
On the plus side the bathrooms are pretty well kept. There is a great play ground for the kids, great walking trails, and the deer still come down and graze.
All around we were there to spend time as a family, get away, and just have fun.
The Lake Itself
The lake itself is huge! It’s crystal clear water is absolutely gorgeous. You can fish for trout or Kokanee salmon. The lake is routinely stocked so they are in abundance. The marina is ran by a really cool team. You can rent any type of water craft there to explore the lake with. Kids fish free up to age 14. Tatam had a blast fishing, the first day he pulled in 5 fish one right after the other. I helped Bailee and we napped a huge fish but couldn’t get it in the net in time before it broke the line. Tom has a knot tying issue 😉. Shhhhh don’t say anything!
The water is freezing since they really only have about 4 months of warmer weather. So if you want to get into the water make sure you bring a wetsuit. The Wallowa river feeds right into the lake. So the mouth of the river is the perfect place to grab those fish.
Now there is ZERO cell service. Wallowa sits between large mountains but if you have a boat and can get to the middle of the lake you will get a couple of bars. The marina also has free WiFi but it’s spotty at best.
There are these really awesome party docks that are free floating you can shill on for short periods of time. We think they are private owned but not sure. So If you have a boat to travel to them, make sure you do and pack a lunch.
The Town of Wallowa
Willawa isn’t huge to don’t think that you are going to a bustling little mountain town. Most of the shops are closed or are closing down. As we talked to some locals it’s hard having a business there because it’s only operatable during the summer months. Their winters are very harsh! There are no ski lifts there so their main income comes in the summer.
The places to checkout are the new fun Mini golf course. Don’t worry the original vintage one is still around and is $3 to play. While the new fun Swiss mountain themed put put is $7 a person.
Always checkout the lodge, it’s still in its vintage glory. They have sunset brews night and other fun activities. We tried the pizza place and it was ok! If you need pizza for some odd reason while camping then their sourdough crust makes due.
They do have a really awesome mountain gondola ride that takes you up the steep mountain side. But be prepared to pay a hefty penny now. As its $30 a person!
#1 Place to visit
I saved this for last because it’s literally what made the trip so amazing. There is this little Hungarian restaurant called Valis. It’s by dinner reservation only. It’s not because it gets busy it’s because they make everything fresh! And every night there is only 1 dinner option. So look on their website http://www.valisrestaurant.com and book. The night we went we had goulash with fresh garlic flat bread. It was the best tasting soup I have ever had. Both kids ate it up and we had so much left overs. You also gotta try their bread pudding! The son of the original owners now runs it with his wife. They are the sweetest couple! But wait there is more. Every Saturday and Sunday they make fresh home made donuts. Now guys, these literally are the best donuts I have ever tasted in my life! You can also pre-order these and have them fresh and ready that AM. They are simple plain Jane.
The first time we got them I opened the box and was like..oh, they are just glazed twists. NOPE! Boy was I wrong, they were the best dan glazed twists I ever tasted in my life! We ordered them 2x that week! Once you bite into them your eyes will pop. Their glazed is the best in the world. And I hate glazed donuts!
The Town of Joseph
Before I go, the little town of Joseph that you go through before you dead end at the lake is a cute quant town. It’s loaded with a bunch of boutiques but be prepared to pay the price. Also don’t think about grocery shopping there. I would hit up La Grande or Baker to do your food shopping. The convenience store is barely stocked and super over priced. If you need a place to plug into then I would checkout the Chocolate Bar. Fresh made chocolates and they have great coffee too! I sat there for a couple hours doing some work.
All around it was a great trip. We were bummed on the camp cramping but we still had a blast being together. The kids made new friends and rode their bikes all day everyday around the camp. I finished 2 whole books, it was glorious!