This Charming Town Is An Under-The-Radar Paradise In The 'Swiss Alps Of Oregon'

The awe-inspiring Swiss Alps often combine amazing scenery with quaint towns, creating little slices of heaven between the snow-capped mountains. Switzerland's nature has even inspired the names of beautiful places in other parts of the world, such as Bohemian Switzerland National Park, a hidden gem of Czechia. In the United States, there is a region known as the "Swiss Alps" of Oregon. Tucked inside this pristine, mountainous section of land is the small town of Joseph.

While tourism and population increases are causing some U.S. towns to lose their small-town spirit, Joseph has seemed to remain under the radar. A visit brings you close to scenic drives through peaks and valleys, outdoor adventures ranging from relaxing to challenging, plenty of restaurants, and unique activities related to the town's history. It may seem remote, but nearby Interstate 82 connects it to other parts of the state. Hells Canyon Scenic Byway incorporates part of this highway and Joseph as well. Therefore, Joseph is the perfect addition to a road trip around the northwestern United States.

Spot huge bronze statues throughout Joseph

Among the unique details of Joseph are its bronze statues. Businessman Glen Anderson set up a bronze foundry for local artists to use in 1982 and this medium has been a mainstay for the town's passionate art scene ever since. Spot these bronze statues in downtown Joseph and in art galleries like Aspen Grove Gallery. The subjects of these statues include iconic wildlife native to the region, cowboys, and Indigenous people. The statue of Chief Joseph (pictured above) on Main Street is also an important reminder of eastern Oregon's Nez Perce tribal history. Chief Joseph was a celebrated 19th-century Nez Perce leader who lived at a time when the Nez Perce were sadly pushed out of their homelands by settlers.

Joseph's bronze foundry is now called Valley Bronze of Oregon and is open to the public for tours. The foundry's gallery is located less than a mile away at Valley Bronze Gallery. As you walk or drive along Main Street between the two, take your pick from one-of-a-kind restaurants. Order and eat family-style at The Dog Spot or get classic American cuisine at Cheyenne Cafe. Grab dessert at Arrowhead Chocolates too, if you can make up your mind given their dozens of choices.

Hike mountain peaks or relax by Wallowa Lake

Oregon is a West Coast destination for fun outdoor adventures, and Joseph is no exception. Joseph's railroad history dates back to the late 19th century and has created a unique means of exploration. Enjoy Joseph and its surrounding nature by booking a rail-riding trip with Joseph Branch Railriders from late May through September. Pedal on railroad carts (some equipped with electric assistance) to get sweeping views of mountains, rivers, and untouched nature. Check the organization's website for available dates and to see which trip best matches your fitness level and scenic preferences. 

Given its location on Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, Joseph brings travelers close to more of the byway's points of interest. Just a short distance south of Joseph is the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, which encompasses the Wallowa Mountains and Eagle Cap Wilderness featuring mountain peaks like Sacagawea Peak and Matterhorn. Find access to both from the Wallowa Lake Trailhead at the southern end of Wallowa Lake. This lake itself is a pristine paradise if you do not want to hike 9,000-foot summits.