Road Trip from Rattlesnake Grade to Wallowa Lake


When packing the 10 best drives in the area into one month’s worth of road trips, every day is a new adventure. Leaving the mighty Snake River behind, we climbed slowly out of Lewiston and almost immediately the scenery changed from forest and river to vast wheat farms. When I have done TV or radio appearances about our trip, one of the most common examples of letting kids just entertain themselves comes from this section of our drive. I tell parents frequently that you never know what your kids understand about the world unless you let them tell you in their own words.

This particular example involved discussing why wheat farmers live so far away from each other, how many grains and stalks of wheat it takes to make a loaf of bread and what profit margin might be involved in wheat farming. No doubt the front seat got carried away in all the educational experiences, but the wheat and oat stalks plucked from the ditch entertained one child and a dozen or so of her plastic friends for three or four hours. Bottom line? It wouldn’t have made any “toy of the year” award list, but kids will find something to do when it’s either that or listen to parents discuss things like profit margins and historical significance.

Where to Stay

Find family-friendly accommodations in Wallowa Lake from traditional hotels to private vacation rentals through Stay22.com:

Rattlesnake Grade

Getting off the main roads was one of our goals for this whole trip, and WA 129/OR 3 is one of those roads. Traveling from city to city means you’re worried more about the city than how you get there. Try the opposite approach just once, and we predict you’ll love it. A lot. Motorcyclists have long been fans of Rattlesnake Grade because of the extreme switchbacks, grade and gorgeous scenery. If you have time, take the road all the way from Moscow. The famous Spiral Highway (be sure to print out directions in advance!) is also crazy with turns.

Enterprise and Joseph, Oregon

Enterprise makes a nice place to base camp and explore the area. The Best Western Enterprise is family friendly and road trip friendly. Free breakfast and lots of parking for RVs plus large, clean rooms make it a great option. There is limited shopping to replenish supplies but limited dining options, especially for children. We advise heading to Joseph for some food and exploring on your way to Wallowa Lake. The road from Enterprise to Wallowa Lake is part of the Hells Canyon All-American Road, do some research on the attractions along the way and take plenty of pit stops!

Wallowa Lake

On the way to Wallowa Lake, be sure to visit the gravesite of Chief Joseph. Reburied here in 1926, the view is probably something he would have appreciated. This area was home to the Nez Perce Indians prior to their legendary retreat, and this trip made it seem real to think about that journey and life prior to settlers and reservations. Over the whole month we were on the road we traveled most of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail and it’s probably too much to take in for a 10 year-old. But, the foundation is there and hopefully we can return when she’s studying this part of American history in school.

Also try to make time to ride the Wallowa Lake Tramway. The views are beyond compare and kids will love the ride. We also found the geocaching to be above average for families. There were many options in each difficulty level with enough to make a whole day of just enjoying the hunt. The historic Wallowa Lake Lodge is also definitely worth exploring for a night or two if you’re not camping. Also check out the Eagle Cap Excursion Train, a scenic train that travels a 63 mile line through the region. It boards in Elgin and goes through Wallowa, Enterprise and Joseph.