Town in Oregon named one of the most beautiful in America. here’s why

Joseph, Oregon is home to incredible mountain views, charming storefronts, and truly wild adventures. Today, it also has the honor of being named one of the most beautiful small towns in the country.

That’s according to a ranking by travel magazine Travel + Leisure, which included Joseph on its list of America’s 20 Most Beautiful Small Towns on Sunday. The listing follows a similar ranking by Architectural Digest in October, which chose Manzanita on the Oregon coast.

Joseph, also known as the “Swiss Alps of Oregon,” joins Leavenworth, Washington as the only Pacific Northwest towns on the Travel + Leisure list, though nearby Wallace, Idaho has also won a place.

And although the list is numbered, author Carrie Dennis never indicates it’s a ranking, writing that it’s “20 of the most beautiful small towns in America, all with a population of less than 20,000 inhabitants”. Cities chosen for inclusion are listed alphabetically by state – at least through Cody, Wyoming at number 17.

Writing about Joseph, Dennis quoted Travel Oregon communications manager Allison Keeney as lauding Wallowa’s snow-capped mountains, green pastures and scenic Wallowa Lake.

“That’s not to say that man-made objects don’t deserve their own moments either: Main Street, which runs through the center of the city, features century-old buildings and epic bronze sculptures of historical figures, including members of the Nez Percé tribe,” adds Dennis.

Joseph, nestled in the Wallowas in far northeast Oregon, has over the years become a popular tourist town, offering an abundance of outdoor opportunities. Hikers, backpackers, and equestrians can explore the nearby Eagle Cap Wilderness in the mountains, while boaters and campers can enjoy Wallowa Lake State Park. Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America, is also nearby, as is the Zumwalt Prairie, which comes alive with wildflowers in late spring.

Downtown Joseph is home to businesses like Arrowhead Chocolates and the Valley Bronze Foundry of Oregon, which offers tours to the public. And while the beloved Gold Room Pizza closed its doors last fall, other local restaurants still maintain the fort, like The Blythe Cricket, La Laguna and the Terminal Gravity Brewery in the neighboring Enterprise.

Those who want to see it all can take a ride on the Wallowa Lake Tram, which leads to the top of Mount Howard, offering incredible views of this beautiful corner of Oregon.

Looking at the city and the mountains, it’s easy to see why people fall in love with the place. Those who have been to Joseph may not be surprised by his last honor.

—Jamie Hale

503-294-4077;; @HaleJamesB

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