Why join the masses in Moab or Bend when you can visit these off-the-radar places instead?
Adventure towns like Moab, Tahoe and Bend offer endless opportunities to get outside and explore. The only problem? Everyone knows about them. Which means at peak season, you’ll be battling crowds at trail heads and crags. So we set out to find the next great adventure towns, up-and-coming, off-the-radar destinations that serve up high-quality outdoor recreation — from world-class mountain biking to ski-to backcountry yurts — but without another person in sight.
The sleepy town of Joseph, population 1,054, is set at the base of eastern Oregon’s shockingly steep Wallowa Mountains, which have been nicknamed Little Switzerland for a reason, and surrounded by the remote Eagle Cap Wilderness. Come here for the backcountry skiing in the winter, or hiking, biking and whitewater rafting in the summer.
The Wallowa Lake Tramway whisks you to the top of 8,150-foot Mt. Howard, where you can paraglide off the summit or bring your mountain bike to bomb down. There’s also rafting down the Snake River through the 10-mile-long Hell’s Canyon, which is deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Come winter, you can ski into one of four backcountry yurts owned by Wallowa Alpine Huts. “Over here, the mountains are like the Rockies,” said Connelly Brown, owner of Wallowa Alpine Huts. “The mountains have been sculpted by glaciers, so there’s hanging valleys, cirques and lot of high country. The snow is dryer and colder than the volcanic mountains on the western side of Oregon.”
Joseph isn’t easy to get to — it’s five hours from Portland or four hours from Boise — but that means the place is as uncrowded as it gets.