A few months ago my 8-year-old son decided he didn’t want to go to soccer camp, which was a stunning realization for me because he says he wants to be pro-Footballer when he is older. He asked if we could cancel soccer camp and go camping instead. He was very specific where he wanted to go too – back to one of our favorite places in Oregon, Joseph. We decided to camp at the Wallowa Lake State Park again which is what we have done in the past, but I made it my mission to do a few things we have never done before which included the Wallowa Lake Tramway and a tour with the Joseph Branch Railriders. We had heard a lot about the Railriders tours from various people and when I showed my son the information he got very excited!
Railriders are special cars that run along railroad tracks that are no longer being used by trains and are powered by YOU! They are similar to recumbent style bikes, but have 4 wheels that run along the rails. You pedal them and move at the pace that works for you and your partner. The cars are geared low enough that going up hill is a little bit of a challenge, but not too hard and they are pretty awesome during those downhill coasting sessions!
The tour I booked was the 2-hour Joseph to Enterprise tour. As we are not avid bikers I figured we could handle the 12 miles (round-trip). During the tour you are surrounded by the Wallowa Mountains and our active Oregon family run farms and ranches. The scenery was picturesque and sunny and got quite warm towards the end!
On the day of your tour, you will check in at the little table on Main Street, right next to the Nez Perce Photo Exhibition (you should really have a look at that as well…the exhibit is amazing!). The tour for my son and I was valued at $30, which I felt was a fair price for what we were doing. Reservations are recommended, but if there is room available, they will accommodate day of sale tours as well.
Our tour started at the big white silos in Joseph, which sits at a higher elevation than Enterprise – meaning the first half of the ride is all “downhill”. The grade is around 1.2% on average, but it is some work when the cars are turned around and you are riding back. I will be honest, we were really feeling our legs upon our return. Help is available if you need it though. The tour guide has a motorized car that will help push you along if you decide you need an extra boost!
For folks who might like a longer ride, there is a 26 mile (round-tip) option available between the towns of Minam and Wallowa. The grade on that ride is 1% and the tour is around 6 hours making it better suited for older kids and more adventurous souls!
My son really loved this and said it deserved a 5 star rating. He says “kids 8 and up should do pretty well peddling although some parts were harder than others”. I really enjoyed the tour too and would definitely do it again (in fact I really want to check out their newest branch on the Oregon Coast!). We would highly recommend the tour for folks of all ages. Smaller kids are also welcome to join, and can sit back and enjoy the ride in car seats in the adjacent seat to their parents.
We want to thank the folks at Joseph Branch Railriders for hosting our tour and helping us get the “wiggles” out before our 6 hour drive home. As always, the opinions expressed here are our own and we were under no obligation to leave a positive review – they earned it!