This Glacial 'Ribbon Lake' Has the Clearest Water in Oregon — and It's the Best Winter Vacation Home Destination of 2022

Here's what the experts have to say about buying on Oregon's Wallowa Lake. (P.S., the locals say of the water in this glacial lake that it was "snow five minutes ago.")

Tranquil view of Wallowa Lake by mountains against cloudy sky

Cavan Images/Getty Images

Snow is now draping scenic mountainous regions across the country, transforming them into winter wonderlands. And let's face it, there's nothing cozier than curling up with a hot drink and a book in front of the fireplace while snowflakes flutter outside the window. Many people across the U.S. continue investing in second homes, even despite the current real estate market's high-interest rates. And according to Vacasa's newest report ranking the best places to invest in a winter residence, your best bet is on Oregon's Wallowa Lake. With a median sale price of $282,237 and a strong cap rate of 9.9%, this little community outside the small town of Joseph topped Vacasa's annual ranking for the first time. And Wallowa Lake is not only a state park, it's a "ribbon lake," or a deep, finger-shaped glacial lake.

"While Wallowa Lake in Eastern Oregon is one of the more remote vacation destinations on this year’s Best Places to Buy a Winter Vacation Home list, its charm and recreational activities attract travelers from many surrounding markets within a half-day drive, including Portland and Bend, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho," Daned Kirkahm, senior director of real estate at Vacasa, told Travel + Leisure."

Wallowa State Park in Wallowa Lake, OR

Courtesy of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

Tucked away in the Wallowa Mountains, the glacial lake is the largest of several in the area and is known for having the clearest water in the state (though some would argue that Oregon's iconic Crater Lake is clearer, one Wallowa Lake tourism site notes locals say "the water was snow five minutes ago"). With snow-capped peaks all around and Salt Creek Summit Sno-Park just a few miles away, it's no wonder the area is popular with vacationers seeking idyllic vistas and winter adventures.

Wallowa State Park in Wallowa Lake, OR

Courtesy of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

But what makes Wallowa Lake an excellent investment is that it's a year-round destination, so once the snow melts, it offers myriad outdoor activities and water sports on Wallowa Lake. Another bonus? Because the lake is hours away from big urban areas, light pollution is very low, making it an excellent location for stargazing.  

Rachel Rhoden of Cascade Hasson Sotheby's International Realty points out that Joseph is home to a bustling art community and has a lot to offer, too.

"The town has bronze sculptures throughout, as well as lots of great little eateries, bed-and-breakfasts, shops, and galleries," Rhoden added.

Interior of cabin in Wallowa Lake, OR

Courtesy of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

As far as inventory goes, Wallowa Lake has something for every type of buyer — from multimillion-dollar lodge-style homes to small and more affordable cabins. Rhoden points out that most visitors drive into the area, but a small airport nearby, Joseph State Airport, can service private jets.

Read Vacasa's complete market report on the top destinations to invest in a winter vacation home here.

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