Hiking and Trail Running the Wallowa Mountains & Eagle Cap Wilderness

The Wallowa Mountains offer remote and rugged hiking opportunities in Northeast Oregon. The Eagle Cap Wilderness is in the heart of the Wallowas, located east of La Grande and Baker City, with popular entries from the north out of Enterprise and Joseph.


United States
45° 14' 3.4188" N, 117° 27' 17.4024" W

Aneroid Lake Trail

This hike from near Wallowa Lake, heads into the Eagle Cap Wilderness and arrives at Aneroid Lake. The trial is fairly steep at the start, but mellows out about halfway to the lake. Roger Lake is passed just before reading Aneroid Lake. A group of private cabins are at the south end of the lake. Aneroid Mountain and Pete's Point are nearby. Notes <ul> <li>Weather information is available at the <a href="http://www.or.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/maps/sitepages/17d02s.html">SNOTEL site</a> near the lake </li> <li>A short ways up the trail, stay left to switchback up the mountain. The trail</li> <li>This is a fun location for alpine ski touring, but avalanche awareness is needed due to the fatalities of 1981 and 2009. <li>Trailhead: The East Fork Wallowa River Trailhead starts at the very south end of the road beyond Wallowa Lake. </li> </ul>

Arrow Lake

This is a moderate hike to a lake with a magnificent view. The trail starts at and follows Eagle Creek through the canyon. At 3.4 miles, after crossing Copper Creek there is a trail junction. Go left at this junction. The sign indicates the trail is not maintained. The trail is a bit rocky but otherwise good. From here, the trail starts climbing rapidly which makes it the toughest stretch. The trail does level out as it goes through a meadow near Heart Lake, although the lake is not visible from the trail. Then, the climbing begins again up the ridge above Heart Lake, where it tops out on the saddle where Arrow Lake lies just under 8000' elevation. Notes <ul> <li>Trail Start: Main Eagle Trailhead</li> <li>Requires Northwest Forest Pass at parking</li> </ul>

Catherine Creek State Park Trail

This short trail is well build and interesting for a trail run or taking the family on a hike. It switches back steeply to gain a ridge for a loop that includes a couple rock outcropping overlooks. The dense forest and serene crossings of Catherine Creek, make this a fantastic summer hike.

Chimney Lake

The is a physically challenging 5 mile hike up to Chimney Lake. The trail climbs in switchback fashion from the campground to the lake. Laverty Lakes is a serene stop as you near the lake. Notes: <ul> <li>Start: Bowman Trailhead up the Lostine River (South of Lostine, Oregon)</li> <li>Northwest forest pass required</li> </ul>

China Cap Summit

China Cap is a popular climb for people on the west side of the Wallowas because it is a fairly docile hike up a trail until the final few hundred yards. The cliff on the north side is quite impressive, so be careful scrambling up the ridge. Make sure to sign in at the register on the summit! Notes <ul> <li>The trail begins at Buck Creek Campground.</li> <li>A Northwest Forest Pass is required at the trailhead</li> </ul>

Eagle Cap Summit

Eagle Cap is a giant mound of sandy soil and rock in the middle of the Wallowa Mountains, offering a 360 view of all the peaks and several lakes. It is the only mountain in the Eagle Cap Wilderness with an official trail to the summit, and offers virtually no technical challenge, other than some good fitness if you want to summit in one day. Wilderness camping opportunities abound around this mountain, so planning a summit for a one day trip from camp is a good option. Glacier Peak is just to the south. Several trailheads can access the summit. The Two Pan entrance is featured here. Two Pan is accessed by driving up the Lostine River south of Lostine. Northwest Forest Pass required a trailhead. Elevation: 9572 Trail Notes <ul> <li>There is a trail junction about a quarter mile up the trail. Take the East Fork Trail 1662 on the left.</li> <li>The trail climbs for a while and then levels out in a long meadow along the East Fork Lostine River. Eagle Cap will be prominently visible from there.</li> <li>Upon entering the Lakes Basin Management Area, the trail will come into Trail 1810. Go right for a few hundred feet and then look for the Horton Pass Trail 1910 left.</li> <li>The Horton Pass trail climbs quickly with some switchbacks and then levels out in an area below Eagle Cap. There is an unmarked junction on the Horton Pass trail, with the Eagle Cap Summit Trail 1805 on the left. The trail cuts across the mountain to the left and works its way up to the ridge. An alternate route is to take the Horton Pass Trail a short ways up to the pass, and then follow the path along the ridge to reconnect with the Eagle Cap trail.</li> <li>From there, the trail is very straightforward as it works along the ridge and then switches back a few times crossing the western side of the half-dome shaped mountain. </li> </ul>

Glacier Peak Summit

This tasty summit in the heart of the Wallowa Mountains is a rocky climb with a bit of scrambling on very loose rock. The summit is a somewhat narrow ridge that is accessible from the Lakes Management Basin. The route here is shown starting at Glacier Lake, climbing to the summit and then traversing over to <a href="http://lagranderide.com/hike/wallowa-mountains/eagle-cap-summit">Eagle Cap Summit</a>. There is no established trail. The route up includes hiking on talus or snow. The northern ridge toward Eagle Cap includes a hairy descent off the summit on some crumbling rock. No ropes are needed but there is some exposure on both sides at times. After climbing down a few vertical feet, join the shale on the north side below a spine ridge to traverse toward Eagle Cap summit, which is visible the entire way. Elevation: 9495 ft.

Minam Lodge & Reds Horse Ranch (From Moss Springs)

This is a mostly downhill hike from Moss Springs to the Minam Lodge, also going past Reds Horse Ranch and the airfield there.

Mt. Howard Summit Loop Trail

This hiking loop gives you the 360 degree panorama of the Wallowas, Seven Devils, Wallowa Lake, and the valley below. Usually it is accessed by the Wallowa Lake Tramway.

Norway Basin Trail 1896

Much of this route travels steeply up an old mining road. Once you come over a saddle and into Norway Basin, the views of Red Mountain and the rugged terrain in the basin are magnificent. The trail becomes singletrack for the remainder as it eventually gains the saddle where it connects with the Sugarloaf Trail, which travels east along the ridge over to Russel Mountain, and Twin Lakes. The Sugarloaf Trail can be used to connect over to the East Pine Creek trail to make a loop back. Or, continuing on over the saddle, the Norway Basin Trail becomes the Blue Creek Trail and travels down to the South Fork Imnaha River. Parking is a bit contentious in this area because so much land is private at the trailheads. The Forest Service office says to park at the gate on the road/trail, after driving by the private Cornucopia Lodge. There definitely isn't room for trailer turnaround at the gate, because the road turns up sharply and doesn't have a pull-out. The better option for trailer parking seems to be a small turnaround along the main road, just before taking a right hand turn up to the lodge. Trail Notes <ul> <li>0.0mi Start hiking up the road after going around the gate. The road is steep and rocky. </li> <li>1.1 Cross East Fork Pine Creek. A trail junction is here on the right for the East Fork Pine Creek Trail. Stay left and follow the road as it climbs steeply on the south face of the ridge before leveling out through a burn.</li> <li>2.8 Look for the trail to leave the road on the right. There is a sign that say Norway Basin Trail. This is shortly after the road tops out in a saddle and the basin becomes visible. </li> <li>4.8 Trail junction for Sugarloaf Trail. </li> </ul>

Red Mountain Summit

Climbing Red Mountain is a rugged and long trek that rewards climbers with a 9,560 foot summit that is the highest point in Baker County, Oregon (14th highest in Oregon). The climb requires no special technical skill, other then good footwork and balance to navigate hundreds of vertical feet of crumbling red rock. The Kettle Creek Trail #1945 from East Eagle is not heavily used but is in good condition. It contains an endless series of switchbacks climbing 3,066 feet in 5.6 miles at a 10% average gradient. The trail eventually arrives at a saddle where it levels out and passes a few ponds before arriving at Crater Lake. At this point, the Red Mountain summit is in full view. Soon, it is a matter of sighting an ascent line and going for the summit. Most any route up the talus slope to the summit ridge is climbable. In the end, 5,844 feet of climbing in about 9 miles is required to reach the summit from East Eagle trailhead. Crater Lake offers a good camp location for a less-ambitious summit day. Regulations: A free wilderness permit needs to be filled out at the trailhead but otherwise there are no restrictions. A Northwest Forest Pass is not required at the parking area. Trail Notes <ul> <li>From the East Eagle Trailhead take the trail about 1/2 mile to the junction for Kettle Creek Trail 1945. Follow this trail to the right going up the mountain.</li> <li>After Crater Lake, arrive at the junction with Trail 1885 (to Summit Point Trailhead). From here continue off trail straight up the mountain, staying on high ground. There is some game trail or perhaps a climbers trail that follows a creek.</li> <li>There are a couple of plateaus before arriving at the scree and talus that is Red Mountain. Look for the Red Mountain summit to the left and sight down the consistent ridge to the right, aiming for the low point on this ridge. There are elevated mounds of rock along the spine to the right. Do not climb to the right of either of these prominent points, because starting the ridge climb on the wrong side of these is not recommended due to the exposure on the other side and steep and crumbling rock on the ridge. </li> <li>Scramble up the shale to the saddle and begin working up the ridge to the summit.</li> <li>The ridge is very rocky, but offers good consistent travel to the summit. The north side of the mountain is not as steep as the south side, so it offers relief if exposure is a problem. </li> </ul>

Sacajawea Peak Summit

This is the highest peak in the Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon. The route here is shown starting at the Thorp Creek Basin, which is accessed from the Hurricane Creek Trailhead.

Standley Guard Station Trail Run (Trails 1677 and 1668)

<em>A relatively easy car shuttle out of the same canyon if you have a mildly rugged vehicle.</em> The loop treats you with a visit to Standley Guard Station at the high point, in a pristine meadow with a spring emerging from the ground right beside the cabin. There isn't much water on the trail otherwise, so plan accordingly. This will be a good long distance backpack or fun trail run on some mellowish terrain at a decent elevation. The trail isn't used much or maintained very deep but the surface is good. In short, expect several trees across the trail. Both trails stay at the very top of a narrow ridge, so visibility is awesome as it dips in and out of trees. The guard station is also called Standley Cabin, not to be confused with Standley Cabin on Ruckel Road in Summerville, but at least we're staying consistent with the naming fiasco in the region (e.g. Sneider Cabin/Sneider Meadow, Granite Mt./Granite Butte, Deer ______, Buck _______). The cabin is locked up but appears in fair and usable shape. It is at an intersection of trails, so it serves as a good hub for the far northern reaches of the Wallowa Mountains. <strong>Getting There</strong> Take the Big Canyon Rd. from the highway near Minam. It goes for about 6 miles before a definitive split in the road. Left takes you on a long climb up to Bearwallow (in line with Bear _______ names but not to be confused with Bear Creek Trailhead which is nearby) Trailhead and the start of this route here. At the aforementioned road split, to the right (or some would call it straight) takes the more rugged road up to Cougar Ridge Trailhead (also in line with Cougar _______ naming practice). The fork might be a good place to drop a vehicle if you want to just run down the road to finish it off. The <a href="http://lagranderide.com/bicycle/cx/joseph/big-canyon">Big Canyon climb</a> is featured as a bike ride.  <strong>Trail Notes</strong> <ul> <li>0.0mi. Bearwallow Trailhead</li> <li>Wilderness boundary</li> <li>Pass dobbin creek trail</li> <li>Standley Cabin. Connect with the Cougar ridge trail going NW from the meadow</li> <li>Spring a short ways down the east side of the ridge on a side trail.</li> <li>Trail splits. The original Cougar Ridge Trail goes left but the more well established trail to the right goes to the trailhead more directly. </li> <li>Cougar Ridge Trailhead</li> </ul>

Thorp Creek Basin

This hike from the <a href="http://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gjAwhwtDDw9_AI8zPyhQoYAOUjMeXDfODy-HWHg-zDrx8kb4ADOBro-3nk56bqF-RGGGSZOCoCAPi8eX8!/dl3/d3/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS9ZQnZ3LzZfME80MEkxVkFCOTBFMktTNUJIMjAwMDAwMDA!/?navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&recid=51485&actid=&navid=110000000000000&pnavid=&ss=110616&position=&ttype=recarea&pname=Wallowa%20Mtns/Eagle%20Cap%20Area%20%20-%20Hurricane%20Creek%20Trailhead">Hurricane Creek Trailhead</a> climbs a canyon between the highest mountains in the Wallowas. The trail is an approach route for climbing Chief Joseph Peak, <a href="http://lagranderide.com/hike/wallowa-mountains/sacajawea-peak-summit">Sacajawea Peak</a>, and the Matterhorn. Restrictions: NW Forest Pass required at trailhead, wilderness restrictions.

Twin Lakes Trail 1874

The route shown here is a strenuous hike or good trail run, shown here as a connection between Indian Crossing Campground to Twin Lakes Campground on either end. This is a steep trail climbing from the Imnaha River to Twin Lakes. The route starts up the South Fork Imnaha Trail 1816 and fording the river to Trail 1874 at Blue Hole. Trail 1874 climbs up the canyon's south side, topping out at Twin Lakes which is a non-fee campground and trailhead. The route travels through the Twin Lakes burn, over some rock outcroppings and mostly and wide open views.