The Wallowa Lake Trailhead at the south end of Wallowa Lake provides a gateway into Oregon's Largest Wilderness, The Eagle Cap. If you thought this area was beautiful from the outside, entering the wilderness will simply blow you away!
The Eagle Cap is a real National Treasure yet still affords unparallelled peace and quiet, a rare quality in today's world.
The Chief Joseph Trail, the Aneroid Lake Trail, and the West Fork Trail are the three main trails that go into the Eagle Cap Wilderness from the Wallowa Lake area. Each provides the opportunity to day hike or to backpack to one's own ability. Easily reached vistas and overlooks, wild flowers, and stunning autumn colors are readily available for the casual hiker. Hiking to the nearest high lake is a 12 mile round trip with a 3,000 foot elevation gain. The Lakes Basin is the most popular area within the Eagle Cap where you can also hike to the top of several peaks including Eagle Cap.
Recommended Guides and Maps:
The Wallowa Lake Tramway offers a shortcut to the top of the wilderness where visitors are treated to unparalleled panoramas and gentle nature trails. Fit hikers can take advantage of the elevation gain and traverse the scurry ridges south to the Bonny Lakes Trail (Approx 45.193409,-117.18284) and then west down to the East Fork Trail. Heading north takes you past Aneroid Lake and down to to Wallowa Lake, approximately 13 miles total. Don't think that going west off the top of Aneroid Mt. will save you time- it's just not worth the scramble and several people have injured themselves requiring a very expensive helicopter ride.
The Chief Joseph Trail
The first part of the Chief Joseph Trail is shared with the West Fork Wallowa River Trail # 1820 and then parts company with its neighbor at the 1/4 mile mark with a gentle right hand fork. At the 1/2 mile mark, the first river crossing is the West Fork of the Wallowa River. In another 1+ mile, BC Creek creates a mountain waterfall that cascades down across the trail where the bridge is washed out. While many consider this the "destination", if you can safely cross, the next 200 yards on the trail yields two stunning experiences. The first occurs within 25 yards of the falls as you become surrounded by the fragrance of wild roses and mock orange. The shrubs extend for only about 10 yards along the trail, but if you linger and allow the magic of the fragrances to perform, your heart will thank you. Another 175 yards along the Trail leads you to a large rock outcrop that provides a great look North towards Wallowa Lake and the East Moraine. But if you look South there is an even more spectacular view of the two valleys formed by the East and West forks of the Wallowa River. From here the Trail continues on to a large mountain meadow at the 7 mile mark and, for those of you so inclined and so experienced, the Trail heads you to the summit of the 10,000 foot peak of Chief Joseph Mountain.
The West Fork Wallowa River Trail
The West Fork Wallowa River Trail # 1820 leads to the Ice Lake Trail, to Six Mile Meadow, to Lakes Basins, to Frazier Lake, to Glacier Lake ... and to the must buy trail guide " Hiking the Eagle Cap Wilderness " by local author Fred Barstad. Fred has hiked all of the 1,500 miles of trails and routes featured in this book. The West Fork breaks away from the Chief Joseph Trail after the first 1/4 mile and for the next 300 yards goes up. It then changes to a gentler and more varied terrain. In the next 1 mile of that stretch you will find the Refrigerator, Twin Rivers, and the Grotto. The Refrigerator is a large, ancient rock slide down from which cold air gushes relief across the summer trail. Twin Rivers are two springs that cross the trail exactly opposite Johnson Creek at the 1.8 mile mark where the vista widens and the Autumn foliage explodes. The Grotto is an ancient tree stump on the East side of the trail from under which another small spring generates its own micro climate. At the 3 mile mark the Ice Lake Trail veers away from the West Fork Trail and crosses a bridge over the river to begins a 5 mile journey that gains another 2400 feet in elevation before reaching Ice Lake. The trail that circles the Lake offers picture postcard photo opportunities. The West Fork Trail continues on to Six Mile Meadow and further to many other high lakes in the popular Lakes Basin.
The Aneroid Lake Trail
The Aneroid Trail gains almost 1,200 feet in elevation in the first 2 miles as switchbacks zigzag you up to a small dam. About 1/4 mile further the Trail enters the Eagle Cap Wilderness then continues over a bridge that crosses the East Fork of the Wallowa River just below the 7,000 foot level. The final 2 1/4 miles gain only another 500 feet in elevation before reaching Aneriod Lake at the 6 mile mark. The Trail continues on to Tenderfoot Pass which leads you further into the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
The Hiking Page was contributed by the Wallowa Lake Lodge