The Eagle Cap Wilderness was established in 1940 and lies in the heart of the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon, with a total of 359,991 acres. It was used as hunting grounds for bighorn sheep and deer, and was the summer home to the Joseph Band of the Nez Perce tribe, who moved into the Wallowa Valley in 1860.
The Eagle Cap Wilderness is characterized by high alpine lakes and meadows, bare granite peaks and ridges, and U-shaped glaciated valleys. We decided to do an overnight backpacking trip to Ice Lake (8-miles one-way, 3.400′ of climb) from the Wallowa Lake Trailhead, because it is one of the most outstanding and loved locations in the Eagle Cap. The trail climbs, unbelievably, right up a rockslide and up through sub-alpine into alpine, with meadows full of wildflowers, making the 8 mile trek both beautiful and strenuous. We passed a large waterfall, Lower Adam Creek Falls, just before we started the many switchbacks to the final accent into the large cirque that cradles Ice Lake, sitting in a multicolored basin 7,800 feet in the sky. We set up camp over looking Ice Lake under the trees, we were really tired after hiking for almost 8 hours and settled in after dinner for a comfy sleep in our tent. Click on thumbnail to view images
Ice Lake Hike Day 2
We woke up to a beautiful clear sunny morning with the full moon still on the horizon, hanging over the mountain ridges. The Wallowa Mountains are home to 17 mountains that eclipse 9,000 feet and derived from the Nez Perce word for “land of running waters’. We had a beautiful view of the Matterhorn, a dramatic summit of white limestone and marble that at 9,826 feet is the Wallowa’s second-highest peak. We hiked around the lake for more picturesque views before heading back down the trail. Click on thumbnail to view images
Lakes Basin Hike Day 1
Our second backpacking trip was to the Lakes Basin in the Eagle Cap Wilderness for two nights. It was a short hike to Mirror Lake via the Two Pan Trailhead following the East Lostine River Trail through the old-growth forest, ascending several switchbacks to reveal an impressive valley. We stopped for lunch at an alpine lake with Eagle Cap dominating the valley’s terminus. Soon we arrived at Mirror Lake and found a perfect campsite along the south Mirror Lakeshore with a prime view of the impressive Eagle Cap. There were a lot of campers along the lakeshore so we were lucky to find such an ideal campsite above Mirror Lake with a spectacular view of Eagle Cap. After a wonderful swim in Mirror Lake we cooked dinner while watching the sunset across Mirror Lake and Eagle Cap. Click on thumbnail to view images
Lakes Basin Hike Days 2&3
We woke up to a cold morning and ate breakfast before heading out to hike to Glacier Lake. We followed the signs to Glacier Pass, it’s about 2 miles and 1000 feet elevation gain to get to Glacier Pass with spectacular views of Glacier Lake about 200 feet down the trail. On the trail we stopped to talk to hikers with llamas carrying all their gear, you can rent llamas for a longer backpacking trip which would be so much fun. Today it was too cold to swim in the lake and we had hot soup for lunch to warm us up. Glacier Lake is a more scenic alpine lake with picturesque views of Eagle Cap dominating the scenery. Time to head back to our tent and warm up before snuggling into our sleeping bags for the night. The next morning we packed up all our gear and headed back down to the Jeep. We decided that we didn’t have time climb Eagle Cap so we just have to come back another time. Click on thumbnail to view images