High Ridge Trail

Hike Rating: Easy
Hike Length: 7.8 miles roundtrip (variable)
Elevation Loss: 940’
Trailhead Elevation: 5,480’
Best Season: June through September,
         once access road is snow-free
Driving Access: High-clearance vehicle

Plus Points
• A scenic ramble down a long ridge, through both open "balds" and pine forests
• This seldom used route follows the boundary of Eagle Cap Wilderness Area
• Sweeping views over the lower Minam River canyon throughout the route
• Spectacular wildflowers into mid-July, including lupines, paintbrush, larkspur, arnica
• The ridge is prime elk and mule deer habitat, with sightings possible if stealthy
• Trail is on a good grade, making for easy walking, and is mostly cow-free

Minus Points
• Good route-finding skills are required, as the trail is faint in some spots
• Afternoon thunderstorms present a lightning hazard along the exposed ridge line

Download (PDF, 912 KB): Photos of High Ridge Trail
Download (PDF, 750 KB): Topo Map for High Ridge Trail
Download (GPX, 1 KB): GPS Points for High Ridge Trail
Download (PDF, 590 KB): Road Map for High Ridge Trail

Trail Notes
Map of the High Ridge Trail
From the Cougar Ridge Trailhead parking area, the route follows an old skid road southwest for about 0.2 miles to a "Y" in the trail. Take the right (northwest) trail fork and follow it around the east and north sides of an old clear cut, covered with 20'-tall trees. At 0.5 miles (GPS Point 1), one arrives at the junction with the Cougar Ridge Trail, which runs north-south along the crest of the ridge. Turn right (north) and follow the trail through the forest just back from the rim edge. Within 500 yards, one has the first sweeping views west over the Minam River canyon.

In an open meadow at 0.9 miles, the trail passes a rock cairn marking the turnoff for the faint trail down Cougar Ridge to the west. Stay straight at this junction and follow the well-used trail north as it contours around the ridge. At 1.4 miles, the trail descends into a low forested draw with a flowing spring. The trail disappears here, but one can follow game trails north and pick it up again near the crest of the ridge (GPS Point 2).

Once on the High Ridge Trail, it's easy to follow it north through the open balds, staying about 50 yards west of the thick forests along the ridge crest. If one loses the trail at any point, just keep going north along the ridge, staying west of the trees, and it will reappear in time. At about 2.3 miles, the trail enters the first of the big grass meadows along the ridge, with thick carpets of Spring wildflowers, including both yellow and blue lupine, balsamroot, paintbrush, larkspur, yellow arnica and others. Further on, the trail passes through uncut stands of big ponderosa, before more grass meadows.

At 3.2 miles, the trail climbs gradually up to a broad, rounded viewpoint, with long panoramic vistas in two directions, west over the Minam River canyon and east over the Deer Creek canyon and beyond. About 700 yards north past the viewpoint, the ridge line begins to narrow and to drop sharply in elevation. There is a grove of big ponderosas here that can make a
good lunch and hike destination. If feeling more ambitious, one can continue north on the trail as it descends the ridge. At 3.9 miles, the trail passes over a rock outcrop, just before a long steep drop. This is about as far as one can go along High Ridge, as the Forest boundary is just 400 yards ahead. From the rock outcrop, there are wonderful views of the lower Minam River valley.

Road to Trailhead
On Hwy 82, drive 13 miles west from the town of Wallowa, OR, or 1.4 miles east from the Minam River bridge. Turn south on Big Canyon Road, then cross the bridge and railroad tracks. Drive 10.0 miles south on Big Canyon Road, past the Forest Boundary, to a "Y" in the road. Take the right fork (southwest) on Road 8270. Follow Road 8270 for 4.9 miles to the trailhead. The last 1.5 miles to the trailhead are very steep and rocky, requiring a high-clearance vehicle. A Northwest Forest Pass and a self-issued Wilderness Permit are required at the trailhead.

Camping Options
The nearest developed campground is Minam State Park, in the Minam River canyon about 1.6 miles north from the river bridge on Hwy 82 and about 18 driving miles from the trailhead. There are 20 sites here, 12 for travel trailers and 8 for tent camping only. It has a double vault toilet, drinking water, trash pickup and the camping fee was $10 per night in 2014. The campground is located on a bench above the river, beneath steep basalt canyon walls, and is very pleasant — however, it can be overrun by river rafters in the Spring.

Agency Contact: Wallowa-Whitman Natl. Forest, Eagle Cap District, (541) 426-5546

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local public land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 12/10/14