Wallowa Mountains Hikes

Location Map of Wallowa Mountains Hikes
The Wallowa Mountains are unique in the Inland Northwest — a high glaciated, mostly granitic range, with 9,000'-high peaks, nearly 60 alpine lakes, all protected within the 600 square mile Eagle Cap Wilderness. The range is quite compact and is circled by good roads leading to 25 trailheads and over 500 miles of hiking trails. In short, it's a hiker's paradise and draws wilderness visitors from throughout the West. With its extensive alpine area, it lends itself to multi-night backpacking and horse packing trips — though day hikers will find plenty of appealing routes around the Wilderness edges. Gas and supplies are available in Enterprise and Joseph on the north side of the range, and in Halfway, Union, Cove and Elgin on the south and west sides.

The Wallowa Range has been called America's Little Switzerland or Oregon's Alps. The mountains are the product of a granitic intrusion — magma that pushed upward 150 million years ago. Overlying the granite were older volcanic and sedimentary rocks that were elevated as the range was lifted 5,000' above the surrounding plain by faulting. Ice Age glaciers then ground out U-shaped valleys and sculpted the alpine peaks that we see today. Due to their high elevation, the Wallowas receive over 100 inches of precipitation a year, mainly as winter snow. This melting snow feeds several major streams — the Minam River on the west side, the Imnaha River on the east and the Eagle Creek drainages on the south. In all, spectacular country for day hiking!

Download (PDF, 924 KB): Location Map of Wallowa Mountains Hikes
Download (PDF, 818 KB): Photos of the Wallowa Mountains Area

Though vast, the Eagle Cap Wilderness is encircled by 25 trailheads, most all easily accessible by car. In fact, the Wallowas are so accessible they see more than 30,000 wilderness visitors a year. The number of visitors is not the problem here, but rather their concentration. Wilderness permit statistics show that the top 6 trailheads in the Eagle Cap Wilderness account for over 75% of visitor use! This concentrated use is mostly on the north side of the range, where access roads penetrate deep into the mountains. As a result, we’ve focused on day hikes on the west, south and east sides of the range, where driving access is still good, but day hikers have a better chance of finding solitude.

  • East Eagle Trail
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Many trailheads around the Wallowas are within a mile of the Wilderness boundary, giving day hikers access to protected areas on 3-4 mile day hikes. Plus, those trails that are outside, but near the Wilderness boundary, are often closed to motorized travel.

West Side Eagle Cap Wilderness Hikes
Despite its name, the lower-elevation High Ridge Trail is usually snow-free early in the season and offers a 3.4 mile ramble (one-way) through colorful Spring wildflowers and views of the lower Minam River valley. The Dobbin Creek Trail features easy access to a delightful, seldom-visited stream that is tributary to the Little Minam River. A new bridge has improved driving access to the Squaw Creek Trail, giving day hikers a chance to explore an intimate, glaciated canyon and the high alpine ridges above it.

High Ridge Trail
Dobbin Creek Trail
Squaw Creek Trail

South Side Eagle Cap Wilderness Hikes
Once Spring runoff has subsided, day hikers can safely access the West Eagle Creek Trail, a 3.5 mile trek (one-way) into a seldom-visited alpine valley surrounded by granite peaks. The day hike on the East Eagle Creek Trail goes nearly 4 miles into the heart of the Wilderness, through a glaciated valley under colorful alpine ridges. Though the Summit Point Trail only touches the Wilderness boundary, this 3.4 mile hike features spectacular alpine views, an old log cabin and acres of blue lupine in mid-July.

West Eagle Creek Trail
East Eagle Creek Trail
Summit Point Trail

East Side Eagle Cap Wilderness Hikes
One of the easier peaks accessible to day hikers is Sugarloaf Mountain, rising nearly 8,000' on the south boundary of the Wilderness, with long views of the High Wallowas. Likewise, the 3.1 mile day hike (one-way) on the Imnaha Divide Trail leads to panoramic vistas of the Imnaha River Valley and its alpine headwaters. The Bonny Lakes are one of the more accessible lake basins within reach of day hikers, on a 3.6 mile trail through glaciated basalts, wildflowers in mid-summer and wonderful alpine scenery.

Sugarload Mountain Hike
Imhaha Divide Hike
Bonny Lakes Trail

Clickable map of Wallowa Mountains hikes:

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Page last updated: 12/10/14