Southeast Wallowas Loop


Backpack - Southeast Eagle Cap Wilderness Loop

In 5 days, visit more than 8 alpine lakes and high alpine terrain in Oregon’s Idaho’s spectacular Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.

  • Strenuous/Very Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 46.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 10,000 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 9,600 ft
  • Pace: 2 mph

Baker City, Oregon on July 31, 2023, at a time and location TBD.

In 5 days, visit more than 8 alpine lakes and high alpine terrain in Oregon’s Idaho’s spectacular Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.  This trip includes the beautiful Lakes Basin, but arriving by a  less-crowded southern route.

The trip is described in Douglas Lorain’s Backpacking Oregon guidebook; and rated 10 out of 10 for scenery. He describes the trip:

“ [a] remarkably beautiful loop hike through the spectacular Wallowa Mountains. The focus here is on the southeast part of the range. As is true everywhere in these mountains, this trip features a wealth of breathtaking mountain scenery. My vocabulary of adjectives is simply inadequate to convey the glories.”

Or as the same author said in 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon, (2nd Edition):

“The Wallowa Mountains have almost 500 miles of trails, and every foot of every trail is worth taking. In all those magnificent miles, this loop may be the best. Here, before your awestruck eyes, the Wallowa Mountains present the perfect combination of sparkling lakes, clear streams, crashing waterfalls, deep canyons, high passes, wildflower meadows . .. it is almost impossible to take it all in. When asked to select my all-time favorite long hike in Oregon, this usually tops the list.”

This very strenuous 46-mile, 5 day (4 night) loop trip includes more than 10,000’ total of ascent and descent and the longest day of about 11 miles at elevations ranging from 4,600’ to 9,600.’   

 We will depart from the East Eagle Trailhead on July 31, 2023. This trailhead is near Baker City, Oregon, which is 368 miles and about a 6 hour drive from Seattle.  I recommend participants drive from Seattle on July 30, 2023 (or earlier) and spend the night in the vicinity. I plan to spend the night of July 30 in Baker City. 

The tentative plan:

Day 1:  (July 31, 2023).  Meet at the East Eagle Trailhead and hike to Hidden Lake. 8.8 miles, 2,800’ gain. 

Day 2: Hike to Moccasin Lake, crossing Horton Pass, with an optional side trip up Eagle Cap.  10.0 miles, 3,500’ gain. 

Day 3: Hike to Little Frazier Lake, 5.4 miles, 1,800’ gain.  We will cross Glacier Pass and travel through the spectacular Glacier Lake Basin.  Lorain rates Glacier Lake as the second most spectacular lake in Oregon, after only Crater Lake in Crater Lake National Park (not the Crater Lake we visit the next day).  

Day 4: Hike to Crater Lake, 10.7 miles, 2,950’ gain.  We will cross Hawkins Pass, and ford the chilly calf-deep South Fork Imnaha River. 

Day 5: Return to the East Eagle Trailhead, 5.5 miles, 700’ gain, and the end of our trip.  From the East Eagle Trailhead it is about a 7.5 hour drive to Seattle. . 

Caltopo GPS route at this link.  

Leader permission: Leader permission is required, which you can obtain by sending an email to the leader.  When you request leader permission, please accompany your request with the answers to the questions available at this link.  You can download these questions, type in your responses below each question, save and email to me;  or copy and paste into an email and put your responses there.

 Permission requests will not be accepted before the registration opening date, and successful applications will be based on the group most compatible with the participant requirements, not based on the date when applications are received

Weather: I expect low overnight temperatures will be in the 30s. You should check the current weather report shortly before departure: 

(this forecast is for Mirror Lake, near the midpoint of our trip). Rain should be expected, and you should bring a raincoat, rain pants, and pack cover and clothes that will keep you warm when wet (no cotton!). The trip is subject to change or cancellation if the predicted weather is unusually poor or there is substantial smoke or nearby fires.  

Conditioning:  This trip requires excellent conditioning.  We will average about 2 mph on the trail, including breaks.  You should be able to climb Mt. Si with a full backpack in 3 hours or less, and be able to repeat the climb the next day.  

 This trip is at high elevation, so you should have successfully completed backpacking trips above 8,000’.   

Full vaccination and booster are required.

EV access

Depending on the electric car, the trailhead will be accessible by an EV.  Baker City, which is 86 roundtrip miles from the trailhead, has Tesla high-speed chargers and NEMA 14-50 mid-speed chargers.  Nearby La Grande has high-speed chargers with CSS and CHAdeMO connectors, and is 167 roundtrip miles from the trailhead. 

Gear notes:

  1. Bear canisters are not required.  We will hang our food each night. I plan to bring my Ursack. 
  2. You should bring some method of water purification.
  3. Bugs are certainly possible; bring bug repellent.
  4. Additional gear requirements listed in the trip application

Maps:  Wallowa Mountains/Eagle Cap Wilderness 475SX (Green Trails)

Guide books:  Backpacking Oregon, From River Valleys to Mountain Meadows, (3rd edition), Douglas Lorain 

100 Classic Hikes in Oregon, (2nd Edition), Douglas Lorain


Southeast Wallowas Loop

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

Trip Reports