Southeast Wallowas Loop


Backpack - Southeast Wallowas Loop

Intermediate backpack: a strenuous 5 day backpack in the less-traveled southern portion of the Wallowas in NE Oregon

  • Strenuous/Very Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 46.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 10,000 ft
  • Pace: keeping mostly together, moderate pace whatever that means

Please note the long drive time to get to the East Eagle TH in Oregon, on the southern aspect of the Wallowa Range.  We will work as a team to create carpools, and drive there on Sunday 8/4 (allow 8 hours), and seek either lodging in La Grande or dispersed style camping in the national forest.  

This is an Intermediate Backpack.  Preference will be given to participants in the Seattle Intermediate Backpacking Program.  Please submit request for leader permission.  For those not registered for Intermediate Backpacking course, please submit a request for leader permission on June 1, and I will review these requests within the week, and figure whom may be a good fit for a compatible group.  

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 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 4600’ to 9544.’   

The tentative plan:

Day 1:  Meet at the East Eagle Trailhead and hike to camp after fording Eagle Creek.  6.5 miles with 1600' gain.  Optional day hike from basecamp to Moon and Hidden lakes of 3.5 miles RT with 1000" gain and loss.  

Day 2: Hike to Moccasin Lake, crossing Horton Pass, with an optional side trip up Eagle Cap 9544'.  8 miles, 3400’ gain and 2000' loss. 

Day 3: Hike into the SF of the Imnaha, going over Glacier and Hawkins Passes, passing via superb Glacier Lake.  8 miles, 2400' gain and 2700' loss.  

Day 4: Hike to Crater Lake, 8.2 miles, 1700' gain and 1300' loss.  We will need to ford the chilly calf-deep South Fork Imnaha River. 

Day 5: Return to the East Eagle Trailhead, 6 miles, 200’ gain and 3200' loss, and the end of our trip.  From the East Eagle Trailhead it is about a 8 hour drive to Seattle.   We will be sure to pause for food on the drive home to celebrate!

Caltopo GPS route at this link.  

Leader permission: Leader permission is required.  I would ask you to answer the following questions: (1) Describe the difficulty and details of your most recent 4 or longer day backpack trip.  (2) Describe your prior exposure and experience at elevations greater than 8000'.  (3) Describe your experience with fording rivers.  (4) Most importantly, as I am seeking a great team for this trip, describe your preferred style for backpack trips, in terms of pace and other things that might float, or sink, a trip for you. 

Permission requests will be accepted now for members of the Seattle Intermediate Backpack Program.  For those NOT involved with this program, please apply as of June 1.  I will collect applications for a week or so, and then make a selection.  Successful applications will be based on the group most compatible with the participant requirements, not based on the date when applications are received


Southeast Wallowas Loop

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent with footprint/ground tarp
  • Stove and fuel
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter
  • Bear canister or Ursack/ Opsack designated for hanging food
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and trowel or blue bag to deal with waste
Trip Reports