Day Hike - Zumwalt Prairie Preserve


Day Hike - Zumwalt Prairie Preserve

Naturalist/photo-oriented hikes to Zumwalt Prairie, Buckhorn L/O to Spain Saddle, and Freezeout Ridge to enjoy the great abundance of spring wildflowers, bees, butterflies, raptors and other wildlife, geology and scenic landscapes in Wallowa country and along the rim of Hells Canyon.

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
  • Mon, May 24, 2021 — Wed, May 26, 2021
  • Seattle Naturalists Committee
  • Exploring Nature, Photography, Day Hiking
  • Adults
  • Easy/Moderate
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 12.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,500 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 5,529 ft

5/24 & 5/25:  Meet 7:45 am at jct OR-82 and Crow Creek Road, signed to Buckhorn Spring, between mileposts 68 and 69, 3.2 miles E of Enterprise or 3 miles W of Joseph.  We'll look for raptors on drive between I-82/Crow Creek Rd and Zumwalt/Buckhorn trailheads.

5/26:  Meet 7:00am at Wallowa Foods parking lot in Joseph, near city center along OR-82.  In Joseph, we'll turn east at gas station, drive 29 mi on paved hells Canyon Scenic Byway to village of Imnaha, right onto Upper Imnaha Road (wide gravel) signed for Halfway, then veer up to left for 2.7 mi on narrow gravel road marked "Freezeout" and "Dead End" to Freezeout trailhead.

For backup hikes (Falls Creek, Chief Joseph, Iwetemlaykin) on day 2 or 3:  meeting time/place and details to follow (in pre-trip email) and with group on 5/24.

For members and guest members. 

2 days easy to moderate days hiking at Zumwalt Preserve (Harsin Butte and Patti's Trail), up to full day  6.4 mi RT hike from Buckhorn Lookout to Spain Saddle, and full day moderate/strenuous hike 5.6-9 mi RT to Freezeout Saddle and Summit Ridge meadows.  Easy backup trips (due to weather):   1/2 day hikes (or less) at Falls Creek trail 1-3 mi  RT (Hurricane Crk T/H), Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site  1mi hike E side of Joseph, and Chief Joseph trail 4.4 mi RT near Wallowa Lake.  

See route/trail link for Zumwalt trail descriptions.  Leader will provide copies of Zumwalt, Buckhorn/Spain Saddle, and Freezeout Saddle/Summit Ridge  hike descriptions to participants.

Trail descriptions  in 100 Hikes / Travel Guide Eastern Oregon (Zumwalt Prairie's Harsin Butte and Patti's Trail, Buckhorn Lookout and Freezeout Saddle/Summit; Hiking Oregon's Eagle Cap Wilderness (Falls Creek), and 50 Hikes in Hells Canyon and Oregon's Wallowas (Spain Saddle, Falls Creek Falls, Chief Joseph Trail).  Leader has Iwetemlaykin brochures with trail map and description.

Leisurely pace for naturalist/photo opps with short to extended stops.  We'll look at, and aim to identify and photograph some of the abundant and local spring wildflowers, bees and butterfly pollinators, raptors and other wildlife, and the scenic landscapes of the short-grass prairie and Imnaha canyonlands. 

Many pollinating bee species (80-100+) and butterflies species (approx 50) are associated with the varied, abundant flowering plant species in the Zumwalt Prairie.  If we're lucky, we'll see a few moths, bees and other insects whose appearance mimic bumblebees or hummingbirds. 

Refer to plant lists for Zumwalt and Buckhorn for all 3 days.  Expect to see blue clematis and many other early blooming flowers along Falls Creek trail. 

Reserved accommodations recommended ASAP for nights of (5/23-26):  camping (tenting, yurt) at Wallowa Lake SP, or motel/B&B in Joseph or Enterprise.  Leader is camping in D-loop, with site sharing available. 

Visiting the Zumwalt Prairie (overview, resources, exploring beyond):

Zumwalt Prairie IBA:

For Zumwalt Prairie and Buckhorn Lookout plant lists, see Paul Schlichter's Flora and Fauna Northwest website , select link to Northwest Plant Lists, Wallowa County, and download Zumwalt and Buckhorn lists.

Video links below for sample of scenery and flowering plants at Zumwalt Prairie, including Harsin Butte and Patti's Loop trails:

Link to Freezeout Saddle trip report/photos:

DRIVING:  Approx 6-7 hours drive time from Seattle to Enterprise/Joseph, via I-90 and Tri-Cities; approx 5.5 hours from Portland.  Be sure to have good tires, jack and spare tire for drives to Zumwalt, Buckhorn and Freezeout. 

We'll adhere to current Mountaineers COVID-19 guidelines: for masking, social distance, sanitizer for hands, etc.


Zumwalt Prairie Preserve

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials

  • Navigation
  • Headlamp
  • Sun protection
  • First aid
  • Knife
  • Fire
  • Shelter
  • Extra food
  • Extra water
  • Extra clothes
  • Recommended - trekking poles
Trip Reports