Big Sheep Basin, Bonny Lakes, Dollar Pass, Aneroid Lake & Imnaha Divide

Day hike or backpack on some of the less-visited trails and routes in the Wallowa Mountains’ Eagle Cap Wilderness. Enjoy outstanding summer wildflowers hiking to Bonny Lakes, Dollar Pass, Dollar Lake, Aneroid Lake, the scenic Tenderfoot Pass, and wildflower meadows along the Imnaha Divide. Out-and-back and loop trips up to 16 miles with up to 3,000 feet of elevation gain are possible. Optional side trips include Pete's Point, Polaris Pass, and Sentinel Peak.

Getting there

Take Exit 261 off of I-84 and drive OR-82 to Joseph. Turn left (east) onto E Wallowa Ave (at a gas station, signed for Imnaha Highway (OR-350) and Hells Canyon Scenic Byway) and drive 8.3 miles east. At the sign for Salt Creek Summit, turn right onto Wallowa Mountain Loop Road (Forest Road 39) and drive 13 miles. Beyond the Salt Creek Recreation Site, where the road crosses concrete bridge, turn right onto Forest Road 100 and drive 3.2 miles to the Tenderfoot Trailhead (6,480 ft).

On the trail

Big Sheep Basin

5.2 miles round trip with 1,400 feet of elevation gain

Bonny Lakes

7.8 miles round trip with 1,300 feet of elevation gain

Big Sheep Basin & Bonny Lakes

10.8 miles round trip with2,500 feet of elevation gain

Hike the Tenderfoot Wagon Road Trail, No. 1819. The initial section of  trail passes through a lodgepole forest burned in a 1989 fire—flowers, grasses, and trees are slowly filling in the burn area. Cross Big Sheep Creek on a large log 200 yards from the trailhead. At next two junctions, keep left and follow the trail through the burn and as it ascends through sagebrush meadows. In 1.0 mile reach a third junction. Take the right fork and hike 1.6 miles to reach Big Sheep Basin.

Or take the left fork  and hike 1.3 miles to a fourth fork. Take the right fork toward Bonny Lakes following the sign for "East Fork Wallowa River.” This is the start of the trail toward Bonny Lakes and the long loop around the Imnaha Divide.  The trail follows a creek up a gentle trail through colorful wildflowers. During the last half of July, look for thousands of Big Petal Mariposas with three large ivory petals each accented with a lavender dot. Ascend a steep rocky hill and a long rock garden with abundant blooming wildflowers (mid-July to early August), just before reaching Bonny Lakes. In 1.6 miles (3.9 miles from the trailhead), the trail passes between the two shallow Bonny Lakes, and along the marshy shore of Lower Bonny Lake (7,800 ft) are elephant heads. Continue across the creek that connects the two lakes and in 200 yards onto a marble outcrop for a good view of the lakes. Small delicate flowers may be seen growing on the outcrop. A few good campsites are available near the Lower Bonny Lake and the forest edges beyond the rocky outcrop. There is a good view of Aneroid Mountain from here. To reach Upper Bonny Lake, cross the inlet creek and round the foot of a knoll, then go cross-country and follow the marshy inlet upstream a short distance to the lake.

Bonny Lakes, Dollar Pass, Aneroid Lake & Tenderfoot Pass

dollar Pass: 1.6 mile one-way from Bonny Lakes, 640 feet of elevation gain
Dollar Lake: 0.3 mile one-way off-trail from dollar Pass, 260 feet of elevation gain
Aneroid Lake: 1.8 miles one-way from Dollar Pass, 340 feet of elevation gain
Tenderfoot Pass: 1.9 Miles one-way from Dollar Pass, 660 feet of elevation gain

Hike to Bonny Lakes and continue up the trail 1.7 miles to Dollar Pass (8,420 ft), a grassy alpine saddle with a fine mountain panorama. Look northwest for the craggy Bonneville Mountain and beyond, the rounded tops of Sacajawea Peak and Matterhorn. To reach Dollar Lake take an easy cross-country hike ~0.3 mile left (south) through a level meadow toward a cliffy peak with snowfields. The dramatic, blue Dollar Lake is as round as a dollar coin. Camp or relax at Dollar Lake before heading back or moving on.

To continue toward Aneroid Lake (7,500 ft) and Tenderfoot Pass (8,500 ft), return to Dollar Pass and follow trail left (south) for 0.9 mile to junction (7,820 ft) at a creek fork. From this junction, take the right fork and follow signs for 1.3 miles to Aneroid Lake. Or take the left fork and hike 1.0 mile to Tenderfoot Pass. Pete's Point (9,675 ft) and Sentinel Peak (9,360 ft) are two scramble options near Tenderfoot Pass.

Bonny Lakes & Imnaha Divide Loop

13.9-mile loop with 2,580 feet of elevation gain
Dollor Lake: Add 0.6 mile and 260 feet of elevation gain
Aneroid Lake: Add 1.8 mile and 340 feet of elevation gain
Polaris Pass: Add 5.0 miles and 650 feet of elevation gain

For this loop, hike to Bonny Lakes, Dollar Pass, optionally to and from Aneroid Lake, to Tenderfoot Pass (8,500 ft) and then traverse the scenic plateau through wildflower meadows along the Imnaha Divide. Reach the Polaris Pass Trail junction 0.3 mile from Tenderfoot Pass and go straight along the Imnaha Divide Trail. Cross a pass at 7,900 ft and descend to a junction near Middle Fork Big Sheep Creek. Bear turn right and keep right at all junctions on the Imnaha Divide Trail for the final 2.3 miles to the trailhead.

Polaris Pass

At the trail junction 0.3 mile south of Tenderfoot Pass, bear right and hike the Polaris Pass Trail. The trail ascends and traverses for 2 miles and then switchbacks as it climbs last 0.5 mile and 300 feet to Polaris Pass (8,890 ft). From the pass are spectacular views are in all directions. In August, a wide range of alpine flowers bloom near Polaris Pass above the timberline. Mountain goats may also be seen in the area. Carry water if hiking the upper part of the Polaris Pass Trail in late summer when the trail is very dry. Use caution or avoid hiking to Polaris Pass, during unstable weather, because it gets very stormy near the top.

camping

Dispersed camping is available at Bonny Lakes, Dollar Lake, and in the upper North Fork Imnaha River drainage along Trail No. 1814 above and below the junction with Trail No. 1819. Do not camp close to rivers, because they may flash flood periodically. Be sure to follow the Eagle Cap Wilderness permit requirement and camp at least  100 feet from lake shores.

exploring Nature

The geology of the peaks seen along upper reaches of the trail is complex sedimentary and Columbia basalt, and exposed basalt on the mountain tops after extensive uplifting. Pete’s Point (9,675 ft) is the fifth highest peak in Wallowas and is located at the top of the Imnaha Divide, the long ridge separating the North Fork Imnaha River and Big Sheep Creek drainages. It is a striking, colorful, and massive peak with an east opening horseshoe that may be seen from the high alpine plateau of Tenderfoot Pass and nearby Dollar Lake along with its reflection in the lake.

Seasonal flora and fauna include butterflies, birds, elk and other wildlife, wildflowers, and subalpine to alpine plants. There are a variety of conifers, deciduous trees, shrubs and grasses including junipers, whitebark pine, western larch, pines, aspen, sagebrush, willow, manzanita, sedges and grasses. Enjoy a colorful changing kaleidoscope of wildflowers blooming in late spring and early summer, including big-pod mariposa carpeting hillsides, wild onion, pussytoes, rockcress, stonecrop, lupine, giant frasera (aka “Monument plant”), nettleleaf horsemint, willowherb, paintbrush, elephant head and other louseworts, Brown’s peony, monkeyflower, penstemon, buckwheat in several colors, buttercup, cinquefoil, and violets. Look for the many butterflies attracted to these plants during spring and summer. The Wallowa Wilderness is one of Oregon’s finest butterfly hotspots:  90+ species, many of which are found along these trails.

Scramble Routes

Pete's Point (9,675 ft)

Peak baggers might want to stop at Tenderfoot Pass (8,500 ft) to summit the massive peak of Pete’s Point (9,675 ft), roughly 1  mile and 1,200 feet of elevation gain from the pass. There are two easy walk up routes on the east running arm of the peak’s horseshoe formation. The south arm is a longer and gentler climb, while norm arm is steeper and shorter. Together these two routes provide an excellent alpine loop hike.

Sentinel Peak (9, 360 ft)

From Tenderfoot Pass, continue 0.3 mile south to the junction with Polaris Pass Trail. Follow Polaris Pass Trail 2.5 miles to Polaris Pass and go off-trail south to the summit of Sentinel Peak.

Guides

  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain, 1st ed. (Mountaineers Books 2004).
  • 50 Hikes in Hells Canyon & Oregon's Wallowas by Rhonda & George Ostertag, 1st ed. (Mountaineers Books 1997).
  • 100 Hikes / Travel Guide Eastern Oregon by William Sullivan, 3rd ed. (Navillus Press 2015).
  • Hiking Oregon's Eagle Cap Wilderness by Fred Barstad, 1st ed. (Globe Pequot Press 2014).
  • Plant List for Bonny Lakes  & Tenderfoot Trails by Paul Slichter & Susan Saul with additional records from the Oregon Plant Atlas.
  • Suitable Activities: Backpacking, Day Hiking
  • Seasons: July, August, September, October
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 2,000 ft
  • 8,420 ft
  • Land Manager: Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
    Eagle Cap Wilderness, Eagle Cap Ranger District (WWNF)
  • Parking Permit Required: None
  • Recommended Party Size: 6
  • Maximum Party Size: 6
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 6
Map
  • Green Trails Wallowa Mountains No. 475SX
  • USGS Aneroid Mountain, OR
Activities

Upcoming Activities

Backpack - Big Sheep Basin, Bonny Lakes, Dollar Pass, Aneroid Lake & Imnaha Divide

Exploring Nature, Photography & Backpacking Trip
SUBMIT LEADER PERMISSION REQUESTS BEGINNING 6/15. Explore Bonny Lakes-Imnaha Divide loop on a 3-4 day
Difficulty: Moderate
Wed, Jul 21, 2021 - Sat, Jul 24, 2021
No Prerequisites, Leader's Permission Required
4 participants
Registration opens Jun 15
Seattle Branch
Trip Reports
Titles

This is a list of titles that represent the variations of trips you can take at this route/place. This includes side trips, extensions and peak combinations. Not seeing a title that fits your trip? Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.

  • Big Sheep Basin
  • Bonny Lakes
  • Big Sheep Basin & Bonny Lakes
  • Bonny Lakes & Dollar Pass
  • Bonny Lakes & Dollar Lake
  • Bonny Lakes & Aneroid Lake
  • Bonny Lake, Dollar Pass & Aneroid Lake
  • Bonny Lake, Dollar Lake & Aneroid Lake
  • Bonny Lakes, Dollar Pass, Aneroid Lake & Tenderfoot Pass
  • Bonny Lakses & Imnaha Divide Loop
  • Bonny Lakes, Aneroid Lake & Imnaha Divide
  • Bonny Lakes, Aneroid Lake & Imnaha Divide Loop
  • Bonny Lakses & Imnaha Divide Loop and Polaris Pass
  • Bonny Lakes, Aneroid Lake & Imnaha Divide and Polaris Pass
  • Bonny Lakes, Aneroid Lake & Imnaha Divide Loop and Polaris Pass
  • Pete's Point
  • Sentinel Peak
  • Pete's Point & Sentinel Peak
  • Pete's Point, Bonny Lakes & Imnaha Divide Loop
  • Sentinel Peak, Bonny Lakes & Imnaha Divide Loop
  • Pete's Point & Sentinel Peak, Bonny Lakes & Imnaha Divide Loop
Resources

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