The Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon’s largest wilderness area, offers 534 miles of trails to explore the picturesque Wallowa Mountains. The trailhead at West Eagle Meadow provides access to several adventures including Echo Lake and Traverse Lake.
Traveling north, the trail unveils meadows of wildflowers and Indian poke (Veratrum viride) as it begins to follow West Eagle Creek up the drainage. There are three crossings where you will need to ford the creek; the water will likely be ankle- to knee-deep, so trekking poles are highly recommended. Extra socks or water footwear may be considered for comfort.
The trail runs along the creek and provides several views of small waterfalls and pour-offs. There is little elevation gain during the first 2.5 miles of the journey, then time slows down a bit as a steady series of switchbacks directs you uphill. The trail can be narrow at times, and loose rocks demand concentration, another reason for trekking poles for balance and safety.
The return of level ground provides a view of a magnificent high-country pond filled by crystal-clear cascades tumbling through boulders from the glacially carved peaks. Traveling onward and upward will provide the first view of Echo Lake and its stunning reflections of the surrounding granite amphitheater. There are several primitive campsites along the northeast side of the lake. Frogs chanting along the waterside from sunset into the night provide wilderness melodies and an argument for earplugs.
Traveling east/northeast from Echo Lake, the trail provides more switchbacks for the 1-mile, 500-foot ascent to Traverse Lake, a pristine alpine lake with panoramic views and a perfect reflection of a granite summit called Traverse Peak (“The Horn”), which gleams silver in the afternoon light.