The Wallowa Mountains, sometimes referred to as the “Alps of Oregon,” are nearly 40 miles long and feature numerous backpacking and hiking opportunities that access a multitude of towering granite peaks (including Sacajawea Peak, the sixth tallest peak in Oregon), spectacular waterfalls and pristine alpine lakes. This wilderness is also home to the limber pine, one of the oldest living organisms in Oregon.
Ice Lake rests at 7,849 feet in the shadow of the Matterhorn, and it is well worth the myriad of switchbacks and many vertical feet you will have to climb to get there. You’ll find yourself encircled by jagged, often snow-covered peaks and incredibly clear blue waters. From the lake you can find a number of excellent camping opportunities, or if you somehow have additional energy, you can continue on to tackle the nearby Matterhorn that towers above at 9,826 feet. The area also offers a number of side trips to nearby peaks, waterfalls, lakes and meadows. In all, Ice Lake makes for a great weekend backpacking trip or even a substantial day hike.
From the trailhead, the first 2 miles of the West Fork Wallowa River Trail are fairly gradual, and if you’re leaving early in the morning, you’ll enjoy a nicely shaded trail until the Ice Lake Trail junction. Once you start on the Ice Lake Trail, you’ll quickly come to a single log bridge crossing the West Fork of the Wallowa River (where a larger bridge used to stand). From here you’ll begin to climb nearly 2,500 feet over 5 miles of switchbacks to Ice Lake. Much of this portion of the hike is in direct sun. Fortunately, you’ll be accompanied by breathtaking vistas, summer wildflowers, the rushing Adam Creek, and stunning waterfalls on your way to the very top. Once you've reached the lake you’ll find a great variety of excellent camping opportunities on the eastern and southern shores, many of which have stunning backdrops. If you seek wildlife, keep an eye out for deer, mountain goats and black bear. Wolves are making a slow recovery in this pristine wilderness area and may also make an appearance.