The vast Eagle Cap Wilderness contains a substantial network of trails. While many multi-day trips in this area may seem overwhelming to the beginning backpacker, the relatively short trail to Mirror Lake via the Two Pan Trailhead is an excellent sample to what this area has to offer. The rugged Wallowa granite mountains are a unique backdrop to expansive wilderness landscapes one may not expect to find in Oregon. While there is potential for summer congestion in this sought-after area, mid-week travel or a late-summer/early-fall trip may bring solitude.
The Two Pan Trailhead serves as one of the hubs to this spacious wilderness, and it has quite a large parking area that can accommodate pack animal trailers. Parking is possible along the road below if the parking area is full. Follow the East Lostine River Trail to the south, which skirts the river with one footbridge crossing through the old-growth forest. The shade doesn't last long, however, as you ascend several steep switchbacks before the trees dwindle to reveal an impressive valley. Steep mountains tower over an elongated meadow cut by the East Lostine River, while Eagle Cap dominates the valley's terminus.
Several spur trails allow for short jaunts through the meadow, but the majority of the main trail crosses several old rock slides and meanders through several small groves of trees. Campers can be seen setting up tents in this meadow. Please remember to follow the Leave No Trace principles and travel/camp on durable surfaces only so that others may enjoy the beauty of this fragile meadow.
The trail makes a final meandering through another old-growth small forest, ascending a ridge before reaching the Mirror Lake shelf. There is an option to camp at Upper Mirror Lake to the west if the designated campsites at Mirror Lake are occupied. However, for the prime view of the impressive Eagle Cap, obtain one of the many sites along the south Mirror Lakeshore. Enjoy a short walk along the shoreline user trail or even a dip in the pristine water. After dark, take in the impressive stars unimpeded by any light pollution - which seems to be a rarity, even in backcountry travel.
From here, many other adventures can be easily checked off your to do list, including the photogenic Glacier Lake with upfront views of Eagle Cap. One could even make the non-technical climb of Eagle Cap while using Mirror or another nearby lake as a base. Several alpine lakes reside in this basin below Eagle Cap. There are many possibilities for multi-day trips in the Wallowas.
However, for this adventure perfect for beginners, follow your route back to your vehicle. This place is sure to create distinct memories of an atypical Oregonian wilderness, and you will surely want to return and explore a little more.