Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
12,273.00 ft (3,740.81 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
58.20 mi (93.66 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The East Wallowa Mountains are home to some of the most popular destinations in the Eagle Cap Wilderness and perhaps the state of Oregon. From thick forests, through sub-alpine meadows and lakes, all the way above treeline traversing scenic mountain passes, and to the summit of Eagle Cap itself. This multi-day trip brings the intrepid backpacker to gorgeous picturesque, rugged scenes in Oregon's largest wilderness area. This challenging route is for the experienced wilderness traveler, but there are certainly a variety of shorter trips that can be made on any section of this journey.

Wallowa Lake Trailhead to Aneroid Lake

The first and shortest segment of this trip begins at the popular Wallowa Lake trailhead. Perhaps its popularity is somewhat attributed to the fact that no pass/permit of any sort is required to park here and hike into the wilderness area. You do, however, need a self-issue wilderness permit to travel in the back country (which is available at the trailhead for free). There is plenty of parking, which might become scarce on a sunny summer weekend. 

The trail ascends gradually to the southeast (the left) via a couple of switchbacks before meeting the East Fork Wallowa River. It's not long before views become abundant of the nearby rugged peaks and the popular tourist destination: Wallowa Lake to the north. The trail gently climbs past a very small hydroelectric dam and along the river, with one easy crossing, toward a vast grassy meadow and past Roger Lake (a campsite opportunity) and then to Anaeroid Lake itself after just 7.5 miles and nearly 3,000 feet of gain.

There are a few campsites on the north shore of the lake accessed via an unmaintained user trail. The lake's drainage into the river at the northwest end of the lake is a great spot to filter from. Most of these campsites have good access to the lake and fantastic views of the rugged peaks to the south and west. Remember to only camp on durable terrain, about 200 feet from water, and please do not make new campsites by destroying fragile fauna. Campfires are not allowed. The south end of the lake is occupied by a privately owned camp with several cabins and other small structures. 

Aneroid Lake to Glacier Lake

Be rested and start early for a lengthy and challenging trek over two mountain passes with plenty of ups and downs all the way to Glacier Lake. Begin by climbing a couple switchbacks out of the Aneroid Lake basin to a wildflower-filled meadow home to a trail junction and a meandering creek. The signed trail junction indicates the Nooney Lakes Trail to the left as this route continues to ascend to Tenderfoot Pass to the right. Ascend above treeline to uninterrupted mountainous views of Aneroid Peak to the northeast, Petes Point to the west, and the distant rugged peaks to the south of the pass. Plenty of ancient white bark pine trees can be found in this area as the trail descends slightly en route to Polaris Pass.

Traverse through sweeping, intoxicating wildflower meadows over these steep slopes and up a few switchbacks to Polaris Pass. Enjoy the view here of the rugged granite peaks to the west, towered over by Glacier Peak and Eagle Cap as well as the seemingly unique volcanic landscape on the slopes of Sentinel Peak to the south and Petes Point to the north of this pass.

Descend sharply here to the west of Polaris Pass as the trail switches back through a tumbling wildflower meadow bordered by tributaries of the West Fork Wallowa River. There are a couple of campsite opportunities in this area with seasonally accessible water. Be sure to enjoy the views of the rugged nearby peaks before descending back into this forest as the trail meets the West Fork Wallowa River trail. 

It's not long, however, before the route is gradually ascending, once again, into sub-alpine meadows toward the south end of the West Fork Wallowa River Canyon. A crossing over the river is required as the trail nears Frazier Lake. Plenty of campsite opportunities here at another major trail junction near Frazier Lake. This route takes the Glacier Lake trail and slowly climbs through alpine meadows, offering views of the towering Glacier Peak, ultimately traverse a cirque into the very popular Glacier Lake basin.

It's easy to see why this multitudinous island-clad, pristine, glacier-fed lake sitting at the base of Glacier Peak is so popular. There are plenty of campsite opportunities. Remember to please avoid creating new campsite and follow the Leave No Trace Principles by only camping and traveling on durable terrain. There are a couple ideal campsites on the small moraine bordering the east end of the lake, where the lake's drainage is convenient to filter from. The lake is certainly inviting for a dip after a long 13.5 mile day ascending 3,500 feet, albeit a frigid dip!

Day Hike Eagle Cap

A two-night stay at the scenic Glacier Lake might just be ideal and welcome for the wilderness adventurer on this route. It's a challenging 12 mile, 3,500 feet gain day hike to the summit of Eagle Cap, but one just might find the views a worthwhile reward. However, plenty of camping opportunities abound between here and there, as well. The Glacier Lake trail climbs out of its basin toward Glacier Pass where scrub-alpine trees reside. To the north of the pass are new views of the distant Matterhorn and Sacajawea Peak (the highest in the Eagle Cap Wilderness at 9,843 feet). The trail then descends steeply and ruggedly along a creek (and its tributaries) filling Mocassin Lake below. 

The trail levels out as it enters the Lakes Management Basin Area. Plenty of campsites can be found along many of these inviting lakes. Meet another trail junction and follow it west (left) toward Mirror Lake. Enjoy views of the massive Eagle Cap towering above, the destination for the day. The trail continues to meander through marshy meadows toward Upper Lake and then climbs quickly into the alpine and toward Horton Pass. The climber's trail separates before the pass and continues through seasonal snowfields, traversing over to the southwest slopes of Eagle Cap where a new view of the rugged mountains to the southwest can be seen. A surprisingly thick scrub-alpine forest exists here as the trail finally reaches the Eagle Cap Summit. Panoramic views of the vast Eagle Cap Wilderness in almost every direction can be enjoyed here, including the close-by Glacier Lake. 

Descend back down the climber's trail, through the lakes management basin, and back up toward Glacier Pass, into the Glacier Lake basin to return to your campsite. Maybe enjoy another well-earned dip in the frigid waters! 

Glacier Lake to Ice Lake

Possibly the most challenging day of the trip with nearly 18 miles and another 3,000 feet of gain, but fortunately starts out with a lot of descending. That is, after ascending just 3/4 of a mile to Glacier Pass. Descend past Mocassin Lake and head east on the Lakes Management Area basin trail as it meanders past several other lakes including Douglas, Lee, and Horseshoe Lakes, before descending several switchbacks returning into thick forest. The trail levels out as it approaches another required crossing through the West Fork Wallowa River and subsequently into the aptly named Six Mile Meadow, where plenty of campsites can be found. Continue north back on the West Fork Wallowa River trail toward the Wallowa Lake Trailhead. This route, however, takes a turn onto the Ice Lake trail, crossing a footbridge over the river. Campsites exist here at this junction as well.

On the far side, one is met with a series of enumerable switchbacks as the trail climbs sharply through grassy meadows at the foot of a once-burnt forest, then intermittently through a talus rockslide before meeting a thundering falls in the middle of Adam Creek. Continue on above the bench over the falls, through welcome sub-alpine meadows, additional switchbacks in thick forest before the forest breaks away to expansive views of Ice Lake surrounded by steep peaks including Craig Mountain to the south and The Matterhorn with Sacajawea Peak to the west.

Again, several campsites can be found here and ensure adherence to the Leave No Trace Principles in your camping behaviors. They ought to be old hat at this point of the journey! Some climber day trip opportunities exist here with climber's trails to both The Matterhorn and Sacajawea Peak. Or, you can simply enjoy another dip in the aptly named Ice Lake before returning down the switchbacks along Adam Creek to the West Fork Wallowa River trail, and continuing along its flow back to the Wallowa Lake trailhead on a relatively short 7.6 mile trip -- descending over 3,500 feet!

Regardless of your motivation for embarking on a trip like this in the Wallowas, you're sure to experience some of the most beautiful places the state has to offer. This is a vast wilderness area with limited road access and hundreds of miles of trails. If you're into backpacking, visiting the Eagle Cap Wilderness is a must. Also, be sure to bring your camera, fishing pole, a good book, a journal, or just a yearning to appreciate this uniquely beautiful landscape.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Days

4

Pros

Solitude. Backcountry swimming. Alpine meadows. Granite landscapes.

Cons

Rugged. Steep. Remote.

Trailhead Elevation

4,673.00 ft (1,424.33 m)

Highest point

9,544.00 ft (2,909.01 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Glacier
Backcountry camping
Waterfalls
Wildlife
Fishing
Geologically significant
Big vistas
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

Yes

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

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