Added by Michael Graw
Gaze up at the Wallowas - "the Alps of Oregon" - as you travel through a meadow-filled valley surrounded by granite peaks in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
The Wallowa Mountains are one of Oregon's best-kept secrets, and this overnight backpack into the Eagle Cap Wilderness will deliver you into the heart of the range. Following the East Eagle Creek through a valley filled with meadows and the occasional aspen, you will be surrounded by towering granite peaks on either side. The lake itself offers a tremendous vantage point of the valley and Jackson Peak to the east. Best of all, Hidden Lake falls outside the more populated Lakes Basin Management Area, so you may score the lake all to yourself!
The price to pay for solitude in a remote mountain range? A long trip to the trailhead - the 60 miles from La Grande to the East Eagle Trailhead takes about 2.5 hours, although the roads are accessible to most vehicles. From La Grande, follow Highway 203 northeast towards Union and continue on 203 all the way to Medical Springs (note: the highway makes a left turn in Union). At Medical Springs, turn left onto Big Creek Rd/Forest Road 67 and continue for 14 miles, at which point you will make a right onto Forest Road 77. After 6 miles, turn left on East Eagle Creek Rd/Forest Road 7745 and continue 6 miles until you reach a parking lot at the end of the road.
The hike starts out right next to East Eagle Creek, and it's worth taking a few minutes to explore the rocky delta immediately next to the trailhead to get a better view of Granite Cliff just ahead. The trail itself starts an easy climb into the forest, and follows East Eagle Creek while gradually climbing for the next 6.5 miles. After the first few miles, the trail breaks out into the main part of the East Eagle valley, meandering through meadows and occasional stands of aspens. The view from the trail is awe-inspiring, with granite cliffs and peaks forming walls on either side of the valley. In the autumn, keep an eye out for herds of elk travelling across the rocky terrain surrounding the valley.
After 6.5 miles, there is an unsigned turnoff to the left that leads towards Moon and Hidden Lakes. Cross East Eagle Creek just after the turn-off, then prepare yourself for a small climb as the last 1.5 miles gains close to 1,000 feet of elevation. Just before reaching Moon Lake, turn around to see your reward - East Eagle Valley opens up before you, with Jackson Peak towering just across the valley. Continue on another quarter mile to Hidden Lake to make camp. Looking for something to do for the rest of the evening? Climb any of the small summits surrounding the lake to gain epic views of Glacier Peak and Eagle Cap to the northeast.
The next day is relatively easier, as it simply follows your path back downhill to the trailhead. Unfortunately, the nearest food and services are in La Grande, so you'll have to drive for a few hours before you can grab a pint to celebrate. If you're looking for a longer backpacking trip, Hidden Lake also makes an excellent first night's camp for expeditions heading into the Lakes Basin Management Area through either Frazier or Horton passes.
- Permits - a Northwest Forest Pass or other permit is required, as well as a self-issued wilderness permit at the trailhead
- Layers, warm clothing, and a rain jacket - weather in the Wallowas is wildly unpredictable, and it can snow (a lot!) at any time of year. Be prepared with warm layers and waterproof outerwear.
- Overnight backpacking gear
- Trekking poles
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