Bonny Lakes


Forest Service Trail #1802

Why? A beautiful basin, with fine basalt and good views of Aneroid Mt.

Season: July through mid-October

Ease: Moderate. It’s 2 miles and 600 feet up from the Tenderfoot Wagon Road Trail to the lakes, another 2 ½ miles and 600 feet up to a pass and then 600 feet down from it to the East Fork Wallowa River Trail.

It’s easy to run into difficulty if you start to rank the Eagle Cap basins, and the reason is obvious once you hike the area – I’ve yet to see a truly ugly one. But I will go so far as to say that if I had to pick just one place to visit in the Wallowas, I’d choose Bonny Lakes.

The reasons are many. The basin is large relative to the size of the two lakes that sit within it. There’s plenty of meadow and marsh to show off a fine selection of wildflowers in season. I’ve seen monkshood, sego lily, asters, brook saxifrage, pink monkey flower, larkspur, several colors of buckwheat, pink wild onion and mallow, to name just a few.

The trees have arranged themselves in attractive groupings, some of them with the extra wide lower branches that indicate the height of the winter snow cover. There are rocky areas, including one especially large rock outcropping. Many are basalt, a rock I didn’t expect to see when I first hiked to Bonny. Finally, there are the higher surroundings: Aneroid Mountain and Pete’s Point on the ridge, and the pass over to the area between Aneroid Lake and Tenderfoot Pass.

Getting to Bonny Lakes is relatively easy as Eagle Cap lake trails go. Usually, the hike to the lakes starts at the Tenderfoot Trailhead and follows the Tenderfoot Wagon Road Trail for about 2 ½ miles, at which point the Bonny Lakes Trail is a right into the woods at the trail split.

The trail travels through the trees for most of its distance to the lakes, the exception being the last steep bit that’s just ahead of a fine rocky open flower field that’s just before the first lake. (Be sure to note the waterfall on the left right before you start the steep uphill.)

There’s a well-used campsite at the south end of the first lake, though I think it’s too close to the water to use. I’ve camped on the rocky outcrop beyond and above that lake, and there are good camping spots at the second lake, which is almost hidden around to the right of the first.

The trail continues past the lakes and through the Bonny Lakes Basin. Above the lake and before the pass is where I’ve seen the best wildflowers. At the pass, it’s worth heading off trail to the flat high spot on the right on the Aneroid side in order to enjoy the views. But first, look behind you at the Bonny Lakes Basin in all its glory.

From the flat spot, you’re about as close to Aneroid Mountain as you can get without climbing it. Pete’s Point is to the west, a huge grey and brown rock with great swirly patterns. The ridge above Aneroid Lake is white and brown with zig zags and all kinds of other designs, some of them looking very three dimensional. The top is jagged in places, treed in others.

From the flat spot, it’s also an easy downhill to the junction with the East Fork Wallowa River Trail.

Note: One year I hiked the Tenderfoot Wagon Trail to the pass that’s above Bonny Lakes. The views of the basin from there were almost worth the effort it would take to get there from the lake side. (I came from the North Fork Imnaha, a much easier hike up.) In any case, the vantage point at that pass gave me a new view of the area from the trail divide up to the basin. It’s a lumpy, bumpy, basalt outcroppy area, much more interesting from above than is obvious when hiking through the area. The lakes themselves were almost hidden – in fact, we could see only part of one.

Directions: To reach the Tenderfoot Trailhead, drive 8 miles east out of Joseph on the Imnaha Highway, 350, then turn right on the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road, Road 39. Drive 12 miles and turn right on Road 100 and drive approximately 4 miles to its end and the trailhead. The Bonny Lakes Trail is about 2 ½ miles up the Tenderfoot Wagon Road Trail.

Information: U.S. Forest Service Wallowa Mountains Visitors Services, Joseph, OR, (541) 426-5546.

Maps: USGS Aneroid Mountain and Lick Creek, Oregon; Imus Geographics Wallowa Mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.

Connections: Turn right at the East Fork Wallowa River Trail to head to Aneroid Lake, through a lovely wet meadow, up a small hill and then down to Aneroid. Head left for Tenderfoot Pass and the North Fork Imnaha or Polaris Pass.

You can hike out from Aneroid Lake, a relatively easy car shuttle, or do a longer hike and head to the North Fork Imnaha Trail or the McCully Basin Trail.