Carper Pass


Forest Service Trail #1661

Why: Route from the East Fork Lostine to the West Fork, plus awesome views from the pass itself.

Season: Mid-July through September

Ease: Moderate. It’s a 3¾ mile journey from East to West Fork, about 1,000 feet in elevation change.

While I’m sure most hike this trail to make for a fine loop hike up one fork of the Lostine and down the other with no car shuttle, it’s shortchanging Carper Pass not to visit it even if you’re not doing the loop. The views in both directions are grand. To the east, there’s the Matterhorn-Sacajawea Ridge, the Lakes Basin, and the Eagle Cap. For some unknown reason, the latter looks bigger from here than from anyplace else I’ve seen it. To the west, there’s the Minam Lake basin, Blue Lake, the well-named Brown Mountain, and a place that had eluded me for years, Wonker Pass (hike 55).

Getting to Carper is perhaps most interesting from the east. It seems somewhat steep for maybe the first ½ mile. Then it’s just too lovely to notice any climb, as the trail passes through flat spots, wet spots, scattered white bark pine and, of course, the usual rocks. What look like perfect camping spots abound.

From the west, the trail climbs gently and evenly from Minam Lake to Carper, passing through one of those wonderful high elevation open areas just before the pass. Many years ago, I passed a troop of boy scouts hiking up as I was hiking down. They probably reached the open area about the time I reached the lake. At which point, a wild lightning storm broke out, igniting the crown of a tree at the south end of the lake. I have often wondered what it was like for the scouts up there on top during that storm.

Directions: The trail to Carper Pass stretches from the southern end of the trail up the West Fork Lostine (hike 21) to the southern end of the trail up the East Fork Lostine (hike 25).

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

Maps: USGS Eagle Cap, Oregon; Imus Geographics Wallowa Mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness map.