Eagle Cap


Forest Service Trail #1805

Why? Outstanding views in all directions

Season: Mid-July through the end of September

Ease: Strenuous, but “It wasn’t that bad.” It’s 1.4 miles and 1,200 feet up from the #1910 trail to the top, but you’ve already done 1.3 miles and 800 feet to get to that junction.

It took me many years of hiking in the Wallowas to finally get to the top of the mountain that gives the Eagle Cap Wilderness its name. I had always thought it would be harder than it turned out to be, and scarier, with drop offs. That I finally got there in the company of Dave Imus of Imus Geographics made it even more special.

Imus produced the Wallowa Mountain Eagle Cap Wilderness map that we all use when hiking there. Our hike was only his second trip up the Eagle Cap. The first was what started the map project. He said that on that trip, trying to identify what he was seeing with the map then in existence was difficult if not impossible. Hence, the fine map he produced.

In order to hike up the Eagle Cap, it’s necessary to spend the night before in the Lakes Basin, for the trip up Eagle Cap is best done early in the day, before any afternoon storms can appear. You’ll certainly want to have plenty of time when you reach the summit to spread out your map and check out all you can see. What you’ll realize when you do that is that although the Eagle Cap is not the highest mountain in the wilderness, it is the most centrally located. There are drainages running away from it in every direction.

Because of the height of the mountain and its surrounds, much of what you see is white, or just rock. The green valleys are too low to see. The Matterhorn is particularly impressive, a slab of white that seems to rise vertically from below, slashed by brown in places. Oddly, Sacajawea, though taller by a few feet, is hidden behind it.

Imus and I were both surprised that we could see a bit of the flat prairie east of Joseph from the top. I drove there later in the year just to confirm that sighting and could actually see the Eagle Cap from there. I think.

The hike up starts on the East Eagle Trail #1910 with a series of fine switchbacks above Upper Lake with wonderful views back down the East Fork Lostine Valley, then some steep bits to the trail junction. Trail #1910 continues to the right to Horton Pass, while #1805 goes left to the Eagle Cap. More switchbacks follow, through the rocks to the ridgeline – the worst part of hike, as it’s a windy, cold spot. The trail drops below the ridgeline shortly thereafter until it reaches a saddle at the base of the curve I recognized as the northwest side of the Eagle Cap. It’s pretty steep and drop-offy below the trail, but mostly treed so not too bad.

The final hutch to the top is another series of switchbacks, in the trees for a time, then in the open. More quickly than you might expect, you’re on the top, with Glacier Lake below and Glacier Peak to the south – and views much farther in all directions. The only negative the day I hiked was that it was hazy, so our views were not as good as they might have been. It was great having Dave there – he really does know how to read a map!

Directions: To reach the Eagle Cap, take the #1910 trail out of the trail junction between Mirror and Upper Lakes. Go left when the #1805 trail up Eagle Cap separates from the #1910 trail over Horton Pass and down the East Fork Eagle Creek.

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

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