East Eagle Creek


Forest Service Trail #1910

Why? A beautiful valley.

Season: Mid-July through September

Ease: Difficult. It’s 6.5 miles and almost 1,600 feet up to the Hidden Lake Trail, 7.5 miles and another 350 feet to the Frazier Pass Trail, and a total of 13.6 miles to the Lakes Basin trails with 3,910 feet up and 860 feet down.

The Wallowas have always seemed a good destination for those hikers who love rocks, and East Eagle Creek shows that off right from the start. That’s certainly what I remember most about this valley whether looking at vistas or just individual rocks.

There’s a fine pointed silver mountain called Granite Cliffs on the west side of the creek near the trailhead, with slabby triangles decorating its face. A bit farther along, while the creek is confined to a narrow bed, there’s a huge rectangular rock in mid-creek with waterfalls to one side. Looking up at the rock wall above, it’s possible to figure just where that rock might have come from.

Buttresses appear to support the ridge from Krag Peak to Jackson Peak on the east, white-dipped at the bottom, then brown all the way up to the bright green meadows at the very top. Jackson sports a particularly fine dark zigzag across its face, and there’s lovely pink granite on the East Eagle side of Horton Pass, the light colored rocks above decorated with dark grey triangular shapes.

The really good news about all this is that because the trail up East Eagle spends a lot of time in brush fields and relatively little time in timber, the ridges that define its valley and the rocks that make it attractive are in view for most of the hike.

The trail switchbacks up the steep slope below Horton Pass, with views back down East Eagle and of the ridge between Horton and Frazier Passes. From Horton, it’s about a mile down to the junction with the trail up the Eagle Cap. There are great views both from pass and on way down, especially of East Fork Lostine River basin, one of my favorite spots. The trail continues, switchbacking down to the junction with the Lakes Basin trails.

Note: Have I mentioned before that I’m a wildlife junky? Well, my first hike on East Eagle will always be remembered as much for the bear we watched one evening as for the wonderful rocks that are in view all the time. The bear was foraging in the brush on the other side of the creek, making it an acceptable viewing for my somewhat nervous hiking buddy.

Directions: Head south from Union, Oregon, on Oregon Highway 203. At Medical Springs, head southeast on Big Creek Road, which will turn into Road 67. Stay on 67 for 14.2 miles, then turn right or east on Road 77. In 6.6 miles, turn left on Road 7745, and drive to the trailhead 6.5 miles later. You also can take the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road east of Joseph, then turn west on Highway 86, north on Road 77, and right on Road 7745.

Information: 2U.S. Forest Service Wallowa Mountains Visitors Services, Joseph, OR, (541) 426-5546.

Maps: USGS Krag Peak, and Eagle Cap, Oregon; Imus Geographics Wallowa Mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.

Connections: East Eagle is the access trail for hiking to Hidden and Moon Lakes, the Minam River via Frazier Pass, the Eagle Cap, and a variety of trails out of the Lakes Basin, the East Fork Lostine and Hurricane Creek in particular. I hiked up the East Fork Lostine River and down East Eagle, a lovely through hike with a rather long car shuttle that was well worth the effort. In East Eagle, we camped near the outlet of Dennis Creek and a mile or two farther down in a heavily wooded area on the west side of the trail, day hiking to Hidden and Moon Lakes on the day between.