Hurricane Creek


Forest Service Trail #1807

Why? Slick Rock Canyon, views of the Matterhorn, and access to a fine high rocky area near the Lakes Basin.

Season: Mid-June through October for the lower areas, a month or more less either end for the higher areas.

Ease: Moderate to difficult. It’s 3 miles and just 600 feet up to Slick Rock Canyon, 5 miles and 900 feet up to the Echo Lake Trail, a total of 10 ½ miles and 2,600 feet up to the junction with the Lakes Basin Trail.

Hurricane Creek is probably one of the most popular day hikes in the Wallowas. Slick Rock Creek, a destination worth hiking to, is a short and easy 3 miles in. What those who stop at Slick Rock miss, however, is a lot more really fine scenery and a relatively easy entry into the Lakes Basin.

The trail to Slick Rock and beyond covers varied terrain, alternating between forested areas and wide open meadows, all the while mostly staying well above Hurricane Creek. In season, expect wildflowers in the meadows, including an unusual pale yellow anemone in the big meadow a mile shy of Slick Rock. At all times, expect nice views of the divides on either side of the creek. On the west side, some are topped with the brown glacial rubble I’ve come to associate with the Eagle Cap Wilderness. All told, it’s a friendly canyon because those divides are far enough apart that you don’t feel closed in by them.

Hurricane Creek makes an abrupt right turn about 3 miles in, disappearing briefly into a deep silver grey canyon with vertical sides. The creek reappears on the canyon’s other side as a series of small waterfalls, chutes and aqua pools against the same silvery rocks. On the right, Slick Rock Creek cascades down the mountain side. Early in the season, snow and ice make it even lovelier.

There’s an uphill after Slick Rock, along the chutes and pools, after which the west side of ridge containing Sacajawea Peak and the Matterhorn becomes more and more visible. At first, it’s just an irregular slab of white rock rising over 3,000 feet above the trail. But soon, the white is broken with brown lines slashing the surface. Once you cross the creek at a bit past 5 miles in from the trailhead, you walk through rubble fields that have fallen from the ridge. A few miles later, the trail detours around ruins – a couple of old, falling-down buildings – and passes a fine campsite with a view of the Eagle Cap.

Toward the end of its 10 ½ miles, the trail heads uphill before its junction with the first of the Lakes Basin trails, #1810.

Trail Notes: The trail passes through a clearing and crosses Hurricane Creek just past the 5-mile mark and the trail to Echo Lake. There’s no bridge and the crossing isn’t obvious. If you find yourself following a progressively fainter trail before crossing, you may have gone too far.

If you hike out Hurricane Creek, be sure to look back often as you near the trailhead. You’ll see Sacajawea, the highest peak in this wilderness, front and center, with a snow-spotted bowl at it’s top.

Directions: In Enterprise, turn east onto Highway 82. At the south end of town, 82 goes left to Joseph, and the Hurricane Creek road is a signed right at that bend in 82. Stay right at the sign when the road splits again, the left going to Joseph. There’s a campground on the left a couple miles in, and the trailhead is at the road’s end a couple miles farther.

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

Maps: USGSChief Joseph Mountain and Eagle Cap, Oregon; Imus Geographics Wallowa Mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.

Connections: The Hurricane Creek Trail is a fine entry into the Lakes Basin and its trails, #1810 and #1810A. From there you can go almost any direction in the wilderness: to the West Fork Wallowa River, East Eagle Creek, East Fork Lostine River, West Fork Lostine River, and beyond. The Echo Lake Trail is a right about 5 miles from the trailhead.