Lick Creek


Forest Service Trail #1809

Why? Using it makes for an easy car shuttle for several different through hikes, though a day hike to the divide might be worth it for the views from the top.

Season: Mid-June through October

Ease: Difficult. It’s 5 miles with 950 feet up and 1,680 feet down to the Imnaha River.

I don’t have fond memories of the first part of my first hike along the Lick Creek Trail. It was the last day of a superb six-day backpack that started up McCully and ended at the Lick Creek trailhead, choices that made for an easy car shuttle at both ends. The day was hot, and the three steep sections of the trail from the Imnaha River up to the Imnaha Divide seemed just that: steep. It was one of those days when my hiking buddy spent a lot of time waiting for me.

I have since hiked the trail in the other direction, from the Lick Creek trailhead in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, into the wilderness, then up and over the Imnaha Divide and down to the Imnaha River. That’s definitely the easier trip. Though there are some steep areas, they are much fewer in number and shorter in length, as evidenced by the extra 700 foot plus elevation change between the Imnaha and the top as compared to the trailhead and the top.

Going up from the trailhead also means that the least scenic part of the trip is the first, and that you get most of the steep stuff out of the way in the first mile or so. On the more positive side, there are lots of open meadows and flowers, in season, and early on, views east to the Seven Devils.

But from the top and for part of the way down, the views are more than just fine. You can see almost the entire South Fork Imnaha Valley, all the way until it makes its J-turn around Cusick at the end. Most dominant is Marble Mountain sitting above the junction of the North and South Forks of the Imnaha

There also are fine areas of big trees interspersed with small open areas.

But on the whole, I think this is a trail to use to get somewhere rather than a destination hike, a good hike to use to have an easy shuttle, as we did, or to enter the Imnaha River areas without driving to Indian Crossing.

Directions: Take the Imnaha Highway out of Joseph and turn right on the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road in 8 miles. Drive 15.75 miles, to Lick Creek Campground. Turn right at the entrance to the campground, off the Loop road and onto Forest road 3925. Drive 0.15 miles and turn right on forest road 015. Follow it for 2.2 miles to the trailhead, which is on the left.

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

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

Connections: The Lick Creek Trail ends at the Imnaha River Trail, near the confluence of the North and South Forks of that river.