Lookingglass, Culver and Bear Lakes


Forest Service Trails #1921 and #1921A

Why? Fantastic views of the Main Eagle Valley plus fine mountain lakes.

Season: Mid-July through September, possibly earlier.

Ease: Moderate. It’s 2.6 miles and 1,380 feet up from Main Eagle up to Lookingglass, another mile with 400 feet up and 100 feet down to Bear Lake.

Although all three of the lakes are lovely and worth visiting, the hike up to them would be worthwhile even if the lakes weren’t there. That’s because once you get up a few hundred feet, you are treated to the gorgeous scenery of the Main Eagle drainage and its surrounds. Bench and Copper Canyons are on the west. When you look at the former you can see just how steep the trail up or down it must be, for it’s a high canyon with a short, steep descent into the valley. Needle Point is just west of the head of the drainage, with the route to Eagle Lake skirting its eastern slopes. The lake, however, isn’t visible. South of Needle is the Cached Creek Drainage and the route to the moonscape beyond.

Lookingglass, like many of the Wallowa Lakes, is damned. But from our vantage point once we reached it, the dam is not visible. Instead, there’s just a lovely blue lake with a small, rocky island to one side. We watched bees working the buttercups near where we sat for lunch.

Culver is nicely set against a cliff with snow, even in July. The meadow between it and the trial was wet, but worth the walk. We snacked there while watching a myriad of small fish leap out of the water only to fall back in. I’m told that they do that to escape bigger fish or other potential predators below.

Bear Lake also is set against a cliff at its far end, but has a fine meadow to the side that would make a great camping spot. In addition, on the way to Bear we got even better views of the Cached Creek Drainage than we’d had before.

Trail note: The first part of the trail up to the lakes above Main Eagle is steep and not well graded. When I hiked it, there were a myriad of washouts and deep ruts.

Directions: The trail to Lookingglass Lake is on the right about 4 miles up the Main Eagle Trail, and the trail to Bear and Culver Lakes is 1 mile up that trail, on the left.

Information: U.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.