Polaris Pass


Forest Service Trail #1831

Why? Fantastic views

Season: August and September

Ease: Moderate. It’s just 2 miles and 680 feet from the North Fork Imnaha River Trail to Polaris Pass. However, coming from the West Fork Wallowa, it would be difficult at 5 ½ miles and 2,300 feet.

If you’re anywhere near Aneroid Lake, Tenderfoot Pass or the upper North Fork Imnaha River, you shouldn’t pass up a side trip to Polaris Pass. The views from it are out of this world – well, maybe not out of this world, but definitely among the best in the world of the Wallowas.

Most impressive are the views west, into the heart of the wilderness. The Eagle Cap to Glacier Peak ridge is center front, its toothiness outlined against the sky. The Lakes Basin shows as dark green low country with a backdrop of mountains in grey, white and light brown. To the east, there’s the valley of the North Fork Imnaha and beyond, gentler and darker country to be sure.

From the origin of the trail on the east, at the North Fork Imnaha River Trail, it’s a short downhill and a long traverse around the drainage of one of the North Fork’s tributaries, then long switchbacks up above another tributary to the pass.

As to hiking up from the West Fork Wallowa, I can’t answer for that, cause I’ve never done the hike.

Directions: The trail to Polaris is 1/3 mile from Tenderfoot Pass, or 7.8 miles up the North Fork Imnaha from the Imnaha River Trail, and 2.8 miles up from Aneroid Lake on the East Fork Wallowa River Trail. The West Fork Wallowa River side is 8.4 miles from the Wallowa River Trailhead.

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

Maps: USGS Aneroid Mt, Oregon; Imus Geographics Wallowa Mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.

Connections: Polaris Pass connects the West Fork Wallowa River with the North Fork Imnaha River and the East Fork Wallowa River.