The Main Lakes Basin


Forest Service Trails #1810 and #1810A

Why? Fine alpine lakes and a good connector to the West Fork Wallowa River Trail

Season: July through September

Ease: Easy to difficult, depending on how far you hike and to which lakes.

I’ll admit right up front that the Lakes Basin isn’t my favorite spot in the Wallowas. Not that it doesn’t contain some lovely lakes and views, for it does. But it’s arguably the most popular place in the wilderness and thus not really my kind of place.

You can get to the main lakes basin in several ways, the easiest probably being the trail up the East Fork Lostine River. Once there, you’ve many choices of camping spots, many fine connections, and a nice circle hike around some of the basin.

The circle hike would start on 1810A heading east part way along Mirror Lake. I assume that Mirror was so named because it often holds the reflection of the mountain that gave this wilderness its name, the Eagle Cap. It is a lovely lake with many lovely campsites, many of which are much too close to the lake and hopefully closed off for good.

Part way along Mirror’s north, rocky shore, head left or south along the #1810 for one of my favorite miles of Wallowa trail. It’s a short uphill to Sunshine Lake, a great break or swim spot. From there, the trail travels through one of those high Wallowa areas, an up there and out there place. It’s marshy much of its distance, with wonderful small stream meanders. Pink rocks line some of the way, rocks that are an amazingly regular rectangular shape. In season, the flowers are wonderful. As you near the junction with the trail up Hurricane Creek, the views of the Matterhorn are quite fine.

The #1810 trail is a right at that junction. There are a few switchbacks for about a mile down through the rocks, at which point the trail appears to divide. The left goes to Crescent Lake, a lake with trees and rocks, good campsites, and a backdrop that’s the tail end of the Hurwal Divide. The right is #1810 and continues along and past Douglas Lake.

The trail junction east of Douglas is with #1810A, which heads south and west past Moccasin Lake and the junction with the trail up to Glacier Pass and eventually back to Mirror Lake. It’s woods most of the way until Moccasin, then up and then flat to Mirror in the open with fine views back for the incredible turquoise color of Moccasin.

If, however, you’re wanting to hike down to Six Mile Meadow, the #1810 trail continues east past Douglas Lake. The first 1½ miles, from Douglas Lake to Horseshoe Lake, is another truly fine bit of hiking. It’s through woods, high above Horseshoe and Lily Pad Lakes and snuggled up next to rock cliffs. There are views back to the Eagle Cap and Glacier Peak ridge and of the unnamed mountain above Crescent and Douglas Lakes – and of course of Horseshoe and Lily Pad Lakes. Ahead, there’s the ridge above the West Fork Wallowa from Pete’s Point via Polaris Pass to Sentinal Peak and beyond to Cusick Mt. There’s lots of brown on that ridge, highlighted by lighter colors.

The last 3 miles of trail down into Six Mile Meadow get there more or less gently, with good views much of the route of the West Fork high areas all the way into its basin below Frazier Lake. At the bottom, there are two crossings of the West Fork Wallowa at Six Mile Meadow. The bridge indicated on some maps is no longer there. The crossing closest to Six Mile is the deepest, but was not fast running in early August the year I hiked it when, I was told, the crossing up below Frazier Lake was thigh deep

Trail Notes: The maps show the #1821 trail connecting at both ends with the #1810 trail at Horseshoe. It doesn’t seem to be there at either end, and in addition, the trail to Unit Lake also appears to be missing or covered over. Upper Lake, along the trail to Carper Pass is well worth visiting, with great camping above it on a rocky hill.

Directions and Connections: You can reach the main Lakes Basin covered here in several ways: The most direct are the Hurricane Creek Trail, West Fork Wallowa to Six Mile Meadow, and East Fork Lostine.

From the basin you can also reach the West Fork Lostine and East Eagle Creek trails as well as the trail up the Eagle Cap.

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

Maps: USGS Eagle Cap, Oregon, covers all but the last bit of the #1810 trail down into Six Mile Meadow, which is on USGS Aneroid Mtn., Oregon; Imus Geographics Wallowa Mountains Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.