Bowman Trail


Forest Service Trail #1651

Why? Access to the Brownie Basin, North Minam Meadows, and the trail to Chimney and Hobo Lakes

Season: Mid-July through September

Ease: Difficult. It’s 5 miles and about 2,500 feet up from the trailhead to Wilson Pass, almost the same amount down to North Minam Meadows over another 5 miles.

For me, the Bowman Trail is an access trail rather than a trail to hike for its own sake – though I won’t deny that the views from the switchbacks on the way up are quite nice. The higher you go, the better they get. Eagle Cap Mountain appears over the treetops relatively early, with other peaks in the wilderness following suit.

The first place to get to from this trail is the Brownie Basin, about 3 ½ miles and 2,000 feet up. It’s a long stretch of meadow bisected by Bowman Creek, with treed boundaries that look like hiding places for the myriad of animals that you assume frequent the basin at night. It makes for a fine camping spot.

The trail to Chimney and Hobo Lakes (hike 27) is on the slope west of Brownie. Both – but especially Hobo – are worth the extra miles and elevation needed to visit them. I’ve never hiked to Wood Lake, also reachable from that trail, for it sits way down in the trees and for that reason, doesn’t look all that interesting.

Wilson Pass, a couple of switchbacks above the basin and between the Lostine and Minam River drainages, offers good views in both directions, but especially of the Brownie Basin and of Twin Peaks, Marble Point and the trail up to Frances Lake. The foreground is of light colored ridges topped with black.

From the pass, the trail is switchbacked and in the open most of the way down to the trail to John Henry Lake (another lake in the woods that I haven’t visited). Then it’s woods down to a falls, more switchbacks down into North Minam Meadows. The views aren’t as fine on this side as there are no high peaks, but you can see the meadow from some places, with hillsides and a ridge with a lookout beyond.

I visited North Minam Meadows because they were described in William O. Douglas’ book Of Men and Mountains. My experiences camping at the meadows were not as good as his. There was one other set of campers there that arrived after us, and they chose to camp right next to us. They had an unrestrained, barking dog, so wildlife was not going to happen. And believe me, North Minam is a place that looks like it should have a lot of wildlife. It’s a long and lovely meadow bounded by lots of trees. If it weren’t so out of the way, so to speak, I’d go back and try again.

Directions: Turn right on Highway 82 at the stop sign in Enterprise, then left 10 miles later in Lostine onto Road 8210 at the sign for Lostine River campgrounds. Bowman trailhead is on the right 15 miles down that road, and parking is on the left a bit farther down the road. There are several campgrounds and individual campsites along the way.

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

Maps: USGS North Minam Meadows, Oregon; Imus Geographics Wallowa Mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.

Connections: You also can reach the Bowman Trail from it’s North Minam Meadows end via the North Minam River Trail #1675, which branches off the Minam River Trail #1673, or off of trail #1656 up Copper Creek, or via trail #1676, also off the Minam River. Trail #1673, The Chimney Lake Trail is a right at 3.8 miles up the trail coming from the Lostine, the John Henry Lake Trail a left at 6.3 miles, the Bear Creek Trail a right at 7.3 miles.