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East Lostine to Eagle Cap Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Eagle Cap from East Fork Lostine (Jerry Adams)
East Fork Lostine from Upper Lake below Eagle Cap (Jerry Adams)
There are several easy bridges back and forth across East Lostine (Jerry Adams)

Contents

Hike Description

This is the easiest way up one of the Wallowas big peaks. That means it's also one of the most popular - you don't go here for solitude. But, since it's so far from the trailhead, it's not as crowded as it might be, and the people you run across are generally pretty friendly and appreciative of the wilderness.

The approach up the East Lostine is a long, beautiful, glacier carved meadow area with great views of Eagle Cap. Expect to pass some horses.

Most people go about half way up and camp along the East Lostine or at it's head at Mirror Lake, and then do Eagle Cap as a day hike. The first place you get to for camping, at Mirror Lake, is pretty crowded, but the area is expansive so it's possible to get some solitude.

There's a trail that goes up Eagle Cap. Because of the elevation, it's snow covered until maybe August. And expect snow to return in September. Eagle Cap is a few hundred feet short of other peaks, like the Matterhorn or Sacajawea, but you have to go cross country to get to them.

Of course, the views from Eagle Cap are amazing. Try to get a clear day - when I did it there was a lot of forest fire smoke.

Detailed Description

Start at Two Pan trailhead (5600 feet elevation). For a short distance there are parallel trails for horses and hikers.

After about 0.3 miles is a junction. Stay left. You could make a loop and come back on the right, on the West Lostine.

The first 3 miles is through forest, fairly steep, gaining 1500 feet elevation, along the East Lostine, which is more of a large stream than a river. There are several campsites if you get a late start.

The next 3 miles are through sub-alpine meadow. Very flat. This has to be the longest, straightest, flatest glacier meadow valley. Nice wild-flowers. Excellent views of the ever-closer Eagle Cap as you walk along. Very scenic ridges on both sides of the valley. Expect to pass some horses - this is a very popular horse area.

The trail crosses the East Lostine a couple times on easy bridges.

There are possible campsites along here, but I hate to ruin meadow areas by even walking on them. After one of the bridges, there's an old trail that backtracks a ways that goes to a nice campsite.

Then it's 1.2 miles and 500 feet, through forest, up to Mirror Lake. There's a couple side trails going down to the river to campsites.

At 7.2 miles from the trailhead is a trail junction and the end of the East Lostine Trail. Keep going about 0.1 mile to Mirror Lake - a very scenic alpine lake with mirrored views of Eagle Cap and surrounding mountains.

This is the most obvious camping area. Right there at Mirror Lake is the most obvious place to camp. Expect to see several groups already there.

There's a nice campsite at Upper Lake, about 0.2 miles from the junction.

There are some campsites along the trail going towards Carper Pass.

If you go to the left (Northeast) off the trail, from the junction, within 0.1 miles there area a number of nice campsites - this is probably your best bet for privacy.

Probably the best drinking water would be from the outflow of Upper Lake - the headwaters of the East Lostine and Mirror Lake.

To continue up to Eagle Cap, follow the signs - turn right at the end of East Lostine Trail junction and go less than 0.1 mile to another junction. Go left (right is the trail up to Carper Pass).

Up to here the trail is a dirt trail - very easy - kind of dusty. Beyond here it's still a good trail, but it becomes rocky so you have to choose your steps carefully at places.

The trail goes about 0.8 miles and 600 feet elevation gain up to the junction with the trail to Horton Pass, which is right, about 0.2 miles further.

Stay left to go to Eagle Cap. After about 0.4 miles the trail reaches the Horton Pass ridge at 8700 feet elevation.

The trail then follows along, just on the back side of this ridge another mile to Eagle Cap at about 9600 feet elevation.

If you want to make a loop, from Mirror Lake, stay right, going to the right of Upper Lake. It's about a mile and 800 feet up to Carper pass. Then down to Minam Lake and down the West Fork Lostine back to Two Pan.

Another day trip from Mirror Lake is the "Lake Loop". Down one side of Douglas Lake, down to Horse-shoe Lake, and then back up the other side of Douglas Lake. About 8.6 miles and 500 feet elevation gain total.

An extension of this hike is to go up to Glacier Lake. More scenic, alpine, and less crowded than Mirror Lake. "Sierras-like" slabs of granit everywhere. Nice camping. From the end of East Lostine Trail junction, go down the Lake trail along Mirror Lake about 0.3 miles to a junction. Stay right and go about 0.7 miles to another junction. Go right following the signs to Glacier Pass and Glacier Lake. It's about 2 miles and 1000 feet elevation gain up to Glacier Pass. 0.5 mile and 200 feet down to Glacier Lake.

I was looking at ways from Glacier Lake to Eagle Cap. I saw two possible routes. The cliff between Eagle Cap and Glacier Lake looks pretty impassable, but you could go up to near the base of that cliff and walk over to the trail below Horton Pass, and then go up it. Another route would be to go from Glacier Lake to the pass Southeast of Eagle Cap, and then up that ridge which looked straightforward. There's also an impassable cliff Southwest of Eagle Cap.

For more info call:

    Forest Service in Joseph 541-426-5546 or 541-426-4978 
    

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Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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