Hiking: The Wallowas
The Wallowas: WOW. One of the seven wonders of Oregon and understandably so. With numerous peaks, glacial lakes and a cool town close to the trailhead, this was the place my husband and I wanted to celebrate our one year anniverary. We just knew it would be some place special and that it was.
Hike: Wallowa Mountains Backpacking Trip- 4 days, 3 nights
Date: September 1st-4th, 2017
Hiking Buddy: Matt
Total distance: 41.6 miles
Permit required: Northwest Forest Pass ($30 for annual)
Beer pairing: Terminal Gravity-ESG
Day 1: Wallowa Lake Trailhead to Ice Lake
Total distance: 7.7 miles (3380 feet elevation gain)
We left Portland at 6 am and arrived at Wallowa Lake around noon, where we enjoyed a sandwich by the lake. Then we made our way by car to the trailhead, strapped on our packs and started up the challenging route to Ice Lake. The first section of the hike on trail #1820 (2.5 miles) was fairly easy and we were energetic. But as soon as we met up with trail #1808 and crossed a bridge over the Wallowa River, things got crazy. Up and up and up we went. We were hot, thirsty and needed some breaks along the way, including one at a breathtaking spot above Adam Creek Waterfall. Finally, we arrived at Ice Lake and found a camp spot pretty quickly just to our left, across the creek. After a quick set up we jumped in Ice Lake. Although it was freezing, we appreciated the cool-down!
Day 2: Matterhorn; Ice Lake to Six Mile Meadow
Total Distance: 13.9 miles
We woke up and Matt spotted 5 mountain goats through his binoculars while we were enjoying some coffee. Determined to catch up to them, we made our way around Ice Lake and began the hike up Matterhorn Mountain.
Along the way, we saw some goat poop and tracks and of course some amazing views. Although the 1.8 mile hike up was short in distance, it was pretty challenging due to a 1980 feet elevation gain. We never did catch up with those goats. We made our own way back down the trail, which added on some mileage but brought us around all the crevices of Ice Lake on the side we hadn’t explored. With a few hours until we needed to set out again, we cooled off again in the lake, packed up our stuff and headed back down trail #1808. This time when we crossed over the bridge, we turned right onto trail #1820 and hiked 3.8 miles to Six Mile Meadow, which would be our camp for the next two nights. We found the perfect camp spot next to some huge rocks and close to the river. Dinner, whisky, a moonrise and some star gazing and we were fast asleep.
Day 3: Six Mile Meadow to Lakes Basin
Total Distance: 14 miles
We woke up and were excited to have a whole day of hiking without our heavy packs. Our first stop was Horseshoe Lake, which as a bit of a climb at 2.8 miles and 1236 feet elevation gain. We were more than ready to jump in and found a little island with some rocks and cliffs for jumping.
On we continued for 1.2 miles to Lee Lake. We took a quick look and kept on going .4 miles to Douglas Lake, where we stopped to enjoy some lunch with our feet in the water. 2 more miles and we found ourselves at Moccasin Lake, which quickly became my favorite place, ever, ever. We crossed a land bridge and found ourselves with a 360 degree view of lake and mountains, one of which was Eagle Cap. We found the perfect 10 foot rock to jump off and did so a few times. We were told by a fellow jumper that after visiting this lake for several years, this was the first time the water wasn’t too cold to swim in. It was perfect.
Onward .6 miles to mirror lake, where I was ready for a 20 minute nap in the meadow. It was near dinnertime and we had 7 miles to get back to camp so we headed back with one more quick stop at Horseshoe for a dip. We made great time getting back and repeated our new routine of dinner, whiskey, moonrise and stars before we went to bed for our last night in the mountains.
Day 4: Six Mile Meadow to Wallowa Lake Trailhead
Total distance: 6 miles
We had a slow, leisurely morning, packed up and completed our 6 mile hike out, stopping to enjoy some wild raspberries, thimbleberries and blueberries along the way. Our reward for all of our hard work hiking was the amazing places we saw but also a night at the Jennings Hotel in Joseph and a few beers at Terminal Gravity! Next time we go-because we will absolutely be back- we have Eagle Cap and Glacier Lake on the to do list. If you haven’t been this place is a must! There are so many routes you can take to explore and I can’t say how they compare to ours but it seemed pretty perfect!