At 8,587, this unnamed peak is not one of the higher mountains in the Wallowas. In fact its not in the top 50. However, the mountain is still a great hike and has several worthwhile features. It has 567 feet of prominence.
The mountain takes the form of a point on the south end of a long, gentle ridge. The geology of this ridge is worth a trip in itself. The lava of the flow basalts caps the granodiorite on the ridge before the latter emerges to form the mountain itself. The dark brown decomposing basalt gives the area a lunar appearance devoid of almost all vegetation except for a few oases like mats where springs emerge. Ghostly white erratic boulders from the higher elevations litter the dark basalt. A few small caves can bee found where the basalt camp breaks above the trail to the east.
The north side of the mountain is formed by a large bowl that forms a hanging basin before spilling down the ledges eventually to the Cached Lake cirque over 1,200 feet below. The west, south and east sides of the mountain form the large slopes of the terminating ridge that rise abruptly 3,000 feet above the floor of Eagle Creek. From the southerly and easterly directions this unnamed mountain presents a striking pose.
There is no summit register, only a small cairn. However, from the trampled appearance, it is obvious that this summit gets visitors. Though it is a relatively low summit, it is placed perfectly for tremendous vies of the higher peaks and crags of the Eagle/East Eagle divide to the southeast. Beyond this Krag Peak and even Red Mountain can be seen. To the west three pronged high divide between Eagle Creek and West Eagle Creek dominates the view. Looking north, the fabulously painted flat lunar ridgeline dominates the view, but beyond the broad Minam River canyon, the multi summated ridge from Brown Mountain to Hazel Mountain provides a dramatic back drop. Use of the area picks up during hunting season. Mule deer, elk and big horn sheep can all be seen here. The entire basin area of Cached Lake is heavily used by wildlife and a good place to go to see or photograph wild animals.
There are three primary ways to reach this peak; all of which start at the Main Eagle trailhead on the East Fork of Eagle Creek. To reach the Eagle Creek trailhead from Baker City and Interstate 84, get on the interstate in downtown Baker City and go north for five miles to Exit 298. Exit and turn right on Chandler Lane/OR Highway 203 (also called the Medical Springs Highway). Continue for 18 miles to the small town of Medical Springs. There are only a few buildings here. Turn right on the Big Creek road that runs southeast away from town. After approximately three miles the road enters National Forest lands and is numbered Road 67. Stay on this road for approximately 15 miles until it meets Road 77 (Eagle Road) after crossing the West Eagle Creek. Turn left on road 77 and go almost a mile. Road 77 turns away to the left, but keep straight on road 7755. Continue approximately five miles to the Main Eagle trailhead. This drive requires approximately an hour and a half from Baker City.
There are three main routes to this summit. All start at the Main Eagle trailhead.
From the Main Eagle trailhead hike north for 2.7 miles on the 1922 trail to the junction of the 1937 trail. Trail 1937 is small and a sign warns that it is not maintained. Take the 1937 up the steep Bench Canyon to the divide between Eagle Creek and the Minam River. This is approximately 2.5 miles and two lakes, Arrow Lake and Heart Lake are passed. From the divide there is an option to go east cross country on the ridge to get on the northwest ridge of the mountain or stay on the trail, which will descend a few hundred feet before turning east and climbing the same ridge a bit further north. Once on the ridge one must work their way to the bowl below the north face and go straight up to the summit. Staying on the ridge will only lead to impassable rocks when the aspect turns to the south.
From the Main Eagle trailhead hike north for about 3 miles to be positioned on the south side of the mountain. This aspect can be hiked in a number of gully routes directly from the trail to the summit. Some, especially those going straight south will likely encounter impassable rocks just before the summit. The gully that starts at the junction of the 1921 trail (4.1 miles up from the Main Eagle trailhead) and faces southeast has what appears from the summit to be the best route for the scrambler to attain the top.
From Cached Lake
From the Main Eagle trailhead hike north for 5.8 miles to the junction with the 1931 trail that cuts east to Eagle Lake. This junction is very obscure and easy to miss. Its not necessary to notice it because the 1922 trail will turn west and continue for about two miles to the fascinating lunar-like ridge that runs north from the summit. After traveling about half this distance, the trail goes by Cached Lake, which is a good camping spot. From the ridge above one can turn south and work the ridge to the summit, but this will require dropping off into the north bowl at some point to get around impassable rocks near the top. Its best to leave the trail while still to the west of the ridgeline. The best place to do this is in the vicinity of where the trail turns to the west and before it turns north just before reaching the ridgeline. The north bowl at the foot of the summit is clearly visible, but the ground in between is not. There will be some small ravines or rocks to cross depending on the path taken. All are easily navigated. Once in the bowl hike near its far end and simply turn up the slope and hike directly to the summit.
The Eagle Cap Wilderness has become very popular and resource damage is becoming common in some areas. Complete regulations are available on the Wallowa-Whitman website. Some of the more important regulations to consider for a trip into this area include:
Entrance into the Eagle Cap Wilderness with a party of more than 12 persons and/or 18 head of stock is prohibited. Large groups multiply impacts to the wilderness and disrupt the solitude of others.
Camping within 100 feet of lakes and 100 feet of posted wetlands unless the site is designated as a campsite is prohibited.
If coming from an extended hike elsewhere, especially the Lakes Basin, be aware of specific area regulations that may apply in those areas. These would be listed on the above website. It is important that all wilderness regulations and no-trace camping techniques be followed in these especially sensitive areas. If your trip includes a stay at Eagle Lake, realize that area is closed to campfires due to lack of firewood and excessive impact. Campfires are prohibited within 1/4 mile (1,320 feet) of this lake.
Entering the Eagle Cap Wilderness without a permit is prohibited. The free, self-issue permits are being used to collect visitor use information only. Only one permit per group is necessary. The self issue Registration/Permit boxes are located at each trailhead near the information board. Place the trailhead copy of the permit in the registration box and carry the visitor portion with you while in the wilderness. It is helpful to have the permit tied to a backpack or saddlebags where Wilderness Rangers can see them.
A Northwest Forest Pass is necessary for parking at some Eagle Cap Wilderness Trailheads, including Eagle Creek. These mandatory passes cost $30 per year, or $5 per day, and are for sale at all Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Offices, the Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center in Enterprise, or at local businesses in the towns of, Wallowa, Enterprise, Joseph, Wallowa Lake, La Grande, Elgin and Baker City. Northwest Forest Passes may also be available at commercial outlets and national forest offices in other locations around Oregon and Washington. The passes will allow visitors to park at many other national forest trailheads across Washington and Oregon.
There are no developed campgrounds in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, but at large camping is allowed basically anywhere. However, camp in the trees if possible and avoid meadows and places easily trampled. Good camping locations are scarce in the lower end of the Eagle Creek basin, but starting near the 1921 trail junction (about four miles up) some descent camping spots can be found. These are is at the immediate south foot of the mountain. There is also good camping at Cached Lake and in the valley bottom well below the junction of the 1922 and 1931 trails. These areas are northeast and east of the mountain respectively. Camping at Eagle Lake is severely limited to a couple spots on the extreme west end. These are tight and because they are so close to the lake, campfires are not allowed. If you do not need one and you can get a spot, this is an exceptionally beautiful setting though it’s a bit further from the mountain, but may be desirable if including a climb of adjacent Needle Point. For those spending more time in the general area camping can be found at Looking Glass Lake, Culver Lake or Bear Lake, which are located between one to two and a half miles up the 1921 trail. On the west side Heart Lake and Arrow Lake are available and close to the mountain.
There are developed campgrounds at the Main Eagle trailhead; Two Color, about four miles before the trailhead and Tamarack less than a mile east on the 77 road after its first junction with road 67. All of these are outside of the wilderness boundary.
When To ClimbMost people climb this mountain in the summer or fall. Getting here in the spring or winter would be a serious chore and impossible unless one was skilled at extended back country winter travel. Avalanche danger could be a problem on parts of this. In the summer come prepared for a variety of weather conditions regardless of the forecast. Local weather can change suddenly and be severe at any time.
Mountain Conditions and Information
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Headquarters
P.O. Box 907 / 1550 Dewey Avenue
Baker City, Oregon 97814
TDD (541) 523-1405
Wallowa Mountains Office and Visitor Center
Eagle Cap Ranger District
Wallowa Valley Ranger District
88401 Hwy. 82
Enterprise, OR 97828
(541) 426-5546 TDD (541) 426-5609
La Grande Ranger District
3502 Hwy. 30
La Grande, Oregon 97850
Visit the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest webpage for current conditions including weather, advisories or other valuable information.