At 9,018 feet, Needle Point is the 30th highest point in Wallowa Mountains of Oregon and the lowest point above 9,000 feet. While not among the highest points in the Wallowas overall, it is a very significant peak rising well above any of its close neighbors. In the southern Wallowas it is the third highest point after Red Mountain (9,555) and Krag Peak (9,048). The summit spire is one of the narrowest and most classic summits in the Wallowas. The extended flanks of the mountain support four subalpine lakes, with Eagle Lake tucked in a hanging valley on the southeast aspect being one of the largest Wallowa lakes.
The symmetrical, conical peak has straight slopes on three sides that are dissected by rugged ravines, while the north side is formed by a series of cirque basins and cliffs with a lake, old moraines and permanent snow fields. The north drains into the source of the Minam River and the south drains into Cached Creek and Eagle Lake, which together are the source of Eagle Creek. The mountain rises over 3,500 feet above the Minam basin and more than 2,700 feet above its foot in Eagle Creek. The mountain is composed mostly of granodiorite, which on the higher energy southerly aspects is often crumbly and powdery. There is little in the way of vegetation or brush on the peak with some scattered trees on the slopes above Eagle Lake and some stunted/matted trees on the high west aspect. Needle Point has 1,478 feet of prominence.
A heavy plastic bottle serves as a summit register on the small summit point. It appears to be lacking a book of any kind and people have jammed it full of any scraps of paper they may have scrounged up out of their pockets or packs. From the number of entries it appears this peak gets a fair amount of visitation, though most trails beyond the valley bottom are relatively small. Use of the area picks up during hunting season. Mule deer, elk and big horn sheep can all be seen here. The slopes between the mountain and Cached Lake are heavily used by wildlife and a good place to go to see or photograph wild animals.
Needle Point can be reached on extended hikes from most directions in the Wallowas. The most practical route to the mountain and the only one capable of being done in a (very long) day hike is the Eagle Creek Trail 1922. This trail runs approximately six miles from the Main Eagle trailhead at Boulder Park to the junction of Trail 1931. Trail 1922 turns west to Cached Lake, while 1931 turns east for another mile to Eagle Lake. This junction is very easy to miss and if one finds they have been traveling west for more than a few minutes, Trail 1931 has probably been missed. There is an old wood post with a fragment of a sign marking the junction, but in the brush it is very easy to miss it and the narrow track of 1931. The entire trip would require one to be on their feet for approximately 16 miles with a total ascent of just over 5,000 feet. It’s best to stay a night at Eagle Lake, Cached Lake or in the valley below.
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 many ways to reach the summit of this peak. This page covers routes from the south side only. Northern routes would require a much longer approach and more complex ascents.
The south side has several steep gashes in the face that provide a route to the top. But scout and proceed carefully because some meet impassable rock before reaching the summit. The substrate is crumbly, slippery decomposed granite that provides loose, often treacherous footing. These routes start on the 1922/1931 trail junction vicinity about a mile before Eagle Lake.
From Eagle Lake
There are two main ways to reach the summit from Eagle Lake. The first requires one to make a steep hike from just east of the west end of the lake up past the broad cliff on the east block of the upper mountain (~8,700 feet) to the main ridge dividing the Eagle and Minam basins. From here continue west on the main ridge toward the summit. Before the summit is reached, impassable rocks will be met. Here is necessary to carefully descend into the head of the ravine network that starts on the immediate southeast face of the upper summit. Then do a steep scramble up the near vertical granite to the top. Though this is very steep, there are many good steps. Its probably all class 3 scrambling, but one can easily find themselves on more difficult rock if they are not paying attention.
Another route from Eagle Lake follows the previous up to the start of the broad cliff near (8,700). On the south or left edge of this cliff a small run up loose soil and rock gets one around the feature and into the wide network of ravines that go directly to the upper summit wall. There will be about three ravines to ascend and cross. It doesn’t really matter how these are ascended, just look ahead to be sure you’re in the one that goes directly to the summit rocks when getting high on the slope. Depending on which way one goes, this will mean crossing two or three ravines. Once at the top of the ravine below the firm upper summit rocks proceed as with the previous route. Be wary in the ravines because the ground is very weathered and rocks of all sizes are loose. This is a potentially dangerous place.
This route is the easiest way to reach the summit of Needle Point. Its best to start from near Cached Lake, but one can cut straight up the hill from Trail 1922 if they don’t mind the steeper slope. If doing the latter, be sure to get west of the cliffs directly below the high point. From Cached Lake proceed northeast up the relatively gentle and rolling terrain below the steep rocks of the dividing ridge and the steep ground above Trail 1922 below. There will be some up and down in open tree-line country. Go up the west face of the summit through a miniature forest of stunted subalpine fir and whitebark pine to the top. The only hazard here is the bad footing due to the crumbling rock.
Red TapeThe 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 the Needle Point area are listed as follows:
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.
Eagle Lake 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. 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.
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. Closer to the mountain, there are several good camping spots at Cached Lake and also in the upper valley bottom well below the junction of the 1922 and 1931 trails. The latter provides more of a forest and creek setting. 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 and there are a lot of fish to catch in the Lake. For those spending more time in the general area, who don't need to be real close to Needle peak, 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.
There are also developed campgrounds at the Main Eagle trailhead; Two Color, about four miles before the trailhead on the 7755 road and Tamarack less than a mile east on the 77 road just north of its first junction with road 67.
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 on most of this mountain would be high. 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 InformationWallowa-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.