Polaris Point is a significant, yet often overlooked mountain along the Imnaha/Wallowa divide between Polaris Pass and Petes Point. This impressive bulk of a mountain is not labeled on most new maps, but is easily identified on any topographic map. Geologically it is primarily formed of slate of the Hurwal Formation, but areas of Martin Bridge limestone are also present. Some small but interesting basalt pinnacles poke out of its east slopes. This area is included in the Eagle Cap Wilderness
of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
Though easily accessible, this mountain is a bit off the main travel corridors and thus does not get a great deal of traffic. However, it’s an easy scramble via Polaris Pass and can easily be grouped with nearby Petes Point or Sentinel Peak for a multiple summit outing. There is no summit register (at least I couldn’t find one in the dark).
Other routes include plodding up through loose scree at many points from the 1831 trail on the south and east sides of the mountain. A more interesting and difficult climb would be from the vicinity of Six Mile Meadows 3,000 feet below in the West Fork Wallowa valley. Climb through the forest to the small hanging valley on the northwest side of the mountain. From here several difficult hikes or technical climbs are possible on the northwest face.
Polaris Point is best reached via the ridge north of Polaris Pass. There are three primary routes to Polaris Pass. From the Wallowa Lake trailhead either the West Fork trail (1820) or the East Fork trail (1804) will get you there. To get to the Wallowa Lake trailhead from Joseph, head south into Wallowa State Park. Keep to the left (straight) just beyond the lake and continue through the tourist trap developments to the end of the road. The trailhead starts next to the information board.
If taking 1820, follow the signs for the West Fork and Lake Basin and keep to the right when the trail splits soon after the trailhead. Continue up the West Fork for 8.6 miles to the Polaris Pass trail, 1831. It is approximately 4 miles of steep, seemingly endless switchbacks to the pass.
The 1804 trail leaves the Wallowa Lake trailhead and keeps left up the East Fork Wallowa River valley towards Aneroid Lake. From the trailhead hike 8.4 miles to the intersection of trails 1804, 1814 and 1831, which just south of Tenderfoot Pass. Turn right or west on the 1831 trail and follow it approximately 3 miles to Polaris Pass. This end of the 1831 trail is mostly a low grade hike with only a few switchbacks near the end.
The third route is from the Tenderfoot trailhead in the Sheep Creek drainage. To get to this trailhead drive into the north end of Joseph and after approximately 5 blocks turn left on Highway 350 also known as the Imnaha Highway or the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. Continue east for approximately 8 miles to the Wallowa Mountain Loop road, also known as the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway or Forest Service road 39. Look for this road very soon after Highway 350 turns northeast and drops into Little Sheep Creek canyon. Turn right on road 39 and drive approximately 14 miles to Forest Service road 100. Turn right and head up Big Sheep Creek a little over 3 miles to the trailhead.
From the trailhead hike up the 1819 trail for 7.1 miles to the junction with trail 1814. Turn right or north on the 1814 and continue 1.5 miles to the meeting of 1804 and 1831. Go left or west on the 1831 for about 3 miles to Polaris Pass.
Once at Polaris Pass, follow the ridge top goat trails north for a steep half mile to Polaris Pt. Though much of the rock is loose scree on this mountain, the footing of this broad ridge line is fairly firm.
A Northwest Forest Pass
cost $5 ($30/year) and is required to park at the trailheads. These can be purchased all all local Forest Service offices and at many area businesses.
A free wilderness permit is also required for overnight trips. These are available at the trailheads and a copy needs to be attached to your pack.
There are general wilderness regulations, but these can vary slightly depending on different areas to be visited. Specifics are generally posted at trailheads or call the US Forest Service visitor center ((541) 426-4978) in Enterprise to get the regulations for the particular places you wish to visit.
When To Climb
Most people climb the mountain from late June to October. Winter ascents are possible, but take additional skill and equipment. Snow can occur at any time of the year.
Excellent camping can be found in many places along any of approach routes especially in the headwaters of the North Fork Imnaha River or Tenderfoot Pass vicinity. A few nice camping spots are also found just below the 1831 trail on the east slope of the mountain itself, but these are further from water. Check the information boards at the trailheads for restrictions. Generally these prohibit camping within 200 feet of lakes and streams, but regulations can vary slightly in different places.
Current mountain conditions can be obtained from the US Forest Service visitor center, (541) 426-4978.