Bear Lake and the southwest aspect of Peak 8,721. The summit isn't quite visible.
From Needle Pt. The Summit Southeast Aspect
This is a fairly obscure mountain along the divide between the main fork of Eagle Creek and the East Fork of Eagle Creek in the southern Wallowa Mountains. It is not among the higher peaks in the Wallowas, but is a worthwhile mountain in a beautiful area while providing a variety of scrambling or climbing options. The mountain is X-shaped in cross section with a beautiful lake on the southwest side and a spectacular, 1,300 feet deep bowl with a pond in a very remote basin to the north. The northeast and southeast legs of the X continue on the rugged ridgeline of the main divide. The top rises about 2,600 feet above the adjacent bottom of Eagle Creek on the west and more than 3,500 feet above the East Fork of Eagle Creek to the east. From the Main Eagle trailhead a rise of a little over 3,700 feet is required to reach the summit. The mountain has 501 feet of prominence and is the second highest point on the approximately six mile long ridge.
Most of the mountain and ridge system it is a part of are metamorphosed sedimentary reddish-brown rock of the Hurwal formation. Light colored intrusions of white granodiorite are irregularly exposed throughout much of the area giving the landscape variable and contrasting color. There are also some dark brown dikes of flow basalts cutting throughout the more common rock types. The interaction of these formations is common across the south front of the Wallowas, though here they are finer and more fragmented than most other places, especially the north and central parts of the range.
There is no register on the summit and this ridge high point no doubt gets very few visitors. The views are great in every direction but especially to the east towards Krag Peak and Red Mountain beyond. On the west side the spectacular southerly aspects of Needle Point and unnamed Peak 8,587 dominate the view along with the unnamed highpoints on the divide with the East Fork of the West Fork of Eagle Creek.
The main west ridge from unnamed Peak 8,676. The upper SW aspect On the west ridge Eagle Ck. approach
The primary way to reach this summit is from the Main Eagle trailhead on 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.
The most practical way to reach this summit is via Bear Lake. There are probably a number of ways to scramble up from the 1910 trail on the East Fork of Eagle Creek, but none of these potential routes are covered here. The bowl on the northwest side is mostly crumbly technical rock, but there appears from a distance to be a difficult scramble route around the left or north margin of it.
To reach Bear Lake from the Main Eagle trailhead hike north on the 1922 trail for 4.1 miles to the junction of trail 1921, then take the 1921 trail for one mile to the junction with trail 1921A. Its another mile to Bear Lake. It is easy to miss the curve to Bear Lake and end up at Culver Lake, if so simple turn around a short distance and find the trail north. Once at Bear Lake the southwest slope of the mountain fills the few above the east side of the lake. There are numerous ways one can scramble to the top, but any direction will be more difficult that it appears because the substrate is so bad.
From the lake follow the trail around to the east side and head east through the forest to the rise of the steeper ground behind the trees. There are many ways up the slope, but there is a ring of crumbly granodiorite encircling much to the basin that can be avoided by a clear smooth run through it toward a brown protruding dike of basalt. Once there it is possible to move to the right below the smooth white rock and then cut up a run on the right side or simply pick ones way straight over the white rock that has a few scattered trees. It’s a choice between steeper, sometimes slippery rock or gravelly soil that slides down with every step.
Higher on the slope the substrate becomes reddish brown scree of backed sedimentary rock called the Hurwal formation. The grade is not terribly steep, but with the scree surface progress upward is very difficult. It might be best to slide sideways to the main ridge south of the high point and then follow that to the high point. The summit is uneventful but provides good views toward the upper Eagle Creek Basin and across the East Fork of Eagle Creek towards Crag Peak and Red Mountain.
The rugged northwest bowl and the west buttress.
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 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.
Bear Lake Above Culver Lake Above Bear Lake
Bear Lake is one of the most beautiful settings in these mountains and serves as the obvious spot to camp for an ascent of this mountain. The lake is ringed by a subalpine forest in a wide bowl of rock with small scattered trees. The area does not provide the above tree line rugged beauty of many lakes in the Wallowas or sit below a spectacular peak, but the graceful forest surrounding the T-shaped lake is a very tranquil setting. There is also an interesting subalpine wetland at the south end.
For those looking for other camping in the general area to help provide a better base for additional endeavors good camping may be found in the bottom of Eagle Creek near the 1922/1921 junction. This is bout four miles up from the trailhead. Camping in the area can also be found at Lookingglass Lake, which is 2.6 miles up the trail from the junction with 1922. This beautiful and deep lake is heavily used so don’t expect privacy. Its about a 2.6 mile hike between this lake and Bear Lake on fairly level ground. Culver Lake between these lakes has a few camping spots. To reach it follow the directions to Bear Lake, but don’t turn to the left for the last mile on 1921A. Culver Lake itself is less attractive than Bear Lake, but the cirque it occupies is very spectacular.
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. 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.
When To Climb
Most 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 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.