Chief Joseph Trail (Wallowa Lake Trailhead)

chief joseph trail footbridge

This is a trail that can be made short or long as you like and offers great views of Wallowa Lake within the first mile. It ultimately leads up to the top of Chief Joseph Mountain, a strenuous hike indeed.

This guide covers just the first part of the trail up to the second footbridge and back again with an optional side trip down to a lookout over Wallowa Lake and the convergence of two whitewater streams. The whole thing, round-trip, is about 3 miles and is not too hard and good for a casual hike. It's also especially fun for kids* and they'll feel like Indiana Jones finding treasure if you take note of some of the odd rock features you'll find in the gallery. Good luck on your hunt!

*Just keep a close eye on your kids and leash your doggie as there are steep drop-offs along the side-trip portion of the trail that heads down to the convergence/lookout. 


Take the West Fork trail at the Wallowa lake Trailhead and continue to the Chief Joseph Trail junction about 1/4 mile ahead. Go left upriver to the bridge and after a short distance the trail switchbacks to the north where you’ll find views of the lake. At a little over a half-mile you’ll encounter BC Falls which has a unique footbridge over a waterfall. It makes for a great final destination. The trail continues on for another 6.5 miles to a meadow in a saddle at the base of Chief Joseph Mountain at 7620’.

Be on the lookout for Pica, Mountain Goats, Mule Deer and the occasional Elk. Rubber Boa's and Western Toads are often found on the lower trail as well. Please, please, please! - leave wild creatures in their home. Kids especially want to take the Boas and Toads home and we see less and less of them every year.

This is an extraordinary spot with possibilities to explore or summit. Wildflowers abound in mid-June and the alpine setting will have you feeling like you should be singing in a musical. The views are awesome making it very hard to leave.

The gallery has photo captions that guide you on this special hike-


At the Wallowa Lake Trailhead head along the side of the hydro station on right fork (West Fork Trail #1804)

Map -1820 to1803

The trail to BC Creek Falls starts with the West Fork Trail (#1820) for about 1/4 mile to a short connecting trail that joins the Chief Joseph Trail (#1803). The short hike to BC Falls has 2 bridges and some fun rocks along the way.


Follow the dirt road/trail on the left of the hydro station to the signs.


A few yards up confirms you're on the right trail. You'll find that most trails in the Eagle Cap are well-marked, but you should still carry a map and compass If you're not familiar with the route.


The trail is not too steep and traverses through cool sub-alpine forest. Some places are rocky, but for the most part the footing is good.


As the trail rises the beauty of the mountain wilderness comes into view.


A quarter mile up and you reach the intersection. Go right then left.

CJ Trail

Head southwest (upstream) on Chief Joseph Trail #1803.

BC Creek Trail

If you go northeast, opposite the way of the sign (downstream) you'll reach an overlook on Wallowa Lake and the confluence BC Creek and the Wallowa River. WARNING: Now would be a good tiime to leash your pooch and take your little ones hand because on your left are some steep dropoffs (cliffs).

CJ Trail

In about a quarter mile you'll come to the first bridge. This bridge is OK for trained stock.


Before the bridge be on the lookout for the famous 'Least Pyramid:' a toe-stubbing feature of no renown.


The bridge is a a great place to watch the river flow.

West Fork

Depending on time of year, the river can be wild and spectacular but even in August it's still beautiful.


The trail switchbacks and rises over the bridge.

River View

The view from the switchbacks over the river are beautiful.


Tiny stunted ferns cover the slopes in some of the wetter places. Usually gone by August.

The Rock

Near the end of the switchbacks don't forget to say 'Hi" to the rock (Bad luck if you don't).


Just follow the arrow up the trail, I guess?

Lake View

The trail levels off at a nice little camp that overlooks Wallowa Lake.


Above the viewooint is a part of the trail that everyone loves. Very park-like.


The trail traverses through peaceful forest.

New Life

Nature never fails to amaze.

A Castle?

Turn around and look back: Is that a Castle Dome on the high ridge?


As you round a corner and head down, the footbridge comes into view.


This bridge was hand-crafted from a stout log and is just a little scary (especially to little ones).


The bridge is planed flat on the top.

BC Creek

BC Creek use to have a larger bridge; wide enough for horses and mules, but an ice dam broke loose above it and took it out.

BC Cr Falls

Hope you brought your camera!


The return trip has views you might have missed on the way up.


Since it's mostly downhill, slow down and take in the beauty all around you.


This dragonfly blends in perfectly. You may see toads, rubber boas, pica and many other animals if you keep alert.


The bridge is pretty from both directions.


If you want to see the Lake and the confluence of two rivers, head past the intersection of the West Fork Trail going downstream. WARNING: Now would be a good time to leash your pooch and take your little ones hands because on your left are some steep drop-offs (cliffs).


Peer over those cliffs at your own discretion.


Wallowa Lake comes into view.

Cliff View

More whitewater and Wallowa Lake.


Climb up the knob for a spectacular view over Wallowa Lake.


Looking back over the river. The far mountain in the gap is where the Ice Lake trail is.