The popular West Fork Wallowa River Trail (#1820) provides a primary gateway into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. It travels gradually upriver into all the regions that define area, including the always-popular Lakes Basin. While the initial visual rewards are a little slow in coming, it offers a warm-up for the less fit with its gentle grade. The fit can proceed on to the incredible features in the Eagle Cap. It works well for day hikers, trail runners, backpackers and horseman.
Six Mile Meadow and Beyond
As the name implies- six miles up the West Fork is where you’ll find a meadow- a beautiful and expansive one. You’ll follow the river in sub-alpine forest that winds its way through varied plant communities and past numerous springs, wildflowers and mountain views. At about the three mile mark, it’s worth the short diversion to the footbridge that goes to Ice Lake as the river is quite beautiful there. All in all, the trail gains just 1450’ to the meadow, making this one of the easier hikes of the area.
Beyond this you’re presented with two choices that lead you into the Lakes Basin- you could stay the trail, gaining 1200‘ in 4 miles ending up at Frances and Glacier Lake. Or, you can cross the footbridge (Trail #1810) over the river and proceed, steeply at times, another 2.5 miles (gaining 1400’) into the Lakes Basin at Horseshoe Lake. The latter is the more popular choice since it puts you into the main area with most of the lakes. The Lakes Basin has special rules- please read and understand them (posted at all trail entrances).