High & Wild in Eastern Oregon
It's difficult to see the magnitude of the Wallowa Mountains from the valley floor. You have to hike up into the wilderness, or take the Wallowa Lake Tramway gondola from the lake to the summit of Mount Howard (8,150 ft.). You can access three main trails the Chief Joseph, Aneroid Lake, and West Fork to hike into the Eagle Cap from the lower lake area. We chose instead to ride the gondola and do our hiking/trail running/viewing workout at 8,000-plus elevation. The four-person gondola costs about $15 per person and takes 15 minutes to get to the top. You can expect deli food and lattes on top, fearless (and fat) chipmunks and ground squirrels (please buy the bags of chipmunk food) and occasional shy deer as you venture out on the paths. The tram operates from late May through September, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Visitors of various physical abilities will find two miles of gentle paths on top with viewpoints not only into the Eagle Cap but also across Wallowa Lake into rangeland and over the Hells Canyon Recreational Area to the Seven Devils Peaks in Idaho.
We followed an unmarked but well-used trail south along the ridge, through meadows, alpine forest, tundra, and a final rock scramble to East Peak, at more than 9,000 feet. The view included 9,838-foot Sacajawea Peak and the 9,826-foot Matterhorn; McCully Basin to the east; and snowfields, meadows, high lakes, and stunning wild-water either mile-long rushing waterfalls or Class VI rapids, we couldn't decide which. The hike was great preparation mentally and physically for the three-day trip we would embark on the next morning.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication