Oregon's Wallowa Mountains

Hiking the Lostine-Minam Loop, Part I
Loop Practicalities
(1 10 Ratings)
Scenery Solitude Difficulty Miles Elev. Gain Days Shuttle Mileage
9 4 6 43
4 6
(5 8)

Map: Geographics — Wallowa Mountains
Usually open: July to October
Best: Late July to September
Permits: Yes (free and unlimited)
Rules: No fires within 0.25 mile of Chimney, Laverty, Mirror, Moccasin, Steamboat, or Swamp Lake; maximum group size of 6 people / 9 stock in Lakes Basin, and at Minam and Blue lakes
Contact: Wallowa Valley visitor center, (541) 426-5546
Special attractions: Great mountain scenery
Problems: Crowded in spots; short road walk; unbridged stream crossings; thunderstorms

How to get there: Drive Highway 82 east from La Grande to the community of Lostine. Turn south on a paved road signed LOSTINE RIVER CAMPGROUNDS. The road turns to gravel after 7 miles and becomes Forest Road 8210. The route gets rougher and more bumpy as it goes up the canyon, but remains passable for passenger cars. Reach the Bowman trailhead some 15 miles from Lostine. If you have two cars, leave one here and the other 3.8 miles further south at Two Pan Camp, where there is a spacious trailhead.

This is one of several classic loop hikes in the Wallowa Mountains. Like the others, this one includes all the major attractions of this wonderful range. There are mountain lakes, high alpine passes, wildflower-filled meadows, clear streams, and granite peaks. These features make this hike fairly popular, but it's not as crowded as the Wallowa River Loop.

For those with less time or ambition, this route lends itself nicely to a shorter version. In fact, the most common way this trip is done skips East Lostine Canyon and Minam Lake, and heads directly up the West Lostine River to the Copper Creek Trail. Without side trips this alternate loop is only about 32 miles long. Don't forget your fishing gear (lots of lake and stream fishing is available), binoculars (to search for elk bighorn sheep and mountain goats), swimsuit, and, most of all, your camera (the scenery is terrific).

Here's a tip: Look for elk, deer, and mountain goats in this area, especially in the early morning and evening. You are walking through a classic U-shaped glacial canyon, which adds geologic interest to the fine scenery. The trail travels through a delightful mix of open forests, meadows, and boulder fields. At the head of the valley looms the distinctive shape of Eagle Cap.

From Two Pan Camp hike up the trail for 0.1 mile to a junction. The short version of this loop goes to the right. For a longer, more satisfying trip, keep left on the popular East Fork Lostine River Trail. The wide path makes a moderately steep climb through forests for the first 2.5 miles as it ascends toward the stream's high glacial valley. Views become more impressive near the top of the climb, especially of imposing Hurricane Divide to the east. All that climbing is rewarded when you enter the impressive glacier-carved upper East Lostine River Valley. Jagged ridges rise steeply on either side, while the crystalline river flows lazily through wildflower meadows on the valley floor. At the 3.2-mile point a large, swampy, wide spot in the stream goes by the name of"Lost Lake."

For the next few miles the trail remains nearly level as it wanders up this beautiful valley.


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