Eagle Cap Wilderness Overview
The Eagle Cap Wilderness lies in the heart of the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon on the Wallowa -Whitman National Forest. This country was first occupied by the ancestors of the Nez Perce Indian Tribe in 1400 A.D. and later the Cayuse, the Shoshone and Bannocks. The Eagle Cap Wilderness itself was used as hunting grounds for bighorn sheep and deer and to gather huckleberries. It was the summer home to the Joseph Band of the Nez Perce tribe. 1860 marked the year the first settlers moved into the Wallowa Valley.
In 1930, the Eagle Cap was established as a primitive area. It was designated as wilderness in 1940. The Wilderness Act of 1964 placed the area in the National Wilderness Preservation System. It was enlarged by 73,410 acres in 1972, and by 67,711 acres in 1984 and now totals 359,991 acres of Wilderness.
The Eagle Cap Wilderness is characterized by high alpine lakes and meadows, bare granite peaks and ridges, and U-shaped glaciated valleys. One is constantly reminded that nature operates on her own terms with her own rhythms that may not match our structural lives. Each season comes and goes bringing with it new challenges and adventures. We truly hope you will find these experiences here and carry with you a memory that will last a life time. These memories can only be left to future generations when we all take part in an effort to respect and care for wilderness. Doing your part is vital to the future of Eagle Cap. Please plan your trip carefully, know the current regulations and seek specific information from the Forest and districts.
Hikers and horseback riders can choose from approximately 535 miles of trails in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Trailheads are located on all sides of the wilderness, with access from the counties of Wallowa, Union, and Baker. Upon entrance to the wilderness visitors are taken back to a time when travel was without automobiles, bicycles and before the luxury of mechanized equipment.
Winter months bring heavy snowfall to the Eagle Cap Wilderness area, causing many of the trails in the wilderness to be blocked with snowbanks through June and early July. The summer and fall season typically begins at the end of June on the lower elevation trails and runs to the end of November. High elevation trails are usually snow free from mid-July through September. Visitors should plan to check with the Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center to be sure your route of travel is accessible. Always come prepared with an ax and shovel for unexpected trail damage or down trees.
The Eagle Cap Wilderness is the most heavily used wilderness in northeast Oregon, with the Lakes Basin Management Area the most popular. With the large size of the wilderness and the extensive trail system visitors should find many opportunities for solitude. Solitude is an important part of a wilderness adventure. To assure yourself of this atmosphere avoid holidays, travel on a weekday, in early spring or after Labor Day, and visit areas other than the Lakes Basin.