Trip Report: Backpacking in the Wallowa Mountains, Ice Lake
Location: Ice Lake, Eagle Cap Wilderness
Conditions: Sunny 70's with scattered thunderstorms
Duration: 3 days
Kid Friendly: Older kiddos
Pet Friendly: Yes!
Useful links: oregonhikers.org
Useful links: josephoregon.com
The Full Report:
The drive to the Wallowas is roughly 6 hours (give or take for traffic and sorts). We left pretty late so when we arrived at the Wallowa Lake trailhead we decided to just sleep there.
The next morning, we were up and running. We backpacked into Ice Lake. The trail out is about 10 miles and has some pretty fun elevation gain towards the end with wonderful views of mountains, some waterfalls, and ENDLESS wildflowers! Once at the lake we traversed around the near perfect mirror of a lake. We headed to the South side where there are very little trails but lots of perfect little campsites. We met a few rangers along the way who thanked us for not having a fire and camping far enough from the water. (You can have a fire but it must be 1/4 mile out from the lake)
We set up camp and scrambled around the hills above to avoid being eaten alive by mosquitoes to watch the sunset.
The next day we decided to do a day hike up the Matterhorn, it’s the tallest none-technical climb in the Wallowa hills region. Head west from the lake up the trail with many switchbacks. The climb is a CLIMB. Lots of elevation gain but very worth it. Even if you only go up to the small plateau, you will have a killer view of Ice Lake and the mountains ahead.
We were lucky enough to see a family of mountain goats at the top of the peak but they quickly scurried away with Harold’s small growls. The trail switch backs and scrambles up. There were a few patches of snow to hike up and one that required a small traverse across, but it was approachable without crampons or ice axes.
Once at the top you can walk along the edge of the summit for views of Mirror Lake and Eagle Cap. We decided to head down fairly quickly because we could see a storm approaching and didn't want to be stuck on a summit in the thunder storm.
Heading back down was easy and fun, though we were trying to hurry to get back to the tent to cover it (we foolishly left the rainfly off of the tent). We got back just in time for a small storm to roll through. Once the rain cleared we walked all the way around the lake. There are some waterfalls, meadows, rock scrambles and swampy areas around the lake. Thunderstorms lasted most of the night but we woke up to a sunny clear sky for the hike out. The hike out was straightforward but long since we were ready to be back.
All in all, Ice Lake is a great backpacking trip for someone who might want a little bit more of a challenge on a backpacking trip but still stays within 10 miles of your car. The payoffs are huge and we were able to avoid any crowds by going during the week. This is a great way to get out into nature without a lot of business.