Russel Mountain to Twin Lakes

By Brian Sather — updated Wed, 3/12/2014 - 9:45 PM, created Sat, 9/3/2011 - 10:53 AM

9.44 miles (15.192 km)

Elevation Gain:
1881.32 ft. (573.43 m)
Elevation Loss:
-1916.01 ft. (-584 m)

Max Altitude:
7529.53 ft. (2295 m)
Min Altitude:
6489.67 ft. (1978.05 m)
You will get a wilderness feel on your mountain bike on this interesting loop north of Halfway. This loop takes you up to Russel Mountain Lookout, which is an unmanned tower with a view of the Eagle Cap Wilderness to the north. Unfortunately it was boarded and closed by the Forest Service for the 2012 season. Then, the route travels down the ridge to Twin Lakes. Like most hiking trails of the Wallowas, there are sections of rocks that make for technically challenging ride, or relegation to hike-a-bike. It is a challenge to stay with the actual trail, because the cattle in the area have formed their own network. Also, the trail is grown in with grass in some meadows due to low use. Basically, stay with the ridge and you'll be fine. The trail to the west of the lookout had some recent maintenance and is a bit more used then other sections. The trail to the east is rougher and travels down to Twin Lakes. With a bit more work and a few more riders, the trail will be a fantastic loop in a good area for camping out and riding other trails. The drive up to Fish Lake follows Forest Road 66 from Halfway, gaining quite a bit of elevation (hint: altitude training). Another recommended loop using this trail is the Russel Mountain Lookout Loop. Trail Notes
  • Start on Trail 1867 at the Deadman Trailhead at the northwest end of Fish Lake.
  • At the first trail junction, stay right into Trail 1869
  • You will soon arrive at a meadow shared by free-range cattle. There will be a sign marking the Sugarloaf Trail 1887 and a sign reading "Trailhead" and and arrow right. Even though there really isn't a trail there, trust the sign and go right to find the trail not far from this sign. This will be the trail you follow the rest of the way.
  • The trail skirts a meadow and connects with some other confusing cow trails. At one point you'll need to spot the trail across a meadow, which should mark the end of the confusion as it will clearly travel up to the lookout from there, where you will be arriving at the Russel Mountain Trailhead.
  • At this point, you can either head down the road 450 back to Fish Lake, or continue on the singletrack to Twin Lakes.
  • To continue the singletrack, head down the road a few hundred feet and look for an opening in the trees to the left where there is a trail sign fixed to a tree several feet off of the road. The trail is somewhat difficult to find because there is no marking off the the road. The trail stays along the ridge, so use that as a guide.
  • Eventually the trail joins with an old rocky road as you decend down to near Twin Lakes. When you arrive at the Rd 66, you can go left to check out Twin Lakes and the campground, or go right to head back to Fish Lake.
Contributors: Zach Heath

 Waypoint #1 — 45.051160, -117.101810

    Trail through a meadow with Sugarloaf Mountain pictured top left
    The Deadman Trailhead at Fish Lake
    Navigating a rocky section.
    The trailhead sign to look for on the Deadman Trail, in order to pick up the Russel Mountain Lookout Trail
    Here is an example of a phantom trail across a meadow. You have to look for the trail on the other side and make a beeline for it.
    The opening in the meadow to look for on the left after the lookout. There is no sign on the road and the trail is feint.
    Twin Lakes