Hiking the W. Fork Lostine River, Eagle Cap Wilderness

The water color is amazing

by Tesmond Hurd — Updated 8 months 1 week ago · Posted Sat, Jul 8, 2017

The last few weeks of heat have done some good snow melting, and encouraged my friend and I to take a backpacking trip toward Minam Lake. We were joined by Brian, who was preparing for a more daunting task the following day. After paying my fee at Two Pan TH, I reflected on the local U.S. Forest Service responsibilities with the money me and everyone else pays: the toilet reeked of death and dead flies, the road was in mediocre shape (needs a grader), horse stocks were covered by weeds, and the trail was okay in most spots, but still a lot of down timber. This is a popular destination for hikers; why doesn't the FS take care of the issues with their "NW Forest Pass" money?

Right away hiking, we notice dilapidated signage and a bike prohibition sign. Thank you again, USFS, for your expenditure appropriation. Onward with the trip...despite the dozen trees down across the path, the trail surface is in decent shape. My favorite part about this trail is the natural flow it has, and not a steep path cut into the side of a mountain. I was also captivated by the pristine flow of the Lostine, which consisted of crystal clear, teal blue water. Snow started showing up on the trail around 6500' but didn't prevent us from continuing. At the Cooper Creek TH, we said goodbye to Brian and set on to Minam Lake. Patchy snow continued to cover the trail in places to 7000', where the coverage increased.

At mile point 4.6, unbeknownst to me, the trail crosses the river and continues on the other side. Again, the FS maps are inutile with no mention of this obstacle. Now, during August of September, this crossing is fairly easy. However, at 4pm in July, that was not the case (see picture). We decided not to risk a crossing of the frigid and swift-moving waters, and camped at this location. I was disappointed we couldn't make it to the lake, but better safe than sorry. At least three primitive camping spots are littered here with rock fire pits and flat spots for tents. Some other hikers passed through our camp and continued walking along the glacier of snow on the east side of the river (who knows if they had success of failure).

The water is so clear at this alpine location, I didn't waste time with the Steripen. After a hot day hiking the trail, the cold, chemical-less water tasted like heaven in my mouth. We made the best out of our camping spot; I carved out a nice cooler/bar in the snow bank where apple vodka and whisky was served to all. The new Jetboil and miscellaneous tools we recently acquired worked well, and made dinner easy! It stayed fairly warm until the sun went down. And, as soon as the sun came up, I was ready to take off all my clothes—too hot at 8am. Cassie did decide to go for a dip in the arctic water.

Once we got back to the trailhead, there was a huge influx of people. Many from Portland, based on their attire and way of speaking. I put my feet in the water and called it good, before heading off to Terminal Gravity Brewing for cold beer and good eats. I thought this was the great end to my trip, but it wasn't...it actually took a turn for the worse. Driving up Hamburger Hill my pickup struck road debris knocking my front end alignment off (hopefully that's the only thing wrong).

Overall, it was a great trip, and I would recommend this trail to anyone looking for a fairly easy trail to conquer. I'd rate it at 3/10, maybe 4/10. The easy access to fresh water makes it desirable because you don't need to pack lots of water with you. Cassie and I will return in a month to camp at Walla Walla Campground (wth?), and then day hike to Minam Lake.

West Fork Lostine River Trail #1670 - Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa, Oregon

Category: Hike   
Keywords: Minam Lake    Lostine    Wallowas    Wilderness   
Accidental selfie with photobomb Brian
Cassie onlooking the Lostine
Brian and a dog
A typical Tesmond. Photo by Sather
Rocky outcropping
Elkhorn Peak (Wallowa, not Elkhorn Mtns)
Trail was in decent shape
Redneck cooler/bar built by Tesmond
Unnamed ridge between East & West Forks
Glacier of snow along east side of the river
Sunset 1 of 2
Sunset 2 of 2
We made a nice warming fire
River crossing was doable this morning
Granite galore
Raging river
Useless rails for the horses thanks to the FS