If you’re planning on hiking the Eagle Cap but haven’t quite got your hiking legs on, a little known shortcut into the mountains is the Tenderfoot Trailhead. Right from the start, you’re almost 2000’ higher (at 6500’) than any of the other local trailheads and it’s just 3.6 miles to Bonny Lakes, a beautiful destination. From there you have you have opportunities to explore other features that are close by, making this a great option for day hikers or for overnight campers looking for an easier way into wilderness.
From Bonny Lakes, you can go another 2 miles where the trail intersects with the Aneroid Lake (East Fork) Trail #1804. From that intersection, going north about a mile will take you to Aneroid Lake; south will take you to Tenderfoot Pass- an incredible alpine experience where you’ll pear into the vast Imnaha Drainage. You could hike to the top of Pete’s Point, elevation 9673’, or Dollar Ridge, where fossilized seashells can be found at the top of a mountain!
This area is lightly used, so you’ll experience a solitary peacefulness that is completely timeless outside of the rhythms of nature.
Be sure to spend some time discovering the two unique small lakes, Jewett and Dollar- they can also provide a warmer swimming hole later in the summer.
All along this route you’ll find yourself feeling like your living in a postcard, so don't forget your camera.
A possible option for hikers is to be dropped off at this trailhead to hike the 14 miles back down to Wallowa Lake. Along this path you’ll experience most of the features that the Eagle Cap is so loved for.
Driving Distance- Joseph to Tenderfoot Trailhead: 24 miles- figure about 35 mph average speed for under one hour in transit. Be sure to check your fuel at Joseph – your traveling into wilderness and you’ll find no services beyond this point and cell service is very spotty (you may get some service at high points along the trail).
Driving Directions: From Wallowa Lake head back to Joseph (about 6 miles); In Joseph turn left (East) on Oregon State 350 (to Imnaha) for about 8 miles to the Wallowa Loop Road; Turn right on the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road (also known as the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway); Travel on this paved road which eventually becomes Forest Road 39 for about 10 miles to Salt Creek Summit; Continue on past Salt Creek Summit on Forest Road 39 for 3 miles and turn right on the gravel Forest Road #100 and go 3 miles to the end of the road to the trailhead. Road #1oo is narrow, bumpy and rocky- be sure to check your spare!
Amenities: The parking lot is large but has no other facilities (no toilet). The lot requires no fee, although you’ll need to fill out a permit (free) available at the site before you enter the wilderness.
See the Bonny Lakes Panorama
See the Dollar Ridge Panorama
Download a home-printable pdf map of this area
The second most popular trailhead (after the Wallowa Lake Trailhead) is located just a short country drive away.
The trailhead at Hurricane Creek offers a fairly gradual way into the Eagle Cap and has majestic mountain views within the first mile that only get better the farther you hike. It follows along the creek to open meadows where Mountain Goats are often spotted along the ridges above.
After the two meadows, the canyon narrows and climbs high over Hurricane Creek along cliffs that overlook pools and waterfalls (keep a leash handy for your dog and watch your kids).
The trail is a favorite for those making their way to the Lakes Basin, some 10 miles away, but is primarily used by day hikers and runners in their 5.7 mile round-trip journey to Slick Rock Creek. You can also find good places to camp along the creek in the first few miles, making this a great option for those just getting into backpack wilderness camping.
Driving Distance- Joseph to Hurricane Trailhead: About 13 miles- figure about 30 mph average speed or about 30 minutes in transit- stay under 20-25mph on the forest road after the bridge (it’s narrow with blind corners).
Driving Directions: From Joseph, Oregon go west on Airport Lane for about 1.5 miles and the road becomes Hurricane Creek Road; Continue on Hurricane Creek Road for another 0.5 miles to the white Hurricane Creek Grange; Turn left at the Grange onto County Road 521 (becomes Forest Road 8205) and go about 3.7 miles to trailhead. The road becomes narrow with turnouts and is not recommended for RVs.
Amenities: The parking lot is large and has a vault toilet. Has a loading ramp and posts for tying stock. The lot requires a NW Forest Pass or you can leave a parking fee and you’ll need to fill out a wilderness permit (free) available at the site for your group.
See the Goat Meadows Panorama
Download a home-printable pdf map of this area