This wonderful, yet difficult loop wonders through the glacial valleys of East Eagle, over rugged passes, and visits several lakes in the process. As do many routes in the Wallowas, this hike has significant elevation gain/loss throughout. The description provides general guidelines on places to stay but there are several campsites along the way for many different itineraries.
There are strict fire restrictions throughout the summer, especially in the Lakes basin area. Also snow and high river crossings are a large concern until late in the summer. If traveling prior to August, it's probably best to call the ranger station ahead of time.
After Crater Lake, there is little to no access to water for the last 6 miles or so, therefore carrying a full days worth of water is recommended. Trails are sometimes used for stock, usually horseback riders.
From East Eagle trailhead, follow the East Eagle Trail #1910
toward Horton Pass but about seven miles in there is a trail 1915 to Hidden Lake - the appropriately named Hidden Lake Trail. Crossing the river, take this trail about 2 miles and camp on the lakes shores surrounded by jagged peaks.
On day 2, head back down the Hidden Lake Trail back to East Eagle Trail #1910
. Once back on the trail, head north toward Horton Pass. The trail follows the East Fork of Eagle Creek until it starts to climb toward the pass, starting with a couple switchbacks that bring you up into a small hanging valley great views down to the valley below.
Once you reach Horton Pass, take the unmarked trail to the right about 1.8 miles up Oregon’s 13th tallest peak, Eagle Cap (9,572 ft). Though unmarked, this is the Eagle Cap Summit Trail #1805
. Eagle Cap’s view cannot be expressed by pictures alone, and although it’s not required to complete this loop, it is highly recommended. Once back down to the trail, continue down the trail, branching right at a junction to the Lakes Basins Trail #1810
. This leads to Upper, Mirror, and Moccasin Lakes which are all possible camp options for the night.
On day 3, make your way past Moccasin Lake and follow Trail 1806 up Glacier Pass then down to Glacier Lake. This lake is possibly the prettiest in the area and has amazing views. Glacier Lake is a nice place to set up camp for night 3.
From here, you have several options, some of which are at the end of this description. As far as this loop goes, the remainder of the trail is not frequently maintained, so be prepared for brush, obstacles, etc. Continue east on the Glacier Lake Trail #1806
, then at the Hawkins Pass Junction, take a right on trail 1820 the South Fork Imnaha Trail, south towards Hawkins Pass. After ascending Hawkins Pass, the trail changes to 1816, though maintains the same name and you'll follow this for about 7 miles as it meanders along the south fork of the Imnaha River. You'll likely need to make camp at some point along this portion of the trail.
There are several options and will depend on your own speed/agenda. After the 7 miles, you should reach a junction and will turn right to take trail 1885 to head SSW.
Cliff River Trail #1885
travels south along cliff creek until reaching Crater lake, which is a good place to camp for your last night. After Crater Lake you'll want to catch the Little Kettle Creek Trail #1945
west which will lead you back to the original trailhead. As a note, this last section of the trail involves many switchbacks and for most of the season has no access to water. Therefore, carrying water from Crater Lake is highly recommended.
Additional routes from Glacier lake:
You can loop back and travel through the northern part of Lakes Basin and back toward East Eagle Trail to finish an out-and-back, or continue this loop which will require you to either continue on to complete the loop, or head back toward the lakes basin area to create your own. Since the trail past Glacier Lake is not maintained, some may choose to do an out-and-back instead of the full loop. This will be a longer route, but the trail is much cleaner for the most part.