Backpacking Glacier Lake

A 3 day out and back journey through the Lakes Basin, Glacier Lake and Prospect Lake.

Day 1

Two Pan Trailhead to Glacier Lake

I fell in love with the Wallowas when I first did the Glacier loop in 2018. It has in my opinion, the finest and most scenic backpacking in Oregon. The focal point of the Wallowas and the name sake for the Wilderness is Eagle Cap, which towers majestically above Mirror Lake and Glacier Lake. In this 3 day adventure, Sam and I wasted no time and went straight to the heart of this gorgeous mountain range.

Eagle Cap

We hit the trail around 8:30am. It was a beautiful sunny day and the birds were chirping. We headed South on the Two Pan trail, taking a left at the junction towards the Lakes Basin. We hiked through forrest following the winding East Lostine River. The trail begins with a series of aggressive switchbacks which quickly take you to elevation. After a couple miles the trail levels out and we emerged from the forrest into a large, scenic glaciated canyon. Shortly we got a first glimpse of the impressive Eagle Cap mountain. As we journeyed further, the views got better and better. After crossing the river on a collapsed bridge, the trail once again, steepened, taking us up to the lakes basin above.

Sam with Eagle Cap in the backgroundBrock in the Eagle Cap Wilderness
Mirror Lake in the Eagle Cap WildernessMirror Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness

Finally we arrived at the Lakes Basin, reaching the beautiful Mirror Lake. Mirror Lake sits below the majestic Eagle Cap mountain and is the most scenic and popular of the lakes in the basin. We stopped, made water, had lunch and soaked in our surroundings. After a good break, we continued on. Our goal was to camp at Glacier Lake which lie up and over a nearby pass. We continued from Mirror Lake down a beautiful sub alpine trail down to Moccasin Lake. We made a water crossing over a narrow section of the lake and continued up the pass.

Mirror Lake in the Eagle Cap WildernessMoccasin Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness

White puffy clouds had formed and enhanced the views. We switched backed up the trail and were treated to many fantastic views. There was still some snow on the trail but navigation was pretty straight forward. I arrived at the pass and saw the rear end of a fleeing mountain goat I had evidently spooked. The view from the pass I consider to be one of the finest in Oregon. Before me, looking South lay the majestic Glacier Lake with it’s smattering of small islands. To the left was another pretty green, glaciated valley below, which contains Frazier lake. I was excited to get some photos. I got some pictures of the mountain goat, then climbed up above the pass for some panoramic photos of Glacier Lake and the valley below. The clouds and the late afternoon sun made for some great panos.

Glacier Lake in the late afternoon light
Mountain Goat at Glacier Lake, Wallowa Mountains.Brock Dallman at the pass above Glacier Lake in the Wallowa mountains
Glacier Lake from the pass above
Glacier Lake in the Wallowa MountainsSam at the Glacier Lake outlet crossing
Glacier Lake in the Wallowa MountainsGlacier Lake in the Wallowa Mountains

After taking my share of pictures I returned to the pass to reunite with Sam and head down to Glacier Lake and find a camping spot. To our surprise, there was was relatively few people camped at the lake. On our previous experience here, we had encountered large crowds so this was quite a welcome change. Immediately after crossing the lake’s outlet we found a great camp spot with a stellar view of Glacier Lake. We set up camp and got settled in. After setting up camp, I got my camera and did a little walk around the eastern part of the lake taking pictures as golden hour arrived. The lighting was magical and made for some great images.

Glacier Lake in the Wallowa MountainsGlacier Lake in the Wallowa MountainsAlpenglow above Glacier Lake in the Wallowa MountainsSundown over the Lakes Basin in the Wallowas

After many photos, I returned to camp and made dinner with Sam. We enjoyed a well earned beer. After dinner the sun was starting to set and I wanted to get some dramatic shots from the pass, so I grabbed my gear and headed back up. The clouds that had formed earlier had dissipated. The scene however was still quite dramatic. A few miunutes after the sun set I got some great alpenglow panoramas of the lake, and some close up shots of a nearby mountain. It was soon dark, and I headed back to camp exhausted and fulfilled after a great day in the mountains.

Alpenglow Mountain in the Wallowas

That night I woke up randomly around 2:00am and decided I should try for some astrophotography shots of the lake and stars above. It was a dark moonless night and the stars shimmered brilliantly. I had timed my awakening well as I was surprised to find the Milky Way was perfectly vertically aligned over the lake. After some experimenting I got some great shots and finally returned to bed.

Alpenglow Mountain in the WallowasStars and milky way above Glacier Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness
Stars and milky way above Glacier Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness

Day 2

Glacier Lake to Prospect Lake

I awoke early and scrambled up the pass early to get some more photos. Unfortunately, the sunrise was less spectacular than the sunset but still gorgeous none the less. I returned to camp and took a nap. After sleeping in a bit, Sam and I got out of the tent and made breakfast. Our plan was to chill and enjoy the lake for most of the day, then head over the pass to the South to remote Prospect Lake. I busted out the packraft, loaded up on some beers and we headed out on the lake. I rowed us around the lake clockwise and we explored the alpine shoreline of the lake. When we got to the far end of the lake, we got out of the boat and stretched out legs. After a few beers, and a few hours of exploring we headed back to camp. We set up some hammocks, made lunch and lounged for a few hours.

Glacier Lake reflection in the early morning lightThe Lakes Basin in the Morning LightBrock with a packraft at Glacier Lake in the Eagle Cap wilderness
Sam on the Shore of Glacier LakeSam on the Shore of Glacier Lake
Glacier Lake from the South

As the afternoon grew late, we packed up and headed out for Prospect Lake. We travelled mostly off trail around the lake until we got to the bottom of the pass, which was comprised of a large boulder field. After some steep scrambling we made it to the top and were treated to some great views of Glacier Lake. We continued South, down to Prospect Lake which was still in the process of thawing. After continuing around some rough terrain we finally made it to the shores of Prospect Lake.

Sam hiking off trailProspect Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness
Brock Dallman near Prospect Lake in the Wallowas.

This lake sits higher than Glacier Lake and features more rugged, rocky scenery. We circled around the lake, up some snow fields and finally arrived at a great campsite I had found a couple years earlier. The site sits high above the lake, and features a stunning view of the glacial valley and Frazier lake below. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset which painted the clouds pink and magenta. We ate dinner and turned in for the night.

Beautiful valley in the WallowasPink clouds above Frazier Lake and the Valley below
Sunset rays on a mountain in the WallowasPink Clouds
Pink Clouds above Prospect Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness

Day 3

Prospect Lake to Trailhead

We awoke around 7:30am and started packing up camp. After having some coffee and breakfast by the lake, we head out, scrambling up the steep loose slopes of the Northern shore. We made it up to the pass and headed back down to Glacier Lake which looked marvelous in the morning light.

Prospect Lake in the Eagle Cap WildernessProspect Lake in the Eagle Cap WildernessSouth end of Glacier Lake from the pass
Glacier Lake in the Eagle Cap WildernessWildflowers at Glacier Lake

Rounding back around the shores of Glacier Lake, enjoying the spectacular views one last time. We headed up to the summit where I got a few more panoramic shots, then we headed back down the pass towards the lakes basin. Going down was much nicer as it was easier to admire the great views

Glacier Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness
The Lakes Basin in the Eagle Cap Wilderness
Mt. SacagaweaWildflowers at Glacier Lake
Brock and Sam at the Pass above Glacier LakeSam at the passSam descending from the pass

We crossed Moccasin lake and headed up to Mirror Lake. I took a refreshing plunge at Mirror Lake and we had some snacks before continuing back down the long valley back to the car. We had packed a lot into this trip without feeling to rushed. It was another great weekend on the books. The Wallowa mountains never fail to deliver the goods.

Moccasins Lake in the Wallowa mountainsMirror Lake in the Wallowa mountainsSam hiking out of the lakes basin
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