Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is located in the north east corner of Oregon near. Most use Joseph, Oregon as their base or starting point for any activity in the area. The Wallowas has one of the most beautiful Wilderness areas, Eagle Cap. Eagle Cap Wilderness has the Blue Mountains and Wallowa Mountains. Because of this, it contains some of the best hiking in Oregon.
It is hard to decide which trail to choose if you have limited time in the area. With over 2,700 miles of hiking trails there is sure to be something for everyone. We chose to hike to Ice Lake because of the alpine lake, the length and the popularity of the trail.
Hike to Ice Lake in Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
The hike to Ice Lake in the Wallowas is one of the most popular hiking trails in the area. Even with it being 15.5 miles round trip and over 3,350′ in elevation gain. While we made Ice Lake a day hike, many use it as resting spot before continuing on to explore what the Eagle Cap Wilderness has to offer.
Miles: 15.5 ♦ Elevation Gain: 3,356′ ♦ Trail Type: Out and Back ♦ Trail: Difficult
This hike starts at the Wallowa Lake Trailhead at the end of Wallowa Lake outside of Joseph. Towards the end of the road you will see signs and the trailhead marker. Across the street is a day use park and parking is along this entire road.
The trail is marked very well throughout.
The start of the hike skirts a river from high up and with these views miles seem to come and go quickly.
Kevin and I are quick hikers. We love the challenge of seeing how fast we can go, while still enjoying where we are. On this one though, we tried to take our time. To stop and smell the roses (trees).
The trail is well maintained and cuts perfectly through the trees.
At 2.8 miles you take a right to get onto Ice Lake Trail 1808. It’s well marked, but still pay attention as you will not want to miss this turn!
There is a slight decent to the river where you can take a break on a hot day or it’s a great spot for a snack.
Up until now, you’re thinking this might not be so bad. We did. So far the hike has been pleasant and enjoyable. But, then switchbacks. It is a constant climb that doesn’t feel like it will end. Back and forth for miles. You may start feeling the elevation at this point. Tight or slightly fatigued muscles along with the burn from climbing. Water and rest helps and you will have plenty of opportunity for breaks when you reach the vistas of waterfalls and mountains.
Once you see the sign for no fires you are about 7.3 miles in, done with the switchbacks (yay!), and very close to the lake!
One last view of what you hiked.
We were so happy when we finally saw the beginning of the lake!
We usually don’t spend much time at the destination we hiked to. Sometimes it’s because there are too many people, or we didn’t plan well enough to have snacks, or we just want to get back into town for a burger (our usual splurge after a big hike)! Since we had the entire lake to ourselves, we took our time, soaked our feet in the ICE cold water and enjoyed some snacks.
This hike took us 7 hours in total.
Just in case, here is a picture of the map.
Things to bring: plenty of water, snacks, good hiking shoes, map, chapstick, bug spray (in the summer) and walking sticks if you need them for stability are definitely things to bring.
There are NO drones allowed in any wilderness areas in Oregon.
Please practice LEAVE NO TRACE.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask in the comments below or by contacting us in the Contact Us section.
Follow along on our journey!
Love to pin, use this one!