Hike to Maxwell Lake in Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

The Wallowas have been on my bucket list for awhile now. If you ask anyone that’s been there all they say is it’s a hiker’s paradise. Known as the Alps of Oregon, it boasts miles and miles of hiking. Best for backcountry overnight camping, there are still hikes that you can do as day trips. The hike to Maxwell Lake was my favorite of all the hikes we did. This was also one of the shortest hikes in the Wallowas, but it still packs a punch.

Hike to Maxwell Lake in the Wallowas

Miles: 8 ♦ Elevation Gain: 2,251′ ♦ Trail Type: Out and Back ♦ Trail: Moderate to Hard

When trying to decide what hike to do while you are exploring the Wallowa Mountains, put Maxwell Lake towards the top. This is definitely doable for a day hike, but worth doing an overnight to enjoy the lake. Conveniently this hike starts at Shady Campground. A large campground with spacious sites. There is also a large parking lot across the road if you don’t want to spend the night.

This hike gets you into the Eagle Cap Wilderness pretty quick after you start. This protected area will have you hiking through the thick forest.

You don’t initially feel the elevation gain but be aware, this hike climbs the entire time.

Spots like this will provide a great place for a snack and a chance to catch your breath. This is around 2.8 miles and YAY (!) you are done with the switchbacks.

Around 3.4 miles you will hit this sign. You know you are close and please respect these signs.

At four miles you reach Maxwell Lake! We absolutely loved this lake. If it wasn’t so cold we would have swam to the island to hang out, maybe next time! There are multiple spots to camp or have lunch, but make sure you respect the wildlife in the area. Especially, DO NOT FEED THEM.

We were lucky enough to see some mountain goats! A full family and they took a glimpse and walked on. This picture is zoomed in to respect their space.

On your way back down the mountain, you will be rewarded with this view! There isn’t a moment where you won’t enjoy yourself on this hike. Even when your thighs are burning.


Make sure to follow along so you don’t miss any of the fun!

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