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As one of the trails starting at the Wallowa Lake Trailhead, the Chief Joseph Mountain Trail has it all. Stroll through the forest. Enjoy breathtaking views of the West Fork of the Wallowa River raging through the canyon. Hike up switchbacks to summit views. All of this is accomplished in just seven miles and ends at Chief Joseph Basin.

  • Distance:

    1.5 - 2.5 Hours

  • Difficulty Level:

    Day Tripper, Adventurer, Mountaineer

  • Seasons:

    Spring, Summer, Fall

  • Elevation:

    4,646 - 7,240 feet

  • Pets:

    Yes

  • Status:

    Open

  • Reservations:

    N/A

  • ADA:

    No

  • Multi-Use:

    Yes

  • Motorized Vehicles :

    No

  • Your Public Lands

    Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Eagle Cap Wilderness

  • What To Do
    • Hiking

      The Chief Joseph Mountain Trail (#1803) is a seven mile, one-way trail that ends at Chief Joseph Basin. Expect heavier use in the summer months as folks from the neighboring Wallowa Lake State Park as well as other fellow outdoor enthusiasts make the trek to enjoy some of the best views around.

  • How To Get There

    From Walla Walla, take HWY 11 south. Five miles past Milton-Freewater, OR turn left on Winn Road. Continue two miles and turn left onto HWY 204 and continue to Elgin, OR. Take a left on S 8th Avenue in Elgin and then take a right on Albany Street/ Wallowa Lake HWY/ HWY 82. Go through the town of Joseph, OR and turn left on HWY 351 and follow to the end of the road. Parking is on the right side of the road.

  • When To Go

    Depending on snow levels, this trail is likely passable starting in June through early fall. Late spring is an ideal time to view wildflowers and enjoy clearer air for maximum viewscape.

  • What To Expect

    Young families could easily wander to the bridge over the West Fork of the Wallowa River and enjoy the sites and sounds of nature. The trail is well maintained and not gaining crazy amounts of elevation at this point. After the bridge, the trail starts a series of switchbacks and crosses areas of slick, loose rock that might make the accent more challenging for little ones. While the climb will test your cardio and hamstring strength, the views at the top will give you plenty of time to recover.

  • Fees

    None

  • Permits

    Wilderness Visitor Permit (free) at the trailhead.

  • Regulations

    Wilderness regulations apply in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Such restrictions include no motorized equipment, bicycles, or hang gliders to name a few. Groups larger than twelve are prohibited as well as caching or leaving equipment or supplies for longer than 72 hours. Most applicable to hikers is the fact that shortcutting a switchback on any trail is also a violation of wilderness regulations. For a complete list of wilderness regulations applicable to those within the forest, visit Umatilla National Forest website.

  • Amenities

    Parking is available at the trailhead. For facilities, consider using Wallowa Lake State Park.

  • Wildlife Awareness

    We are all so fortunate to recreate in the Blue Mountains. So many opportunities exist to play outside whether in a national forest, wilderness area, on a Wild and Scenic River, and more! With these opportunities comes great responsibility to appreciate that we are mere visitors and should all take pride in being good stewards of the wild. Many animals call these protected places home, including moose, elk, bear, cougar, bobcat, and snakes to name a few. Take precautions to respect their home and understand the appropriate response should an encounter occur. Additionally, many plant species thrive in the Blue Mountains, so staying on trail is always good practice. Carry First Aid supplies to better respond to accidents or encounters, and always let others know where the day's adventure is taking you.

  • Field Notes

    Navigation: Consider downloading the Avenza Map app. This app allows users to upload three maps (or unlimited with a subscription) to use offline. It can track your location offline and overlay GPS data from the phone onto the map. The vehicle use maps (for trails allowing motorized vehicles) are the easiest to use. Otherwise, Geo Tracker offers similar tracking capabilities and additional details about your adventure. If no service, Geo Tracker will at least show your location. The Blue Mountains and surrounding area offer a remote recreating experience, and knowing your location is paramount to staying safe. Always make sure to bring paper maps. Tell others where your adventure is taking you and when you expect to return.

    Difficulty Level: Here is what we are thinking when we assign a difficulty level: Day Tripper--You don't have much experience in the area but want to get outside! Great for families of all ages. Adventurer--You know your way around the Blue Mountains and love a leisurely day outdoors. Mountaineer--You are ready for a challenge. Wild places excite you and sweat is the goal. Small children beware. Keep in mind some activities may apply to multiple difficulty levels based on usage.

    Pets: In general, pets are allowed on a leash and under control throughout jurisdictions. The only restrictions we have encountered are around swimming areas. As a best practice, be mindful of riparian habitat in general. You never know where a precious spawning area might be located. Pack it in and pack it out applies to your furry friend as well.

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