The Wallowa Mountains are one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon – and rightfully so. Also dubbed the “Oregon Alps,” this range has over 30 mountains over 9,000 ft. in elevation. While Central Oregon gets more visitors and credit for its massive volcanoes, the Wallowas are a truly stunning sight and well worth the trip to the state’s isolated Northeast corner.
The largest and most popular town to visit the Wallowas is Joseph, Oregon, which is actually less than a 4 hour drive from Boise, ID, and a 5.5 hour drive from Portland. This hike starts out of Joseph, and more specifically, utilizes the Wallowa Lake Tramway that takes visitors from the valley floor at 4,450 ft. up to the summit of Mt. Howard at 8,150 ft.
To get to East Peak, you’ll take an unmaintained climber’s trail that is not part of the Tramway map or trail system. Don’t worry, the trail itself is very well-defined and nearly impossible to get lost on. To begin, start hiking uphill from the tramway exit on the designated trail. After an eighth of a mile you’ll see an unmarked trail at a T-intersection stem off slightly downwards through some sparse trees. Looking up, you’ll see a meadow and East Peak beyond.
If a Tramway employee is available, it would be in your best interest to be walked to this intersection since it is unmarked. One man was more than happy to volunteer to walk us up and point us in the right direction.
Follow the trail all the way up the ridge, pass over a couple of false summits, and you’ll find yourself standing over one of the best views of the Wallowa Mountains! Look down towards McCully Basin and Aneroid Lake, and out across a sea of 9k+ peaks. You can continue hiking along the ridge to the close-by Hidden Peak (9,460 ft), or if you’re feeling ambitious, keep on going another 3 miles along the ridge to reach Aneroid Mountain (9,701 ft).
There’s another route described on Summitpost (link here) that begins from the valley floor, avoiding the tramway, and ascends past Anderoid Lake.
No need to pack heavy in the snack department. The food in the Summit Grill at the top of the tramway serves a delicious lunch with alcoholic beverages for those who’d like to indulge – you’ve earned it!