TRAILS: Twelve more trails in the Elkhorns

August 10, 2006 12:00 am
In this photo from a past autumn, bright orange tamarack trees stand conspicuous against the green background of pines, firs and spruces. The shimmering spot in the upper left corner of the photo is Crawfish Lake, a few miles southwest of Anthony Lakes. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
In this photo from a past autumn, bright orange tamarack trees stand conspicuous against the green background of pines, firs and spruces. The shimmering spot in the upper left corner of the photo is Crawfish Lake, a few miles southwest of Anthony Lakes. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By JAYSON JACOBY

The west side of the Elkhorn Mountains features some of the range's most beautiful and, perhaps because of the greater distance from Baker City, least-visited trails.

Because the Elkhorns are the highest mountains between Northeastern Oregon and the Cascades, views from many trails extend far to the west. On a haze-free day, hikers with sharp eyes might see one of the Cascade volcanoes.

And unlike those on the west side of the range, east-side trails are generally accessible by passenger cars.

The following is a list of trails on the west and north sides of the Elkhorns. More detailed information is available by visiting the Baker Ranger District, 3165 10th St., or by calling the office at 523-4476. Employees there can provide necessary maps and tell you when a trail was last maintained.

Van Patten Lake

WHERE: 30 miles NW of Baker City

ACCESS: Drive on the Anthony Lakes Highway to gravel road on left; follow sign to Van Patten Lake trail

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: one-quarter mile, 380-foot elevation gain

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses, bicycles

HIGHLIGHTS: Fishing, nice camping spots, views of Elkhorn peaks, Baker Valley and Wallowa Mountains

Black Lake

WHERE: 34 miles NW of Baker City

ACCESS: Drive on Anthony Lakes Highway to Elkhorn Crest/Black Lake trailhead, on left of highway just east of Anthony Lake campground; lake also accessible by hiking on trail from southeast corner of Anthony Lake; same distance, 200-foot elevation gain

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: 1 mile, 150- foot elevation gain

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses

HIGHLIGHTS: Alpine meadow, mountain stream, fishing, hiking

Hoffer Lakes

WHERE: 34 miles NW of Baker City

ACCESS: Drive to Anthony Lake, follow road to southwest corner of lake

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: Three-quarters of a mile, 370-foot elevation gain

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses

HIGHLIGHTS: Cliffs of Lees Peak, Gunsight Mountain, The Lakes Lookout

The Lakes Lookout

WHERE: 38 miles NW of Baker City

ACCESS: Drive on Anthony Lakes Highway past ski area 3.7 miles; turn left onto gravel road; follow 1.5 miles to top of ridge, turn right; trailhead is marked by wooden sign

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: 1 mile, 700-foot elevation gain

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses, bicycles

HIGHLIGHTS: Unsurpassed views of Anthony Lakes basin and Wallowa Mountains; remnants of 1920s fire lookout

Crawfish Basin

WHERE: 38 miles NW of Baker City

ACCESS: Same as for The Lakes Lookout, continue on road a few hundred yards to trailhead

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: 2 miles, 440-foot elevation gain to Elkhorn Crest Trail at Dutch Flat Saddle

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses

HIGHLIGHTS: Bird's eye view of Crawfish Basin, a dark green mountain meadow; North Fork John Day Wilderness; easy access to Elkhorn Crest Trail and Dutch Flat Lake

Crawfish Lake

WHERE: 40 miles NW of Baker City

ACCESS: Drive on Anthony Lake Highway past turnoff for The Lakes Lookout and Crawfish Basin trails; first trailhead is about one mile farther, gated road on left side; hike the road downhill to end, where trail begins; second trailhead is another three miles on Elkhorn Drive Highway, at switchback;

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: Upper trail is a half-mile, 280-foot elevation gain; lower trail 1.5 miles, 650-foot elevation gain

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses

HIGHLIGHTS: Wilderness lake, fishing

Peavy Trail

WHERE: 45 miles W of Baker City

ACCESS: Continue past Crawfish Lake trailheads on Elkhorn Drive; follow signs for Peavy Cabin

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: 4 miles, 1,800-foot elevation gain to Elkhorn Crest Trail at Cracker Saddle

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses

HIGHLIGHTS: Headwaters of the North Fork John Day River, Peavy Cabin, historic U.S. Forest Service guard station at trailhead

Cunningham Cove

WHERE: 45 miles NW of Baker City

ACCESS: Same as for Peavy Trail

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: 3 miles and 1,940-foot elevation gain to Elkhorn Crest Trail at Cunningham Saddle

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses

HIGHLIGHTS: Rarely visited corner of North Fork John Day Wilderness; excellent elk habitat

Baldy Lake

WHERE: 46 miles W of Baker City

ACCESS: One mile past Peavy Trail turnoff on Elkhorn Drive, follow sign to Baldy Creek Trail

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: 6 miles, 1,300-foot elevation gain

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses

HIGHLIGHTS: Heavily wooded wilderness creek corridor; views of sheer north face of Mount Ireland and tiny lookout building on summit

Mount Ireland

WHERE: 45 miles W of Baker City

ACCESS: Drive to Sumpter and continue on paved highway over Blue Springs summit; turn right at sign for Mount Ireland Lookout trail; follow signs at two junctions

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: 3.5 miles, 2,100-foot elevation gain

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses, bicycles and motorcycles

HIGHLIGHTS: Views extending to Ochoco Mountains and, on exceptionally clear days, perhaps Cascade peaks such as Mount Hood and Mount Rainier; fire lookout on summit, airplane view of Baldy Lake; side trail to Downie Lake

Pole Creek Ridge

WHERE: 35 miles W of Baker City

ACCESS: Drive to Sumpter and, just after crossing Cracker Creek, turn right at sign for Bourne; follow gravel road for two miles, cross Cracker Creek again and turn right at sign for Pole Creek Ridge trail; follow signs at several junctions

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: 1 to 1.5 miles (depending on whether you have four-wheel drive), 1,000-foot to 1,100-foot elevation gain

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses, bicycles and motorcycles

HIGHLIGHTS:

Twin Lakes

WHERE: 22 miles W of Baker City

ACCESS: Drive on Highway 7 past Phillips Reservoir to Deer Creek Road just east of McEwen; follow right fork (bridge on left fork is out) to campground, turn right at intersection; follow signs to Twin Lakes trailhead

DISTANCE, DIFFICULTY: 3 miles, 1,800-foot elevation gain to lakes; 4 miles, 2,200-foot elevation gain to Elkhorn Crest Trail.

OPEN TO: Hikers, horses, bicycles and motorcycles

HIGHLIGHTS: Two lakes at the head of a glacial valley; mountain goats are occasionally seen on cliffs above the lakes

All of the trails listed are at high elevations where the weather changes dramatically and suddenly.

The Van Patten Lake trailhead is accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles. The roads to The Lakes Lookout, Crawfish Basin, Peavy, Cunningham Cove, Mount Ireland, Pole Creek Ridge and Twin Lakes trails are gravel and dirt and in various states of repair. None require four-wheel drive in good weather, but none are recommended for low-clearance passenger cars.