The Eagle Cap Wilderness is Oregon’s largest wilderness area and largest single alpine area, encompassing 350,461 acres. It contains over half of Oregon’s 9000-foot-plus mountains (a whopping 18 of 31), as well as wildflower meadows, valley forests and rivers, and dozens of alpine lakes carved out by Ice Age glaciers.
One of the seven wonders of Oregon, the Wallowas have been called “America’s Little Switzerland” and the mainly granite mountains actually resemble the Alps geologically. The varied geology of the Eagle Cap Wilderness is something even the casual hiker will notice as they make their way through this area – the peaks are composed of greenstones from volcanic Pacific islands, white marble and limestone that began as coral reefs, dark slate and shale that was once seafloor mud, and granite formed by slowly cooling magma.
Wildlife common in the area include chipmunks, pikas, mule deer, black bears, and porcupines. Mountain goats may be glimpsed on the higher alpine slopes, as well as Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, which were reintroduced in 1971 following local extinction.
The Eagle Cap Wilderness provides many recreational opportunities, including hiking and backpacking on over 500 miles of trails, fishing for eastern brook, rainbow, or golden trout, climbing its many peaks, and horseback riding. It’s a stunningly scenic area that is one of Oregon’s prime backpacking destinations and definitely deserves a place on any hiker’s list.