Friday, July 1, 2011


Good spot for a picnic“Wallowa Lake is a world-class example of a glacial lake dammed by moraines. The spectacular moraines around Wallowa Lake rise to 275 m (900 ft.) above the lake…” so says The Bathymetry and Sediments of Wallowa Lake, Northeast Oregon and just about every other source of information about this jewel of northeastern Oregon.  Whatever its world-class geology and origin, I can vouch for its beauty!

The road from the north end of the lake (a mile south of the town of Joseph) to the south (the state park and USFS Wallowa Lake trailhead) hugs the east side of the lake, snug against the base of the east moraine (the little ribbon on the left of this photo).  Each time we’ve driven this road, we’ve commented on the looming, wildflower-covered moraine – its got PRESENCE! 

As I lollygagged through some of Joseph’s shops the other day, I discussed David Jensen’s aerial photograph of the lake (please click here to see it; quite spectacular) and its embracing moraines with the shop owner.  She, a local, mentioned to me that you can hike the moraines.  YOU CAN??? 

Wow!  I asked for more specific details, and she gave me a dose of local knowledge… landmarks to look for, where to park.  She hadn’t hiked it herself, but knew it could be done with maybe just a little bushwhacking.

Of course, we were game.  When we awoke this morning to a cloudless sky and a forecast of 72 degrees, it seemed like the perfect day to explore the moraine for ourselves (once it warmed up a bit).  After a late breakfast, off we went.

High on the east moraine of Wallow Lake Heading back North

High on the ridge of the east moraine, we turned south through a field of wildflowers.

Looking back to the north; see our little trail?  The road is now a ribbon, 900 feet below.

Near the bottom, you can see Jules parked in the pullout on the right side of the road, with the moraine looming above.

From the road to the ridge top, the hillside is quite steep.  Odel negotiated it very carefully on the way down; no knee problems!

Jules and narrow trail Down the hill

Though we always visit the USFS office when we enter a new area (and have used their handouts for a couple hikes since we have been here), it pays to ask a local!


  1. What stunning photographs! It has been many years since we have visited this area but your photos and commentary have me wanting to go back. Bet you got quite a workout on that hike but I'm sure the scenery made it all worthwhile.

  2. So glad the knee is working so well and you can take such great pictures for me to enjoy.

  3. Many years ago we visited the lake, it is very nice.There were some elk in the C.G. and these granparents with grandkids were trying to handfeed them. I thought, you are out of your minds!! Acouple of years after I read where someone got gored and tossed doing the same thing.
    Everyone should visit this place.

  4. WOW what a beautiful place. Your photographs are fabulous!

    Bushwhacking - you guys are out of my league for sure.


  5. What a lovely area this is! We are hoping to get that way next spring/summer. We will just follow your travels, and we will have our route for next year. Enjoy the beautiful views.

  6. For some reason, I keep hearing Julie Andrews singing "The hills are alive..with the sound of music..." Beautiful area and nice song to get stuck on. Glad you and Odel are able to enjoy the hiking again

  7. Wow! What a spectacular photographs. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  8. What great pictures. Glad you and Odel are back to hiking! I know what it's like waiting to recover enough to get back to regular life...

  9. Great hike. Didn't know you could hike the moraine....but then we didn't ask a local!
    Hugs, J&C

  10. Beautiful pictures, Are u going to the top of Mt Howard on the gondola, did that years ago & it was scary!!!! And Memorial Day it was still all snowed in! Would be pretty this time of year i bet..

  11. Really beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  12. What a gorgeous, fabulous set of shots!! LOVE 'em!!

  13. It's always best to ask the locals what the neat things are to see ....Those photos say it all...No crowds, just Mother Nature for your tour guide....I managed to keep up until Odel started down that hill...I had to sit down...:-)

  14. Simply incredible! Reminds me a little of the days we lived in Oregon. Wow.

  15. Wow, when I left the country a few weeks ago you were still recovering from surgery. When I get back, you're hiking all over the place! Congrats! By the way, this is one area I have always wanted to go and haven't made it yet.