First trip in to the Eagle Cap Wilderness

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Jan 9, 2018
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We have a long list of places that we want to go. We only get to get so many trips in per year. So our list just keeps getting longer. The Eagle Cap Wilderness is one that has been on our list for a long time. This year we decided that it would be our big trip for year.

We started out at the East Eagle Creek Trailhead in the southern part of the wilderness. We camped along the creek the night before so we could get an early start. We hit the trail first thing in the morning and immediately the scenery was stopping us every mile to take in the views. Walking up the drainage, the valley opened up before us. The trail was a gentle grade up and the walking was easy. It was late August and the weather was perfect. Our plan was to go in for 5 days and 4 nights. We made our way up the valley until we hit the Hidden Lake Trail junction.


We made the turn to Hidden Lake and then it was time to start climbing for real. It was a little over a mile in to the lake, but over 1000 ft of elevation gain. It was steep. The views just kept getting better. We stopped at Moon Lake, and briefly considered camping there, but we wanted to get all of the way into Hidden Lake. Once we crested the hill and entered the basin things leveled out. The trail ended up taking us away from the lake and we had to bush wacked over to it.

We were there early enough that we had time to set up camp and then hike around the lake and explore the basin. If you're going up East Eagle Creek, I would highly recommend going up to Hidden Lake. It's a steep climb, but well worth the effort.

The next camp we packed up and back tracked down to the main trail. From there was a climb up to Horton Pass. From the Hidden Lake Junction the trail still climbed gently. As we got closer to the pass the grade got steeper. The climb up to the pass felt like it took forever. It kept winding around and it was tough to figure out exactly where we crossed over the ridge. Like with most passes, the final climb up to the top got steep. The view from the pass was incredible. We were looking down into the Lakes Basin and could see Sacajawea Peak and the Materhorn. Multiple valleys spread out before us. Off to our right we could see hikers trudging their way up to Eagle Cap. That looked pretty steep. Luckily we were going down into the Lakes Basin to camp for the night.

Up until this point we had only seen 2 or 3 people total. That all changed once we started down in to the basin. The Lakes Basin is spectacular and we could've camped at a number of the lakes and been very happy. We were trying to get a little solitude though so we passed a few of the lakes and ended up at Douglas Lake. We searched a few spots and finally found a beautiful spot on the lake. We could have fires here, but we were camped a little too close to the lake for a fire. It was a decent trade off. It was an amazing sunset.

The third day we had our longest hike of the trip with another 3000 ft climb ahead of us. We got an early start and made our way down the mountain to the river. Once we hit Six Mile Meadow, we took the turn towards Hawkins Pass. We wouldn't go all of the way up the pass, but would stop at Frazier Lakes. This section of the trail was different than anything we had hiked through so far, it was far more wooded. The trail followed the creek on its way up towards Frazier Lakes. It was a steady climb, but not too steep. Once we got close to the lake, we found a large snow bridge still there (It was the end of August!). We got to Frazier Lake early and had a chance to walk the around lake and have our pick of campsites. Lucky we did. As the day wore on, we saw group after group coming in to the lake. It ended up being pretty full.

The next day, we were heading up Hawkins pass first thing! We got up to Little Frazier Lake rather quickly. Next thing we knew we were at Hawkins Pass. The climb to get up there wasn't too bad. We spent a little time at the pass, then started down the other side. The trail down from the pass was a bit sketchy. Not terribly difficult, but I was happy we were doing it first thing in the morning, because a misstep would send you a long ways down.

We started the gentle decent down to the junction where we would turn off and start working our way up to Crater Lake. The climb up to Crater Lake was a tough one for me. I'm not sure if it was because we started with a pass that morning or all of the trail miles of the trip we starting to stack up for me, but it's seemed like an incredibly long climb up to the lake.

When we got to the lake, it looked like another packed house. We didn't get the campsite I would've liked, and ended up going all of the way around the lake to the far side. Just up off of the lake a little bit was a nice little campsite. Good hammock spots and a nice fire pit.

The whole trip I was able to camp every night without using my tarp. What a luxury! On the last couple nights I even slept with my glasses on so when I opened my eyes during the night, I would be able to see the stars.

It was an incredible first trip into the Eagle Cap Wilderness and we will most definitely be back!
 
Good route. I haven't watched your video yet, but I've been to much of your route so I know it will be fantastic. Eagle Cap is one of those [relatively] unknown gems that impressed the hell out of me. The locals know about it, but aside from weekends I think it's still kind of a secret. We went in late Sept/early October and saw very few people.

I have several future routes plotted there for when I go back. It's close enough to the Sawtooths / WhiteClouds / Pioneers (for someone flying in to Boise) so that one can do an EagleCap trip in conjunction with other trips out there.

I can't wait to watch your video.
 
Good route. I haven't watched your video yet, but I've been to much of your route so I know it will be fantastic. Eagle Cap is one of those [relatively] unknown gems that impressed the hell out of me. The locals know about it, but aside from weekends I think it's still kind of a secret. We went in late Sept/early October and saw very few people.

I have several future routes plotted there for when I go back. It's close enough to the Sawtooths / WhiteClouds / Pioneers (for someone flying in to Boise) so that one can do an EagleCap trip in conjunction with other trips out there.

I can't wait to watch your video.

I only heard about it a couple years ago after I posted a trip to the Blue Mountains. I was absolutely blow away! By my normal hiking standards, there were quite a few people. But normally seeing another hiker in North Idaho is almost a rare thing. We did go in there at the height of the season. I think that my next trip will be later in the year. I will definitely be going back though. It's a true gem.
 
Ah, I see some other videos on your YouTube channel I need to watch too. I really don't know much about Idaho north of Sawtooths / WhiteClouds, aside from a little bit of the Frank (BHC & Salmon River). I hear you've got some really nice cedar forests up there in north Idaho...
 
The Wallowas are the bee's knees. Great time to be there, too. I never tire of the place. Or of seeing others' trip reports!
 
Ah, I see some other videos on your YouTube channel I need to watch too. I really don't know much about Idaho north of Sawtooths / WhiteClouds, aside from a little bit of the Frank (BHC & Salmon River). I hear you've got some really nice cedar forests up there in north Idaho...
We do indeed. The mountains are not as dramatic as farther south in Idaho, but I do love them!
 
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