Remote range with all the treasures: granite scrambling, volcanic buttes, alpine lakes and mountain goats.

The Elkhorn Crest Trail runs along the Elkhorn Ridge of the Blue Mountains in Eastern Oregon. From this ridge you can scramble of multiple peaks, including the highest in the ridge: Rock Creek Butte (9,106 ft) and Elkhorn Peak (8,931 ft). For the peakbaggers out there, the Elkhorns contain 13 of the Top 100 highest peaks in Oregon (minimum 500 feet prominence). The Elkhorns are just east of the Wallowa range, separated by the Baker Valley. Map with route: http://caltopo.com/m/ER84

The Elkhorns are home to a large mountain goat population of about 150. We saw 10 or so over the course of the weekend hiking the trail.

This backpacking trip is a point to point multi-day traverse, but there are multiple trail heads in the range that you can do out and back backpacking trips or day trips from. 

We started at Marble Pass Trail Head and ended at Anthony Lakes. We were lucky enought to get a shuttle up to Marble Pass -- the part heading up through the forest is a very rough road and should only be attempted with a 4x4. The road to Anthony Lakes is a 2 lane paved road, so you could start here and do an out and back for part of the Crest Trail. There aren't any passes required.

Here was our itinerary: 

Day 1

Since we had a 4.5 hour drive from Portland, we didn't get a full day of hiking in. You could do this traverse in 2 full days if you moved quickly. We started from the Marble Pass TH at 7550 feet and ascend for a couple miles before going off trail ~8200 to climb Elkhorn Peak reaching the summit 8931 feet at ~3.5 miles. We descended off trail back to the trail. We camped at Twin Lakes (7600 ft).

Day 2

Get back on the Elkhorn Crest Trail (climb from Twin Lakes is about a 600 ft elevation gain). After about a mile, we headed off trail to summit Rock Creek Butte (9106 ft) from the SE Ridge. It's probably a good idea to drop packs on the trail and pick them back up on your way down. It's a 10 mile hike from here to Summit Lake camp at 7250 feet. This is an epic camping spot with two fire pits and logs to sit on, should not be missed. 

Day 3

Head from Summit Lake camp back to Crest trail (about 400ft elevation gain). You can tag Mount Ruth and Dutch Flat Saddle South easily on your hike back out to Anthony Lakes Trail Head. The final stretch is downhill. 

Pack List

  • Backpacking essentials 
  • Water filter 
  • Small axe (there's fire pits at Summit Lake)
  • GPS
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RT Distance 30 Miles
Elevation Gain 1500 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Mountain Biking, Backpacking, Hiking, Rock Climbing
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Point-to-Point
Features
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildlife

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