Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
Eagle Cap Wilderness
Distance: 7.6 miles
Elevation gain: 2,400 feet
Best time to go: Late-July through October
About this Hike
Maxwell Lake is one of the few alpine lakes within the Wallowas that doesn't require an overnight trip. This difficult, moderately steep trail crosses over Lostine River and Maxwell Creek and through rock meadows and open slopes. The first section descends briefly, and then the trail takes you 2.5 miles uphill on well-graded switchbacks. Then the trail steepens and forces you to scramble straight up a dusty slope for 0.8 miles to a pass, and then flattens out for 0.2 miles until you reach Maxwell Lake.
About the Area
Maxwell lake is located within the Eagle Cap Wilderness, which was originally inhabited by the Nez Perce Indian Tribe in 1400 A.D., and then the Cayuse, Shoshone, and Bannock tribes later on. It was established as a primitve area in 1930, and then desigated as Wilderness just ten years later in 1940. In addition, the Eagle Cap wilderness is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System due to the Wilderness Act of 1964, and it encompasses 359,991 acres.
1. From Interstate 84, take exit 261 for La Grande and follow signs for "Wallowa Lake" for 55 miles.
2. Once you reach the town of Lostine, go straight through the center of the town onto Lostine River Road at a sign for "Lostine River Campground".
3. Follow this two-lane road for 12.2 paved miles to Lostine Guard Station and continue on a rougher, one-lane road for 5.6 gravel miles.
4. Once you see a sign for "Maxwell Lake Trailhead," turn right for 100 yards to a 5-car parking are on the right. Parking permits are required.