Stunning four day backpack to multiple high mountain lakes in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness
Distance: 32 miles round trip (7.0 miles this segment)
Difficulty: difficult with 3,800′ total elevation gain (this segment difficult with 1,200′ gain and 1,400′ loss)
Best season: July – October depending on snow melt
Day three of our Eagle Cap backpack (click here to read about day one and day two). While days one and two were lovely, this was likely to be the highlight day of the trip. Morning conditions were cloudy, but the rain had moved out and the temperature was 42 degrees. Other than the weather, it had been a quiet night at Douglas Lake with no neighbors in sight or earshot. We had a breakfast of biscuits and gravy and homemade oatmeal, then packed up camp.
It was about a 1.7 mile hike with 125’ elevation gain from Douglas Lake to Moccasin Lake at 7,475’. This was mostly easy hiking along well graded trail. We had some views in places, but nothing outstanding until we reached Moccasin.
Moccasin Lake is a beautiful location with great views of Eagle Cap towering above. We had visited Moccasin the previous year when we camped at nearby Mirror Lake, but the lake was busier this year with several groups camped along the shore. We stopped for a few photos before crossing the lake on large stepping stones and beginning the climb to Glacier Pass.
From Moccasin, the trail made a steep initial ascent. Then we dropped a little. Then we climbed more and continued to climb. In the lower stretches, we had several stream crossings and crossed several lush meadows full of blooming lupine. The more we climbed, the rockier the trail became. We had spectacular wildflowers, beautiful outlet streams, snow bridges and waterfalls.
As we gained elevation, the views became more and more spectacular as we looked out over Moccasin Lake, The Matterhorn, Mirror Lake, and Eagle Cap. While this was a challenging stretch of trail, it was also one of the most beautiful we had seen. In all we climbed 1,100’ over two miles from Moccasin to the top of Glacier Pass. We had a couple small stretches of snow crossings, but nothing challenging or dangerous.
From Glacier Pass (elevation 8,530′), the views down to Glacier Lake and toward Frazier Lake were amazing. We felt like we were on top of the world. Winds were quite heavy at the pass and there were dark gray clouds to the south.
The trail from Glacier Pass down to Glacier Lake was a relatively easy descent over well graded trail with good tread. It was a delightful mile stretch with 400’ descent and great views of Glacier Lake all the way. Near the bottom we had one snow field to cross. On our descent, we met up with two young men backpacking up from Frazier Lake. We chatted for quite a while and exchanged information on the trail. One of the men grew up hiking Yosemite and he said the Eagle Cap was as beautiful as anything he had ever seen in Yosemite.
We arrived at Glacier Lake (elevation 8,170’) around 10:45. The sky had cleared to mostly sunny and the wind had died down considerably. It was lovely weather and we were able to strip back down to t-shirts. I set to work taking a bunch of photos while Jason relaxed along the shore. The lake had beautiful blue water, several small islands, and amazing views up to Glacier Peak and Eagle Cap. I knew that this would be a beautiful location, but it far exceeded all my expectations and photos I had seen. The lake was also much larger than I had expected.
At the northeastern end of the lake, we left the main trail and crossed the outlet stream on some driftwood. We followed the lake shore to the far eastern end and enjoyed the view down the length of the lake while we had a snack. While we had seen several groups along the northern edge of the lake, we had this area of the lake to ourselves. We saw many good campsites at the lake and briefly debated spending the night there—it was so amazingly beautiful. But that would make for about a thirteen mile hike out on our last day which we both agreed was more than we would want to do. We agreed to move on to Frazier Lake as we had originally planned.
We began our descent from Glacier Lake about noon under sunny skies with temperatures in the low 70s. It had cleared off to be a beautiful afternoon. The two miles stretch from Glacier Lake down to Frazier Lake followed a long, descending valley along a narrow bit of trail hugging a relatively steep stretch of mountainside. The tread was rocky and narrow, but the descent was gradual enough that conditions weren’t too difficult. We paralleled the Glacier Lake outlet stream all the way to Frazier along a stunning stretch of trail with great views and loads of wildflowers. We even passed a raging waterfall just before arriving at Upper Frazier Lake. As expected, Moccasin Lake to Frazier Lake was my favorite stretch of trail for the entire trip.
We reached Frazier Lake (elevation 7,130’) at 1:00, seven miles from Douglas Lake where we had started the day.
At Lower Frazier Lake we found a lovely campsite on the east side with a grove of trees that would provide nice afternoon shade. The lake was shallow and wasn’t the most attractive body of water; however, the cliffs rising from the far side of the lake were stunning. There were patches of snow along the cliffs and a pretty waterfall that we would hear our entire time at the lake.
We set up camp then enjoyed an afternoon of reading and fishing. Several people pass by on the trail, but not as many as I expected for a Saturday afternoon.
By bedtime, the skies had clouded over and it looked like we could get some storms through during the night. We put the rain fly on, but left the side doors open as we settled in for the night.
Click here to read about our final day!