destination for day 3: Lookingglass Lake

Day three of our Main Eagle backpack in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness. We woke around 5:00 to another clear morning with mild temperatures in the low 40s. It has been a peaceful night at Bear Lake. Like the previous night at Cached Lake, the only sound we heard was that of a deer grazing on the grass around our tent.

Our plan for this day was to leave camp set up at Bear and day hike over to Lookingglass Lake. We left camp around 7:00 and started the 3.0 mile trek. We began by dropping 360’ over a mile down to the junction with Lookingglass Lake where we took a left. Past the junction, we dropped a little more and crossed the outlet stream of Culver Lake before beginning the climb to Lookingglass.

early morning above Culver Lake

From the stream crossing, we climbed 700’ over about a mile and a half to the top out above Lookingglass Lake. Most of the gain was over the first mile and there were a few steep portions of trail that weren’t particularly well graded. We had stunning views to the west of Copper Creek Basin and trail-side wildflowers in bloom that almost made me forget about the climb.

beautiful wildflowers
Copper Creek Basin views
view down to Eagle Creak Meadows

At one point during the climb, we caught a few glimpses of the Lookingglass Lake outlet stream. It formed an impressive waterfall down into Main Eagle Canyon. This was a hard location to photograph due to the distance and lighting, but the photo below gives you an idea of the scene.

Near the top out, we passed a couple small ponds. They weren’t especially scenic (and the water we’d filter from them later was terrible), but this was a nice enough. The second pond in particular would make a decent camp if Lookingglass was packed. 

second pond

At about a mile and a half from the junction with Bear Lake, we topped out at 7,530′ elevation. We had stunning views down to Lookingglass which was a large and stunning lake set against impressive cliffs to the left and anchored by Hummingbird Mountain on the right. I had heard criticism of Lookingglass since it is a dammed lake. It was time to see for ourselves if this destination was worthy of the journey.

We dropped about a third of a mile and 250′ down to Lookingglass Lake (elevation 7,280′). We immediately encountered a nice group camped just off the trail to the left. Their site was quite scenic, but I would want something with a little more privacy. 

We followed the trail to the right, working our way toward the outlet. We came upon an empty campsite right on the lake. Here we could see that the water level was a little low and the shoreline muddy, the only real negative side effect of the dam that we would note (perhaps this is more noticeable later in the season).

We continued along the right side of the lake and climbed up and over a peninsula, passing a couple nice campsites with impressive views. 

We soon found ourselves above the dam and outlet stream at 3.1 miles from Bear Lake. The water was a beautiful, crystal clear blue. Behind the damn, the earth plummeted 1,300’ down to Eagle Creek Meadows where we had crossed the creek the morning before. Despite the dam, the scene was stunning and worth every step it took to get there.   

Lookingglass Dam with Hummingbird Mountain to the right

We dropped down to the shoreline and dam. Jason geared up to fish while I walked across the damn for some photos. The backdrop of the mountains was breathtaking, especially toward the far end. The dam itself was small and rather unimposing for a dam. The top was lined with beautiful yellow wildflowers in bloom creating a surprisingly beautiful foreground for photos.

Lookingglass Dam & Lake

I hopped down on the non-lake side of the damn and marveled at the precipitous drop down into Main Eagle. Dam or no dam, this place was amazing and I highly recommend a visit here. My only regret is that we didn’t spend a night here. And while this was the busiest lake of our trip, we saw just three parties during our visit, not bad for a Saturday in late July.

view down into Main Eagle from below the dam
Jason fishing near the outlet of Lookingglass Lake

The hike back was a bit warm, but otherwise pleasant. After climbing out of Lookingglass, we tanked up on water at one of the ponds. It was the dirtiest tasting water we have ever filtered, but it would do us until we returned to Bear Lake. 

view near the first pond

The descent back to the trail junction up to Bear wasn’t as hard on my knee as I feared it might be. The footing was good, so I didn’t have to work too hard to hold myself back. As we dropped, we enjoyed far reaching views up Main Eagle where we had been on day one. Despite being a Saturday, we passed just one other group of hikers heading into Lookingglass.

The final climb back up into Bear was warm on that late July afternoon. I think I stopped at about every sliver of shade I could find!

We felt certain we would not have Bear to ourselves a second night, especially since it was a summer weekend. Frankly, it seemed impossible. Dropping down down into the basine, we were delighted to see we still were the only ones there.

our tent is just visible at bottom center of this photo

We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon by relaxing along the shore of Bear Lake. There were a few mosquitoes, bees, and biting flies, but nothing overwhelming. What a fantastic trip!

We were in bed early again that night. Between the hike out and the long drive home, the following day would be a long one so we planned for an early start. Once again, we had the lake completely to ourselves other than a visit from the same doe we had seen the previous night.

Where’s Waldo? Happy hiker on top of the world!

Related Posts

Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness: Main Eagle Backpack day 1 (Cached Lake)

Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness: Main Eagle Backpack day 2 (Bear Lake)

Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness: Main Eagle Backpack day 4 (return to civilization)

Resources Used

Hiking Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness

100 Hikes / Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon

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