Take a trip out east into Oregon's dramatic Wallowa Mountains by James T Holk

Sunshine and snow melt mean open season for backpacking. We decided to talk to Terry Richard, who has been writing about the outdoors for “The Oregonian” newspaper since the 1970s. Richard has climbed, hiked and backpacked all over Oregon, so we knew he’d have some fun trip ideas.

What Oregon peaks have you climbed?
All the significant bumps in the Cascades and most of the desert peaks.

What is your favorite backpacking trip in Central Oregon?
The circuit of Broken Top. It’s a three-day trip, and it’s only snow-free from August through September. (This 23-mile trail in the Deschutes National Forest circumnavigates the dramatic caldera of an old volcano.)

How about out east?
Most people hike from Wallowa Lake or Lostine. Those are really busy trails and start at 4,500 feet. Last year I did one from the east side. I saw maybe six people in four days, and you start at 6,300 feet. I hiked a loop from the Tenderfoot Wagon Trailhead, crossing Tenderfoot Pass. I climbed Pete’s Point, Sentinel Peak and Dollar Mountain, all 9,000-foot Wallowa peaks, while making the loop. (For maps of this area, visit the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.)

Any favorites in Southern Oregon?
The Rogue River Trail is one I would eventually like to do. It follows the Wild and Scenic River section from the Grave Creek boat launch to Foster Bar. (This national recreation trail is 40 miles long and is located between Grants Pass and Gold Beach.)

Why have Oregon’s mountains held your attention for so many years?
It’s the tremendous variety from east to west. I recently did a one-night backpacking trip in the Oregon Dunes and camped within sight of the Pacific Ocean. Three weeks later I was up in the Wallowas in an alpine environment. It is pretty amazing.

Where to next?
Joseph Canyon, 30 miles north of Enterprise. It’s a 2,000-foot deep canyon similar to Hells Canyon. It’s a very remote area that few people bother to go to.

What advice do you have for people interested in backpacking?
With the Internet being what it is, just get an idea, look at a map, find a place that looks cool, and enter in the words. It might lead you to a special trip.

For comprehensive information on backpacking in Oregon, Richard recommends the following experts:

  • William Sullivan, author of multiple books on hiking and backpacking in and around Oregon
  • Douglas Lorain, author of “Backpacking Oregon” and, more recently, “One Night Wilderness: Portland,” which chronicles the best one-night trips within three hours of Portland
  • Rhonda and George Ostertag, authors of “Camping Oregon” and “75 Hikes in Oregon’s Coast Range and Siskiyous”

For more great ideas on enjoying Oregon’s outdoors, visit the Travels with Terry blog.


About the Author: Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin is the editor of Travel Oregon’s Seasonal Features, enewsletters and annual visitor guide. When she’s not cooking up trip ideas, Oregon Dreamer profiles and outdoor adventures to write about, she’s out exploring Oregon.

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