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Eagle Cap Wilderness. At more than 350,000 acres, this is the largest wilderness in Oregon, encompassing most of the Wallowa range with 534 mi of trails for hard-core backpackers and horseback riders. Most of the popular trail heads are along Eagle Cap's northern edge, accessible from Enterprise or Joseph, but you also can find several trailheads 20 to 30 mi southeast of La Grande along Route 203. (Some areas of the wilderness are accessible year-round, while the high-elevation areas are accessible only for a few months in summer.) To park at many trailheads you must purchase a Northwest Forest Pass for $5 per day, or $30 per year. To hike into the wilderness, you also need to get a free permit that will alert rangers of your plans. East of La Grande, via Hwy. 82 and Hwy. 203. Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center:, 115 Tejaka Ln., off Hwy. 82, Enterprise, OR, 97828. 541/426–4978. www.fs.fed.us/r6/w-w.
Wallowa Mountains. Forming a rugged U-shape fortress between Hells Canyon on the Idaho border and the Blue Mountains, the Wallowas are sometimes called the American Alps or Little Switzerland. The granite peaks in this range are between 5,000 and 9,000 feet in height. Dotted with crystalline alpine lakes and meadows, rushing rivers, and thickly forested valleys that fall between the mountain ridges, the Wallowas have a grandeur that can take your breath away. Bighorn sheep, elk, deer, and mountain goats populate the area. Nearly all the trails in the Wallowa Mountains are at least partially contained within the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The offices and visitor center for the mountains are in Enterprise, but La Grande makes a good home base for exploring both sides of the range. Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center:, 115 Tejaka Ln., off Hwy. 82, Enterprise, OR, 97828. 541/426–4978. www.fs.fed.us/r6/w-w.