Backpacking Resources

At the most fundamental level backpacking involves carrying everything you need on your back for an extended overnight or multi-day trip into a remote backcountry location. While there are a few hardy individuals like John Muir who travel for days with nothing more than the clothes on their back and a handkerchief full of crusty bread to eat, most folks traveling by foot choose to carry a set of essential items that provide shelter, warmth, and sustenance. 

Through YouTube videos, webpage links, and other content you will learn all the ins and outs of backpacking – what to bring, when to bring it, how to pack it, and where to go.

What to pack and how to pack it.

These videos give you a detailed breakdown and explanation of what to put into your backpack for an extended weekend trip and why and when it’s important to have such items. 

Backpacking in Eastern Oregon

“Living much out of doors, in the sun and wind, will no doubt produce a certain roughness of character.” – Henry David Thoreau

  • 5: wilderness areas within 2-hour drive of campus.
  • 361,446 acres: Eagle Cap Wilderness Area – largest designated wilderness area in Oregon.
  • 7,993 feet: Hells Canyon – deepest gorge in North America.

Local Backpacking Opportunities

Millions of acres of public land surround La Grande and the EOU campus. There are endless opportunities to experience solitude, inspiration, and wildness. Grab a few friends, load up the backpacks, and hit the trail on one of these awesome local adventures.

Eagle Cap Wilderness – Chimney Lake, 9 miles round trip, 2400′ elev. gain, Moderate to Strenuous fitness level

General Hike Description: This is a lovely 1 to 2 night backpacking trip that first has you driving up the glacier carved Lostine Canyon and then hiking up into some of the most scenic country in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The route is fairly straightforward with only one trail junction at Brownie Basin. Enjoy the meadows carpeted with wildflowers as you climb past Laverty Lakes and on up to Chimney Lake. There are several nice campsites located near the lake. As a side hike, venture 1.5 miles up above Chimney Lake on a maintained trail to Hobo Lake. Season: Mid-July through October.

Directions: From La Grande proceed on Highway 82 toward Enterprise for 55 miles to the small town of Lostine. At the Blue Banana coffee shop continue straight up the Lostine Canyon Road for approximately 12.5 miles to the Lilyville picnic area and the Bowman-Frances Lake trailhead. Head west across the road and the footbridge over the Lostine River and start up the nicely maintained trail to Brownie Basin. After 3.5 miles you will come to the junction in Brownie Basin with the John Henry Lake trail. Turn right and head northwest for 1/2 mile past Laverty Lakes and another 3/4 mile to Chimney Lake.

North Fork Umatilla Wilderness – North Fork Umatilla River Trail, 8.75 miles round trip, 650′ elev. gain, Easy to Moderate fitness level

General Hike Description: Following the North Fork of the Umatilla River this trail moves through lush vegetation and old-growth forests. Enjoy scenic canyon vistas, dazzling wildflowers, good fishing, and a well-maintained trail up to Coyote Creek. Paralleling the river, the elevation gain of 650 feet in just over 4 miles is fairly mild, and allows you to gaze off and scan the hillsides for wildlife like bear and elk. There is a large campsite underneath an old-growth canopy at Coyote Creek. A footbridge over Coyote Creek allows you to continue for 1.5 miles to a great campsite located along the river just before the trail takes to the hillside and begins a steady climb to the canyon rim. An enjoyable side hike is to follow the trail upwards for a few miles as it climbs the open south-facing slope which offers gorgeous views of the entire canyon. Season: May through November.

Directions: Head toward Pendleton on I-84 getting off at the Wildhorse Casino exit after 43 miles. Continue north for less than 2 miles to the junction with OR-331 at Mission. Turn right on Mission Road and proceed east for 1.5 miles to Cayuse Road. Hang a left and continue to follow Cayuse Road for approximately 11 miles. Slow down and look for Bingham Road on your right and signs for the Bar M Ranch. Go over the railroad tracks and continue on Bingham road for 12 miles following the Umatilla River. At 12 miles take the left hand dirt road to the trailhead, which is just a few miles farther on past the Bar M Ranch. The trailhead is on your left just before the road crosses the North Fork. The Umatilla Forks campground, with water and toilets, is just a short 1-minute drive from the trailhead.

Elkhorn Mountains – Van Patten Lake, 2.6 miles round trip, 1000′ elev. gain, Easy to Moderate fitness level

General Hike Description: Less than an hour’s drive from La Grande is this rather easily assessible one to two night backpacking trip. Located in the Elkhorn Mountains, Van Patten Lake is tucked in a high mountain cirque with beautiful views of the northern Baker Valley and the Wallowa Mountains beyond. Over half this trail follows an old road, so the hike is a good introduction for those new to backpacking. There are several nice campsites located on the southeast and northwest side of the lake. This is also makes for a nice day hike. Season: Early July through October.

Directions: From La Grande head south on I-84 toward Baker City. Get off at the North Powder exit and follow the signs to Anthony Lake Mountain Resort. Once you are on the Anthony Lakes Highway drive 13 miles to the junction with Forest Service Road #730, turn left, and drive a short distance to the Little Alps trailhead.