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U.S. Forest Service

Pacific Northwest Region Viewing Area


Looking south to the Wallowa Mountains from the summit of Mt. Howard. Looking south to the Wallowa Mountains from the summit of Mt. Howard. Photo by Gene Yates.

Oval-leaf buckwheat, Eriogonum ovalifolium. Oval-leaf buckwheat, Eriogonum ovalifolium. The compact cushion form is a common adaptation of alpine plants to conserve heat and avoid desiccation. Photo by Gene Yates.

Wallowa penstemon, Penstemon spatulatus. The Wallowa penstemon, Penstemon spatulatus, endemic to the Wallowa Mountains. Photo by Gene Yates.

Mt. Howard Summit

Forest: Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

District: Eagle Cap Ranger District

Description: Mt. Howard is a peak on the northwestern edge of the Wallowa Mountains. At over 8000 feet (2500 meters) in elevation, the summit hosts open subalpine grassland, intermixed with whitebark pine and subalpine fir communities. The broad summit of Mt. Howard provides a wonderful opportunity to view alpine and subalpine wildflowers as well as treat the visitor to truly spectacular panoramic views of the Wallowa Mountains and Wallowa Valley.

Wildflower Viewing: July and August provide visitors the best opportunities for wildflower viewing. The summit hosts several short, loop trails to view a variety of wildflowers as well as scenic vistas. In addition, a multitude of flowers can be seen: several different beard-tongues (Penstemon spatulatus, P. procerus, P. payettensis), red mountain heather (Phyllodoce empetriformis), oval-leaf and alpine golden buckwheats (Eriogonum ovalifolium, E. flavum), ballhead sandwort (Arenaria congesta), lance-leaf stonecrop (Sedum lanceolatum), old man’s whiskers (Geum triflorum), field locoweed (Oxytropis campestris), fleabane (Erigeron simplex), and alpine goldenrod (Solidago multradiata) adorn the summit. The globally rare Greenmann’s desert parsley (Lomatium greenmanii) can also be found on the Mt. Howard Summit. For the more adventurous wildflower enthusiast, a longer trail climbs toward East Peak and Mt. Aneroid providing additional wildflower viewing.

Safety First: At 8,150 feet in elevation, there is less of the atmosphere to filter the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. Pack sunglasses and sunscreen. The temperature at the summit can be several degrees cooler and breezier than the base of Mt. Howard, resting at 4450 feet. Visitors are advised to carry a windjacket and sweater.

Directions: Mt. Howard is located near Wallowa Lake and the town of Joseph, Oregon. The summit is best accessed via the Wallowa Lake Tramway at the base of Mt. Howard. The 15-minute tramway ride, rising 3700 feet, offers people an easy means to gain the high elevations that otherwise must be ascended by a steep, strenuous hike.

From La Grande, Oregon, follow Oregon highway 82 about 70 miles to the small town of Joseph. Drive through Joseph and continue on highway 82 along Wallowa Lake 6 miles to the Wallowa Lake Tramway. A fee is required to ride the tramway to the summit.

Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. For more information, contact the Whitman Ranger District, 88401 Hwy. 82, Enterprise, OR 97828; (541) 426-4978, (541) 426-5546 TDD (541) 426-5609.

Closest Town: Joseph, Oregon.

For More Information: Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center, 201 East Second Street / PO Box 905, Joseph, OR 97846; (541) 426-5546.