Backpacking to the Minam River Lodge
I’m all about that lazy backpacking/hibernating life these days. Give me short hikes, hut camping, happy hours, train camping on the river, and zero alpine starts. When I found out about the Minam River Lodge last year at a Travel Oregon event, I could not believe what I was hearing.
This luxurious spot, nestled in the Wallowa Whitman National Forest, is accessible only by foot. (Or by air, but let’s be real, I’m hiking those 8.5 miles in.)
In a former life, the Minam River Lodge was an old hunting lodge. Owner Barnes Ellis purchased the property at an auction and spent the last several years rebuilding to create the serene wilderness getaway you see here. The property boasts cabins, wall tents, a garden, wood fired hot tub and a sauna. All furnishings and materials were helicoptered in.
Accommodations at the Minam River Lodge
Options are available for every level of dirtbag from a wall tent to a bougie suite in the Lodge.
We stayed in the cheapest option, the Wall Tent. This option will run you about $195 per night.
Our tent had no electricity, but we had a Barebones Living lamp to make our way around at night. The wall tent is simple, elevated camping with a comfortable bed and cozy duvet. The toilet and shower are a short walk away. The lodge is open all night if you need to charge devices.
For people who are uncomfortable with crawly critters, bugs will get into your tent. It’s not a fully sealed environment.
Other options include cabins with private baths beginning at $395 per night, lodge rooms with shared baths at $245 per night, and the Eagle Cap Suite at $495 per night.
What to do at the Minam River Lodge
A guidebook of hikes out of the Minam River Valley is available for guests to peruse. These hikes vary from 1-2 mile out and backs to 40+ mile loops throughout the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
If you’re feeling adventurous, lodge manager Isaac Trout can also recommend some bushwhacks.
Once it warms up, swimming in the freezing Minam River on a hot summer day seems absolutely delightful. Otherwise, there’s always the hot tub, sauna, or lazing about.
We only had two full days to enjoy the Minam River Lodge, one which overlapped with a guest chef dinner. We kept our hiking pretty low key so we could see all the happenings in the kitchen.
Music is a big thing at the Minam River Lodge as well. Check the events calendar to see who might be playing during your stay.
Food at the Minam River Lodge
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love to eat good food. One of the biggest draws, aside from hiking 8.5 miles into a wilderness lodge, was the farm-to-table food.
Everything we ate was either grown at the Lodge’s greenhouse in Enterprise, or sourced locally, and prepared in the open kitchen. There’s even a tiny greenhouse and garden on site, in the valley.
On top of that, meals sometimes includes foraged ingredients, including pine needles, little pine cones, and more.
Breakfast and lunch come in two options, light—for the less hungry folks—and regular. If you’re heading on an all day adventure, a bagged lunch is available to-go, complete with house-cured meats.
Dinner is served family style around 5pm.
Our stay coincided with a visit from Chef Ryan Fox from Nomad.PDX. He served us a delicious 4-course meal.
Food is not included in the room charge and will set you back $25 for breakfast and lunch each (light options are cheaper), and dinner is $75 per meal.
How to get to the Minam River Lodge
To get the lodge, guests can hike (or ride a horse) in from the Moss Springs trailhead in Cove, OR. Parking at the trailhead is $5 per day. All overnight hikers must have a wilderness permit. The Minam River Lodge website gives you near turn-by-turn directions to the lodge. The trail is well signed towards Reds Horse Ranch, the adjacent property, now owned by the USFS.
If hiking isn’t your thing, or you’re short on time, guests can fly into the private, backcountry airstrip from Enterprise, OR for approximately $125 each way. Flights, however, are highly dependent on weather and can be postponed or canceled.
We flew into Portland and opted to drive the 5 hours to Cove, OR along the Columbia River Gorge. Our other option was to fly into Boise, which shortens the drive time by two hours. Ticket prices into Boise, however, were a bit more expensive than Portland.
The hike into the Minam River Valley is primarily downhill. To get out, retrace your steps uphill.
The Minam River Lodge is dog friendly. Due to the commercial kitchen and dining area, they are not allowed in the main lodge.
Backpacking, or even flying, into the Minam River Lodge is truly an experience from the property to the meals. It costs a pretty penny, but this is one wilderness adventure that you won’t forget.