Black Lake at Anthony Lakes
The Anthony Lakes area is an alpine wilderness in the Elkhorn Range of the majestic Blue Mountains in Eastern Oregon featuring prime Oregon hiking, photography, and outdoor recreation. The area contains approximately 15 lakes, including some of the more notable ones: Anthony, Grande Ronde, Mud, Dutch Flat, Lilypad, Hoffer, and Black.
The Anthony Lakes area offers a wide variety of activities, including hiking, hunting, fishing, mountain climbing, photography, skiing, snow shoeing, and developed and backcountry camping. The geology and landscape is highly akin to the prominent Wallowa area and one of the top destinations in Oregon for hiking: the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the northeastern portion of Oregon. With comparable granite craggy peaks and alpine wilderness, the Anthony Lakes area is a top destination in Oregon for photography and hiking. Additionally as the area is not quite as far as the Eagle Cap Wilderness, it is more accessible for many in Oregon.
This alpine wonderland created by the Elkhorn Mountains is situated in the central portion of the wide-ranging Blue Mountains that extend from Southeast Washington into neighboring Oregon. The Elkhorn portion runs approximately 23 miles near the Union, Granite, and Baker county lines. With the Elkhorns being the highest subgroup of the Blue Mountains, most of the higher peaks rise at least 5,000 vertical feet over the floor of Baker Valley. Rock Creek Butte is noted as the highest point at 9,106 feet.
Traveling to Anthony Lakes is truly a highlight of the trip. The astounding Elkhorn Scenic Byway encircles the Elkhorn Range and for those who enjoy an excellent drive, the very well-paved and meandering road through the backwoods carries you from the low agricultural elevations up through and to the high subalpine areas of the northern peaks of the mountainous range. Full of countless photography opportunities, the roads lead you through numerous historical sites of Oregon’s pioneering gold and silver days of the late 1800s with trains, early pioneering ghost towns, and old mines visible from the road. The byway also leads you to the Anthony Lakes Ski Area which is a small ski resort but boasts fresh powder and the highest base in Oregon.
The short hike to Black Lake begins at the Anthony Lakes Campground, which in turn, is home to the most developed lake in the area, Anthony Lake, at an elevation of 7,140 feet. It is popular for picnicking, photography, swimming, and fishing. There is a small boat ramp and facilities in the well-developed campground with plenty of tent spaces available. However, Anthony Lake is by no means a “commercialized” body of water. It is small and remains fairly pristine given its popularity for swimming and fishing. There is an easy one-mile path around the lake which takes you through wildflower meadows and pockets of subalpine firs. Clearly in view is Gunsight Mountain at 8,342 feet (the peak has a notch that looks like a gun sight), and there is a more difficult 8.2 mile loop around Gunsight Mountain which gains 1,330 feet of elevation and takes you along the Elkhorn Crest Trail. As Anthony Lake is often crowded in the summer months, the true jewels are the other lakes scattered throughout the area. If you have the motivation to hike a few miles, you can escape the sounds and activity at the Anthony Lake Campground and find some solitude.
As Anthony Lakes can be crowded at times, a short one-mile backpack to Black Lake to search for a nice spot to set up your tent and enjoy greater privacy is highly recommended. The trailhead is well signed and easily spotted near the boat ramp’s turnaround. The hike is fairly easy, although rocky, as it gains a slight elevation before reaching Black Lake after a mile. The area has some prime primitive camp sites along the shoreline of Black Lake. It is very pretty and probably half of the size of Anthony Lake. Surrounded by firs, wildflower meadows, rocky outcroppings, and a clear view of the back-side of Gunsight Mountain, it is a fine destination, especially given its close proximity to Anthony Lake. As Gunsight Mountain is a focal point, photographing is best with a sunrise rather than sunset, as in the morning the early sun lights up the back-side of Gunsight Mountain with a soft glow. Trout frequently jump in the pristine and shimmering water and there is plenty of wildlife throughout the area. Anyone planning to set up a small tent in the camp spots at Anthony Lake should consider instead a short hike to set up a tent at Black Lake for a much more peaceful wilderness experience.
A trip to the Anthony Lakes area is highly rewarding for Oregon hikers and nature enthusiasts. With dense forests, vast areas opened up by recent forest fires, craggy mountain peaks, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife, it encompasses everything that one desires when photographing, backpacking and Oregon hiking. Along the way, the drive is spectacular, with countless photography opportunities to get sidetracked exploring the historical sites in the area. Plan on visiting the small town of Granite, established by gold miners in the 1860s, where you can stop in at The Outback’s bar to have a beer with the town’s population of 24. I encourage you to explore Oregon and make your own adventure.
For more pictures of the Anthony Lakes area and surrounding landscape, visit www.oregonfoto.com.
To Get There:
The Anthony Lakes Campground is located on the well-paved Road 73, 35 miles northwest of Baker City, or 17 miles west of North Powder. It is easy to follow the “Anthony Lakes” signs after taking the North Powder exit 285 from Interstate 84.
For my trip, I chose an alternate route from Portland, by taking Interstate 26 to John Day and then continued past Prairie City and took easily navigable roads through the small towns of Bates, Sumpter, and Granite.
A Northwest Forest Pass is required (permits can be purchased at the trailhead) to park at the Elkhorn Crest Trailhead. There are fees for camping at Anthony Lake.