It’s easy to love llama trekking in Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains

Since 1985 Wallowa LLamas has led hikers into the rugged Wallowa Mountains, nicknamed the Oregon Alps, where one of the highest peaks (9,826 feet) is, in fact, called Matterhorn.

A llama trek isn’t like a pack trip with horses, where some horses carry riders while others carry tents and stoves. You don’t ride llamas, you hike along with them. The advantage to a llama trek is that these tough, intelligent, good-natured (for the most part) and sure-footed beasts carry the gear and food. They can navigate steep and narrow trails high into the wilderness while all you carry is a day pack.

Unlike horses, llamas don’t wear metal shoes that can tear up trails; a llama’s soft but tough foot pad — a bit like a dog’s — leaves less mark on a trail than a hiker’s lug-soled boot. And at the end of the day they graze in a meadow like deer, with no need to pack in special feed that might bring weeds.

So you get a load-free, low-impact hike into the backcountry, with the bonus of getting to know llamas. And they do have personalities.

Each guest can bring 20 pounds of gear to be carried by llamas. That includes your own sleeping bag, pad and clothing. The outfitter provides tents, meals and cooking gear. Balancing packs for the llamas is an art involving a handheld digital scale. Llamas carrying guests’ gear are fitted with nylon packs mounted on a special saddle, balanced at 28 pounds per side. Larger, stronger llamas carry big plastic coolers or custom-made metal cargo bins.

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