The Van Patten Lake Trailhead is a small facility located near the "Little Alps" sand shed a short distance from the Elkhorn Sceninc Bway. The lower trailhead by the sand shed is suitable for passenger cars and trucks with trailers. Most trail users park at the lower trailhead and hike up the first 1 mile of the Van Patten Lake Trail (#1634) on Forest Road 131, and then for the next 1/2 mile on the trail to the lake. Athough there is an small upper trailhead at the end of Forest Road 131, the road is very narrow with large rocks and gullies. It is accessible only by ATV or 4-wheel drive vehicles.
The Van Patten Lake Trail crosses lodgepole pine forest and a grassy slope with summer wildflowers. The climb up Forest Road 131 and on the horse/hiker trail is steep in places. A panoramic view of the North Powder Valley and Wallowa Mountains displays to the east. Van Patten Lake is dammed for irrigation use, and has several campsites available along the western shore.