Look Into Hells Canyon Overview
Sense-ational Hells Canyon National Recreation Area!
Let Your SENSES...be your guide!
Welcome to the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area managed by the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Hugging the borders of northeastern Oregon and western Idaho, this national showcase holds 652,488 acres of beauty and adventure, where you can let your senses run as wild as the landscape. The deepest river gorge in North America. Scenic vistas that rival any on the continent. World-class whitewater boating. Spectacular mountain peaks. Vast reaches of remote wilderness. Exciting recreational opportunities. Diverse and abundant wildlife. Artifacts from prehistoric tribes and rustic remains of early miners and settlers...Hells Canyon National Recreation Area truly offers something for everyone, and much to remember. We know you will enjoy Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, whether you choose to explore by road, trail, or boat.
LISTEN... to the music of songbirds and the cry of raptors that share the skies
Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy the opportunity to spot creatures both great and small-from the tiny pika to cougars, bobcats, bears, elk, deer, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep-who claim homes in Hells Canyon's lush forests and craggy ridges. Many species of fish thrive in the waters of the Snake River.
Listen...to the footsteps left by Hells Canyon residents of ages past. Traces of human existence in Hells Canyon date back thousands of years-from prehistoric Native American tribes, Chief Joseph's band of the Nez Perce Indians, to the 1860's gold miners and late 1800's homesteaders. Today, Indian pictographs and petroglyphs, as well as the remains of settlers' homes, dot the landscape. Historical and archaeological sites can be enjoyed, but are fragile, irreplaceable, and protected by federal law. Please leave them for others to discover.
LOOK.. over the edge of North America's deepest canyon
The landscape of Hells Canyon is a study in contrast, from the steep desert like lower slopes and sandbars edging the Snake River, to the rugged peaks and alpine lakes of the majestic Seven Devils Mountains towering almost 8,000 feet above. Look...across the ever-changing horizon. Enjoy spectacular vistas from the edge of this great abyss at Hat Point, Heavens Gate, or Hells Canyon overlook. Travel deep into the Hells Canyon gorge along the Snake River. Discover the expansive bench country between rim and river where clear streams meander through forest and meadow. Look...for abundant wildflowers in the canyon during the early spring, or watch miniature high mountain wildflowers show their color in the warm summer months.
FEEL.. the spray of water and the thrill of raging rapids on the Wild and Scenic Snake River
The Wild and Scenic Snake River holds both world-class whitewater and tranquil stretches of glass-smooth water. Whether you seek the adventure of a whitewater raft trip or the excitement of a powerboat excursion, you'll find both day and overnight trips offered by outfitters to suit your needs. If you prefer the challenge of captaining your own watercraft, contact the National Recreation Area office in Clarkston, Washington, for permit requirements and other information. Feel...the cool, relaxing evening breeze at one of nineteen rustic campsites. You're also welcome to pick a favorite spot most anywhere to camp. Feel...the quiet solitude of the Hells Canyon Wilderness. Imagine a time without cars, or roads, a time of self-reliance and adventure. You'll find both in the Hells Canyon Wilderness. Feel...the earth move beneath your feet as you journey over almost 900 miles of trails ranging from easiest to most difficult. Before planning a trip check at any Forest Service office on trail conditions, acceptable means of travel, and specific regulations for the wilderness area. Feel...the exhilaration of snowmobiling or cross-country skiing. Try our groomed trails or designated play areas. Stable winter weather ensures powder snow and family fun.
By any measure, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is immense. First-time visitors may wish to contact a Forest Service office for help in planning a visit.
Here are some choices to help you get started:
- Local Communities near the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area welcome visitors with lodging, supplies, and services year round. Discover rural life in America with vibrant turn-of-the century historic districts. Explore the National Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon. Marvel at bronze sculptures at foundries in Joseph, Oregon. Step aboard a jet boat in Lewiston, Idaho, Clarkston, Washington or at Hells Canyon Dam. Begin your trip into the Seven Devils Mountains from Riggins, Idaho. Area outfitters offer a variety of services. Local and state tourism offices can help you with your travel plans.
- The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest's Wallowa Mountains Office in Joseph offers trip planning information for Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.
- The Hells Canyon Scenic Byway (also known as the Wallowa Mountain Road or Forest Road 39) is a five-hour scenic tour from Baker City to La Grande, Oregon through many pleasant communities and over steep winding roads through the Wallowa Mountains. This two-lane paved road (except for a short segment of one-lane paved road) provides the easiest access to the rim of Hells Canyon at the Hells Canyon Overlook via Forest Road 3965.
- The Hat Point Road (Forest Road 4240) begins at Imnaha, Oregon and climbs the sheer cliffs of the Imnaha River canyon along a narrow, steep, single-lane gravel road on its way to the breathtaking vista at Hat Point Overlook. You'll need a full day to complete this drive.
- The Imnaha River Road (Forest Roads 3960 and 3955) follows the Wild and Scenic Imnaha River. Enjoy a picnic, hike to "Blue Hole" from the Indian Crossing Campground, or visit a fish weir for anadromous salmon. Allow a half day to explore this beautiful area along the two-lane gravelled Imnaha River Road.
- The Snake River Road between Oxbow Crossing and Hells Canyon Dam takes you deep into the canyon. This two-lane paved road is flanked by steep walls that rise from the dark blue water of Hells Canyon Reservoir and the beginning of the Wild and Scenic Snake River. Stop below the Hells Canyon Dam to begin a river trip or enjoy the view. Visit the Hells Canyon Creek Information Station (in summer months). Enjoy camping or boating along the Snake River Reservoir. Allow three hours from Baker City, Oregon, Enterprise, Oregon, or Cambridge, Idaho to the Hells Canyon Dam.
- Heaven's Gate Overlook is thought by many to be the best view into Hells Canyon from Idaho. From the south end of Riggins, Idaho allow a half day to reach the overlook on a very steep and winding gravel road (Forest Road 517).
- The Pittsburg Landing Road (Forest Road 493) is a narrow, steep gravel road to the Wild and Scenic Snake River within the Hells Canyon. Once an expansive Native American village site, today Pittsburg Landing is popular for river access and camping. From White Bird, Idaho, allow a half day to visit Pittsburg Landing.
- The Dug Bar Road (Forest Road 4260) is as rugged as it is beautiful. Recommended only for high clearance or four-wheel drive vehicles, this steep, narrow, one-lane dirt road is an all-day adventure to the Snake River from Imnaha, Oregon.