Hells Canyon Wilderness
The Hells Canyon Wilderness is composed of 217,927 acres of high mountain peaks, ominous canyon rim-rocks, breathtaking vistas, and quieting solitude.
Established in 1975 as part of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Act (P.L. 94-199) the wilderness is split by the Snake River into two distinct areas – one in Oregon and the smaller portion in Idaho. Although the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has the lead stewardship responsibility, the wilderness also includes lands from the Payette National Forest, Nez Perce National Forest, and Bureau of Land Management.
At lower elevations on the Idaho side, dry, barren, steep slopes break over into the Snake River canyon. In the high country are the towering peaks, rock-faced slopes, and alpine lakes of the Seven Devils Mountain Range - said to be named for a vision of seven dancing devils that appeared to an Indian lost in the area. The legend fits. Here, splendid mountain peaks rise well over 9,000 feet, and bear names like She Devil, He Devil, Ogre, Goblin, Devil's Throne, Mt. Belial and Twin Imps.
On both the Oregon and Idaho sides the higher elevation areas are characteristic of rocky slopes and grasslands laced with 'stringer canyons' and groves composed of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. The lower elevations are dominated by grassland benches with steep canyons and ravines dissecting the isolated Oregon-side. Species of interest are Rocky Mountain elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mule deer, and chukar.
- Key access points: Trailhead and Trail information.
At a Glance
|Rentals & Guides:||Commercial Outfitter & Guides|
|Restrictions:||Wilderness Regulations apply
|Closest Towns:||Joseph, Oregon; Riggins, Idaho.|
|Passes:||Some trailheads require a valid recreation pass. Check our Recreation Pass and Permits page for details.
|Information Center:||Wallowa Mountains Office or check the Recreation Condition Reports.|
Main Access Points
Trailheads from Enterprise, Oregon side
- Buck Creek NRA Trailhead - Reservoir Bench Trail #1884
- PO Saddle Trailhead - Western Rim National Recreation Trail #1774
- Hat Point Trailhead - Hat Point Trail #1752
- Warnock Corral Trailhead - Temperance Creek Trail #1778
- Dug Bar Trailhead - Western Rim National Recreation Trail #1774, Snake River Trail #1726
- Freezeout Trailhead –Saddle Creek #1776 to Western Rim National Recreation Trail #1774
Trailheads from Riggins, Idaho side
- Black Lake Campground - Black Lake- Horse Heaven Trail #214
- Heaven's Gate Trailhead - Boise Trail #101 (north)
- Windy Saddle Trailhead and Windy Saddle Horse Camp - Seven Devils Trail #124
- Cold Springs Trailhead- Boise Trail #101
- Low Saddle Trailhead – Stormy Point Trail #108
- Snake River Trailhead - Snake River National Recreation Trail #102
Cactus Mountain, Fingerboard Saddle, Grave Point, Hat Point, He Devil, Heaven’s Gate, Homestead, Kessler Creek, Kirkwood Creek, Lord Flat, Old Timer Mountain, Puderbaugh Ridge, Purgatory Saddle, Sleepy Ridge, Squirrel Prairie, Temperance Creek, White Monument, Wolf Creek. Download free U.S. Forest Service Topo maps.
Buy maps online
Go to the National Forest Store.
Go to Wilderness.net for online maps and other important Wilderness information.
Recreation season in the lower section of the wilderness usually begins in early spring and runs through late November. Access at some of the lower elevations along the Snake River are year-long. However at the higher elevations many trails remain inaccessible due to snow until late in the summer and become snowed covered in late October. Winter storms and summer thunderstorms are common along the canyonlands and mountain ridges, drawing up to 40 inches of annual precipitation-twice as much as the surrounding lowlands. The majority of the use varies depending of the lower or higher elevations.
The extensive trail system within the wilderness mostly follows old Forest Service access routes to fires, and stock trails used by ranchers to move livestock to remote salting areas and watering holes. You can take short day trips or extensive treks on these trails, which are passable - though somewhat unaccomodating. Many routes follow ridges and traverse moderate slopes and benchlands with ease; others track steep slopes.
Two national recreation and historic trails are found at various elevations: in Oregon there is the Western Rim/Summit Ridge National Recreation Trail at the upper elevation, and Nez Perce - Ne Me Poo - National Historic Trail near the Snake River. In Idaho there is the Snake River National Recreation Trail along the river, and the Heaven's Gate National Recreation Trail in the upper elevations.