Hell's Canyon Wilderness


Located in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Oregon.

The 213,993-acre Hell's Canyon wilderness is characterized by high mountain peaks, ominous canyon rimrocks, breathtaking vistas, and quiet solitude.

Elk, bear, bighorn sheep, and many other species of birds and animals are common here. Split by the snake river into two distinct parts, the Hell's Canyon Wilderness straddles the Idaho and Oregon boundary.

At lower elevations on the Idaho side, dry, barren, steep slopes break over into the Snake River Canyon. In the high country are towering peaks, rock faced slopes, and alpine lakes of the Seven Devil's Mountain Range--said to be named for a vision of seven dancing devils that appeared to an Indian lost in the area. Here, splendid mountain peaks rise well over 9,000 feet, and bear names like "She Devil", "He Devil", and "The Twin Imps".

Idaho side trails are located at Black Lake, Windy Saddle, and Pittsburg Landing.

On the Oregon side is even a larger portion of the Hell's Canyon Wilderness. This area boasts expanses of grasslands at lower elevations, where bunchgrasses, and shrubs dominate. Higher, look for scattered and sometimes dense groupings of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees. Clear, free-flowing creeks dissect this expansive and isolated land. Popular Oregon-side viewpoints are McGraw, Hat Point, and Sommer Point.

Roads leading to wilderness trailheads and viewpoints for either area are mostly single lane, and suitable for low speed use only.

The extensive trail system in 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 are extensive treks on these trails, which are passable--though somewhat not accommodating. Many routes follow ridges and traverse moderate slopes and benchlands with ease; others track steep slopes.

Foot and stock trails are maintained for travel; however higher elevation remain inaccessible due to snow throughout much of the year. Both access roads and trails begin to open in June, remaining open until September or October.

For further information contact: The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 24 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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