Hells Canyon Wilderness
Welcome to the
Hells Canyon Wilderness -
214,944 acres of
high mountain peaks, ominous canyon rim-rocks, breathtaking vistas,
and quieting solitude.
Elk, bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and
many other species of birds and animals are common here. Split by
the.Snake River into two distinct areas, the Hells Canyon Wilderness
straddles the Idaho and Oregon state boundary.
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", and "The Twin Imps'.
trailheads are located at Black Lake, Windy Saddle, and Pittsburg
On the Oregon side is an even larger portion
of the Hells 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 Somers Point. The Oregon
side has multiple trailheads.
Outfitters and Guides
A number of Outfitters and Guides offer wilderness
trips using backpacking, horses, and llamas under permit from the
Forest Service. Many outfitters offer a range of opportunities from
drop camps to deluxe services. Call the Wallowa Mountains Visitor
Center for a complete list of permittees. Refer to the Outfitter
and Guides section for more detailed information on services
provided in each wilderness.
Visiting Wilderness, When To Go, and Weather
There are approximately 360 miles of trails
scattered throughout the wilderness. In Idaho, backpackers are the
dominant recreational group between June to September with the alpine
lakes of the Seven Devil Mountains being the main attraction. Equestrians
dominate the Oregon side with heaviest use associated with spring
and fall big game hunt season. However, the lower elevations offer
wilderness recreational opportunities year round. The
diversity in elevation can also cause unpredictable weather with
temperatures ranging from nighttime lows of 30 degrees Fahrenheit
in alpine country to over 100 degrees in lower elevations near the
A unique experience awaits the visitor to Hells
Canyon Wilderness. Doing your part is vital to the future of Hells
Canyon Wilderness. You will find that upon entrance of wilderness
you are taken back to a time without the use of automobiles, bicycles,
and luxury of mechanized equipment. In addition wilderness is closed
to motorized equipment requiring all trails to be maintained by
hand, utilizing primitive skills, with crosscut saws, pulaskis,
and shovels. Due to budget constraints not all 800 miles of trail
can be cleared each year. Contact the Wallowa Mountains
Visitor Center for current information.
Information and Trail Conditions
Maps and Additional Information
- Recreation reports for Oregon and Idaho sides of the Snake River
- Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center (541)
426-5546 for Oregon information, (208) 628-3916 for Hells Canyon
Several companies are producing up-to-date,
detailed hiking maps of the Hells Canyon Wilderness. They are available
through recreational and sporting goods stores in the towns of Wallowa,
Enterprise, and Joseph. You can also purchase a map of this wilderness
from the Forest Service offices throughout the Wallowa-Whitman National
Forest, from the Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center, or see the map
order form above.
As a designated Wilderness, special emphasis
is placed on safeguarding the area's wild character. Activities
which could mar the landscape or disturb the solitude - such as
travel by motorized vehicles - are not allowed. We're also asking
you to help protect the uniqueness of the area by practicing the
following "no-trace" camping ethics:
- Know the Hells
Canyon Wilderness Regulations
- Avoid camping in overcrowded and fragile
- Camp and keep stock at least 200 horizontal
feet from lakes and streams.
- Pack out all garbage.
- Dismantle all structures - such as meat
racks or tent poles - before leaving. If these are needed, be
sure to use soft rope (instead of nails or wire) to avoid damage
to live trees.
- Don't build a fire ring. Naturalize the
fire site by covering the cold remains of your fire. The best
technique of all is to use a portable camp stove.
- Dig shallow holes 6 to 8 inches for human
waste. Cover with dirt, and decomposition will occur naturally.
- Always do whatever you can to move lightly
over the land.