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Hells Canyon is a place (with spectacular views) worth considering while you're waiting for the snow to melt in the usual places
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Diana Vann
(DianaV) - MLife

Locale: Wandering
Hells Canyon is a place (with spectacular views) worth considering while you're waiting for the snow to melt in the usual places on 06/20/2011 00:15:42 MDT Print View

Hells Canyon is located on the border between Oregon and Idaho. It's deeper than the Grand Canyon, and the Snake River runs at the bottom.

Hells Canyon and the Snake River

The road to the trailhead where we planned to begin our trip was washed out, so we walked 4 miles up the road to reach the Freezeout Trailhead. From there we hiked a series of switchbacks to Freezeout Saddle.

Our trip started on the first Saturday in June, and for the first two days Hells Canyon lived up to its name. It was hot and dry (approaching 90F, which is way too hot in my book!). On the third day the temperature fell, and we experienced thunder storms and periods of heavy rain. By the end of our trip snow was falling at the higher elevations.

Storm Clouds

The Western Rim Trail follows the Summit Ridge along the western edge of the canyon, and the Bench Trail follows a mid-canyon route about halfway between the Snake River and the Summit Ridge. We planned to hike a loop on these two trails, but we had to do some backtracking because of creeks at flood stage and snow on the Summit Ridge. Still, the snow didn't stop us from seeing what we came to see. We were able to get within 500 feet of the summit, and the views from up there were nothing short of spectacular.

What a view!

Rock Formations

Canyon Hills

Snow on the Summit Ridge

Though we hiked mostly on trail, we had to do a fair amount of bushwacking because of a large number of downed trees. We also had to work our way around some snow fields.

a more mellow Hells Canyon creek

The more mellow creeks were plentiful and easy to cross. Because of all the recent rain, we expected to see lots of wildflowers. We were not disappointed.


The wildlife we encountered included 7 snakes; only two of them were not poisonous. We also saw mountain goats, elk and deer. Wolves are reported to be in the area, and we saw what we believed to be wolf tracks (and scat), but did not get a glimpse of them.

Ticks were perhaps the biggest issue we faced. My companions had lots of ticks crawling up their clothes daily, and one person had three embed. My strategy for remaining tick free (which proved to be successful) was to wear gaiters and short pants, which I covered up with a pair of Driducks rain pants. A couple of days before the trip I sprayed (saturated) the Driducks pants with Deep Woods Off (which contains a fair amount of Deet), and I hiked in those for the entire trip.

I only had one tick crawl up my rain pants, and that was after the lower pant legs had been shredded by brush and dead tree limbs. The underlying Driducks material is a texture that's easy for the ticks to grab onto. Also, the underlying material was not sprayed with Deet. After finding the tick I cut off my pant legs to 3/4 length, and after that I didn't have any additional hitchhikers.

Worse for the wear

Edited by DianaV on 06/20/2011 01:01:19 MDT.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Hells Canyon is a place (with spectacular views) worth considering while you're waiting for the snow to melt in the usual places on 06/20/2011 06:42:22 MDT Print View

Great trip Diana, and gorgeous views! Thanks for sharing!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
re on 06/20/2011 07:57:50 MDT Print View

Thanks for the report, nice pics

I keep reading reports about that area, I got to go there sometime

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Hells Canyon is a place (with spectacular views) worth considering while you're waiting for the snow to melt in the usual places on 06/20/2011 09:05:55 MDT Print View

Nice trip report, Diana. The canyon's a beautiful place all right, and nice to see when it's still green and in bloom. What trailhead had planned to start from?

Tyler H
(ctwnwood) - F

Locale: The Palouse
Diddo! My trip was great too! on 06/20/2011 10:43:01 MDT Print View

I also just took a short trip to Hells Canyon. Didn't cover any spectacular miles with some friends who are still getting their feet wet, but did see some spectacular sights from our Freezeout trailhead and Rim Trail jaunt. Below are a couple of my pictures:

Hells Canyon - Lizards

Hells Canyon - Moth

Hells Canyon - Fire

Freezeout Road

I would also give this area a big recommendation. When we visited the Freezeout Trailhead was the only one not still blocked by snow (at least that's what the Rangers were saying). Still, it's a great place to start and because part of Freezeout Rd. is washed-out, it puts you about 15 miles from the Snake. A good couple night hike for most folks.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Hells Canyon on 06/20/2011 11:10:16 MDT Print View

Wow! Some epic scenery up around there. Thanks for sharing!

Diana Vann
(DianaV) - MLife

Locale: Wandering
Re: Diddo! My trip was great too! on 06/20/2011 11:11:05 MDT Print View

Tyler: Great photos, thanks for adding them. I especially liked the one of the lizards. There certainly were lots of them around, but they were always moving fairly fast. Some of the snakes were not moving, but they were too close for comfort when we encountered them (and some were coiled). One of the folks in my party stopped to take photos. But I don't like to stay within striking distance, so I preferred to move away from the snakes as soon as possible.

David: The canyon was incredibly beautiful in shades of green. I've seen photos of it when it's brown and dry. Freezeout was the trailhead we planned to start from, but having the road washed out added about 4 miles to the hike each way. I heard from the farmer who owns land along the lower road (where he graciously let us leave our cars behind his gate) that they are planning to take heavy equipment up on the Freezeout Trailhead road soon to work on it.

Edited by DianaV on 06/20/2011 11:26:41 MDT.

Tyler H
(ctwnwood) - F

Locale: The Palouse
I'm not into snakes either on 06/21/2011 14:35:00 MDT Print View

My buddy went for a day hike and saw a couple Rattlers, he got a really nice picture of one that I'd love to put up if I can get ahold of it.

The lizards I photoged where slowed down by the limits of a loving embrace...