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Hiking Hells Canyon Rim to Rim
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Hiking Hells Canyon Rim to Rim on 02/28/2012 12:46:22 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Hiking Hells Canyon Rim to Rim

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Hells Canyon on 02/28/2012 14:41:48 MST Print View

Great Trip Report. Sounds like a challenging and rewarding adventure. While the elevation changes are more extreme than what I find in my local stomping grounds, the steepness, diversity of climates and lack of maintained trails made me feel right at home reading the descriptions of the area.

Suggestion to BPL Editorial staff: More content like this!

Thanks for taking the time to share this and put it out there for the rest of us.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Hiking Hells Canyon Rim to Rim on 02/28/2012 15:01:58 MST Print View

Not a trip I'd want to do in July! I realize you were waiting for the water to go down to packraft across, but the bottom--or even the middle--of the canyon is truly hell in hot weather!

Interestingly, the Nez Perce tribe crossed the Snake at flood stage during their historic march....

Edited by hikinggranny on 02/28/2012 15:03:51 MST.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: NoCo
Re: Hiking Hells Canyon Rim to Rim on 02/28/2012 15:16:55 MST Print View

I'll be moving to Pullman, Wa this summer so this article is perfect timing!

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Hells Canyon TR on 02/28/2012 15:25:29 MST Print View

Great article David. Love how you candidly delved into the difficult topic of group dynamics.

And a great trip. I was quite impressed with Hells Canyon when I went this past November. All the trails we hiked not right along the river were faint enough to provide quite the good sense of adventure. Add our second packraft crossing (at dusk, with two people in a Yak) back to Pittsburgh Bar and we got a truly grand adventure.

I have this half-baked idea to go back in mid-April and do your route as an out and back from the other side. Fat bike and ski to the Seven Devils TH, ski down into the canyon, packraft crossing, tag Hat Point, then flip it all. Like I said, thoroughly undercooked.

And Nicholas (and everyone): do these trips, write 'em up, and pitch it to Addie. The more diversity of perspectives, styles and locales the better.

Edited by DaveC on 02/28/2012 15:27:45 MST.

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
^^^ Agreed on 02/28/2012 16:08:05 MST Print View

+10 points for Dave. I can't publish what I don't have!

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Hiking Hells Canyon Rim to Rim on 02/28/2012 18:58:27 MST Print View

Greener than most photos I've seen posted from trips at this locale. Thanks.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Group Dynamics on 02/28/2012 20:12:46 MST Print View

Good article. I like the honesty in going into group dynamics. Its frustrating when you can't achieve a goal because of a partner but I always say the friendship is more important than the destination. I had to give up a dream of exploring a canyon in Colorado once because my friend just wasn't in the mood for any "He Man" stuff, he wanted to do a more relaxed trip and "smell the roses." We compromised and we're still friends and the canyon will be there for me to explore again someday.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Hiking Hells Canyon Rim to Rim on 02/29/2012 01:46:37 MST Print View

With quality writing reminiscent of E. M. Forster, how could this not be a classic? Thanks for a beautiful and challenging trail report.

David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
Hells Canyon rim-to-rim on 02/29/2012 08:15:25 MST Print View

Great trip write-up and beautiful photos. I've spent significant time in the Seven Devils and looked at the canyon from the west side trails but never ventured down. Having floated part of the Snake, I think the decision to go across in a jet boat was very wise. The Snake is big water with huge currents. This is not to say it couldn't be done in a pack raft, but certainly it would be a challenge. Thanks for the great article.

Alfred Dole

Locale: Northwest
Wonderful article! on 02/29/2012 10:51:09 MST Print View

I did this trip myself - solo - many years ago. I really stressed about the river crossing. My first night's camp was at the river on the upstream end of Johnson Bar. During the night the river dropped at lease six vertical feet - maybe eight! I loaded my pack into a garbage bag and enjoyed a very gentle, warm, swim in the morning sun. It was fabulous! The climb out of the canyon to Windy Saddle took 1.5 days. The whole hike was very dry, and this was in the day before quality water filtering products, so I was a little nervous. I loved the journey!
Thank you!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Wonderful article! on 02/29/2012 14:21:11 MST Print View

Nice article, thanks

I keep thinking about doing some hiking in this area. This information will help.

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Thanks Everyone! on 02/29/2012 22:10:42 MST Print View

Thank you all for the interest and the comments. It was a great experience--being able to share it with fellow BPL folks makes it that much better.

Mary: For July, the canyon bottom that week in July wasn't *too* bad. Last year was such a big snow year, the problem with going much earlier would have been access to the rims. If I recall correctly, the roads to Hat Point and Windy Saddle were still closed well into June. Really, Sept-early Oct would be ideal, but Nathan and I both teach, so it's tough to get a stretch of days off in the fall.

Michael: I'm just across the state line from Pullman, in Moscow. Good to know there'll be an BPL guy in the area.

David: I'd been wondering how your November trip went. Mid-April sounds interesting, and adventurous. I'd guess a person could get a ways up the road to Windy Saddle at the point, then use the bike hoping most of the rest would be clear-ish, just too many lingering drifts to drive? My understanding is, we're at something less than normal snow pack--might be a good year to try it.

Alfred: Wow--that's a big drop overnight. I would guess the drop overnight when we camped at Bernard Creek was only a foot or two. My guess is last year there was still enough flow upstream of the dams that Idaho Power didn't have to cut off the downstream flow as much to store flow for the next day's power production. We didn't get as far downstream this trip as Johnson Bar, but I couldn't have imagined swimming.

With regard to group dynamics: I've always got a lot out of articles that offered a candid look at successes *and* struggles of a hike, more so than accounts of things going perfectly. As I wrote, no way I could have done this (especially first time on the route) without a partner, and no way the dynamics could have resolved successfully unless that partner was someone as straightforward as Nathan. I look forward to many more hikes together.

Again, thank you all for reading and commenting.

Pit Martin
(Pit5785455) - MLife
Re: Hiking Hells Canyon Rim to Rim on 03/01/2012 11:45:46 MST Print View

Here in Colorado, 11 miles with 2300' elevation gain is a gentle hike, even with packs, water and food. Not impressed. Try the Colorado Trail, particularly sections 19 - 24, for some serious elevation gain. This Hel's Canyon hike sounds like serious fun. Wonder how crowded during the summer months. Pit Martin

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Earlier access to Hells Canyon on 03/01/2012 12:52:32 MST Print View

On the Oregon side, the Freezeout trailhead is open much earlier in the year. Friends of mine hiked it last spring--one went in late March and the other in mid-April. There was a little snow on the saddle in March, but nothing serious. Each took the "High Trail" (which contours part-way down the canyon) north and the riverbank trail back, then the Saddle Creek trail back to the top. This makes a wonderful long loop for those physically able to do it. According to those who have done it, spring is the best time.

Pete Sandrock
(petesandrock) - MLife
Protecting Hells Canyon on 03/01/2012 14:08:39 MST Print View

If David's wonderful article stirred your interest in Hells Canyon, go to the website of the HELLS CANYON PRESERVATION COUNCIL(HCPC) at

The Hells Canyon-Wallowa-Blue Mountain region is like the hub of a giant wheel connecting the Northern Rockies, Northern Basin and Range, and Pacific NW ecosystems. It is a mixing zone in which the wildlife, vegetation, and topography of all three ecosystems can be found.

In a dozen miles the landscape soars from the depths of Hells Canyon to the alpine peaks of the Eagle Cap Wilderness and down again to the Zumwalt Prairie, the largest intact bunchgrass prairie on the continent. Here you will find salmon and steelhead, moose, wolves, wolverines, bears, bighorns, golden eagles, great gray owls and much more.

By the way, David accurately describes the rigors of Hells Canyon hiking.

Pete Sandrock
HCPC Board Member
BPL Member

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Hiking Hells Canyon Rim to Rim on 03/01/2012 14:50:07 MST Print View

"Here in Colorado, 11 miles with 2300' elevation gain is a gentle hike, even with packs, water and food. Not impressed. Try the Colorado Trail, particularly sections 19 - 24, for some serious elevation gain."

I didn't notice it was some sort of contest. Also keep in mind that there were sections with no trails. I do a lot of hiking in these kinds of conditions where you measure progress in hours per mile.

It looks like a great hike, my kind of adventure. Thanks for the report, David.

Scott Emmens
(multisportscott) - M
Tarps? on 03/01/2012 19:43:36 MST Print View

Thank you for the article, I found it really interesting, the group dynamic thing is a real interest.Thanks for the insight.
Can someone tell me what the tarps are that being used?
Thanks in advance, Scott in NZ