Hells Canyon

The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, managed by the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, hugs the borders of northeastern Oregon and western Idaho. This national showcase holds 652,488 acres of beauty and adventure, where you can let your senses run as wild as the landscape.

Hells Canyon offers scenic vistas that rival any on the continent. World-class whitewater boating. Spectacular mountain peaks. Vast reaches of remote wilderness for hiking or horseback riding. Diverse and abundant wildlife. Artifacts from prehistoric tribes and rustic remains of early miners and settlers. Hells Canyon National Recreation Area truly offers something for everyone, and much to remember. We know you will enjoy Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, whether you choose to explore by road, trail, or boat.

Access the Canyon by Road

There is only one point of access by road into Hells Canyon from North Central Idaho, Pittsburg Landing. Just south of White Bird, take Deer Creek Road where it leaves Hwy 95 at mile marker 222. After crossing the Salmon River, turn left and stay on the main road, approximately 17 miles to Pittsburg Landing. This is a well-maintained single lane gravel road with turnouts, that crosses the divide between the Salmon and Snake rivers. There are steep grades on both sides of this divide, so visitors pulling travel trailers or driving RVs should use extreme caution.

Where’s the best view?

Heaven’s Gate overlook is said to be the best view into Hells Canyon from the Idaho side. From the south end of Riggins, follow Forest Road 517 with caution as it’s a very steep and winding gravel
road. Sitting at 8,429-feet above sea level, the overlook notably offers a view of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Montana.
© Mike Needham/Google


Glimpses of Hells Canyon

© Chad Case

  • Low Saddle & Saw Pit Saddle Viewpoints Access via primitive dirt and gravel Forest Road 241 off Hwy 95 near Riggins; Open June-Nov
  • Heavens Gate Overlook 19 miles west of Riggins off Hwy 95 on Forest Road 517 (rough, steep road); Elevation 8,400 ft; Open July-Sept

Access by Trail

  • Black Lake Trailhead
  • Snake River Trailhead
  • Windy Saddle Trailhead

Access by Boat

© Chad Case

Access Hells Canyon by river with a permit from the Forest Service or with experienced outfitters who can arrange one- to six-day trips. Some will even drop you and your gear off at a sandy beach for an overnight stay in a rustic river campsite. Guided jet boat tours and rafting tours leave from Lewiston and White Bird seasonally daily.

Permits are required year-round for all non-commercial floaters and powerboaters on the Snake River within the HCNRA. Take time to read the regulations printed on the back of the permit before embarking on your trip. During the primary river season, reservations and trip permits issued by the Forest Service are required to launch trips at specific locations along the river.

Location: Lewis Clark Valley and White Bird

Category: Lakes & Rivers, Excursions, Hikes & Walks, Museums & History, Wildlife Viewing, and Family Activities





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