Hells Canyon Wilderness is a 341 square mile property located within the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area in northeastern Oregon and western Idaho (30 miles east of Enterprise and Joseph, Oregon and 10 miles west of Riggins, Idaho). Sitting within a beautiful blend of high mountain peaks, breathtaking vistas, and canyon rim rocks, this BLM park offers opportunities for quiet solitude and outdoor recreation. The land was designated a BLM wilderness by the US Congress in 1975.
Recreational opportunities abound within and around Hells Canyon Wilderness. Water-based recreation enthusiasts can enjoy a wide range of activities such as powerboating, rafting, floating, fishing, and hunting on the Wild and Scenic Snake River and other water bodies around the wilderness. Hiking and backpacking are also popular among guests who fancy exploring the remote areas in the park. The way the vegetation decorates the wilderness also offers good sightseeing opportunities for nature lovers. Some wildlife species are also present for visitors’ viewing pleasure.
No modern campgrounds or facilities are available in this wilderness, so primitive camping is what’s offered to visitors here. For developed camping options, the nearby national forest is the place to go.
Hells Canyon Wilderness is located 30 miles east of Enterprise and Joseph in Oregon. Riggins, Idaho lies 10 miles west of this BLM wilderness. Visitors looking to gain entry to the southern portions of the wilderness can access the park from Copper Creek trailhead, about nine miles north of Oxbow in Oregon. When planning your trip to the wilderness, consider the time of year, elevation changes and topography because conditions change significantly with season of use and elevation. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended.
Within the boundaries of this wilderness in Oregon, the use of motorized vehicles and other mechanized equipment is not allowed. The use of wheelchairs is allowed within the wilderness. As a result, visitors coming to the wilderness in their vehicles are advised to look out for signs and posts that indicate where the wilderness boundaries are. Around these boundary areas, there are parking spaces provided for vehicles and cars. Navigation within the wilderness area is either on foot or on horses.
Public transportation is provided by bus services such as Greyhound USA, Northeast Oregon Public Transit to Hells Canyon Wilderness in Oregon.
Pittsburg Campground is a large camping area within the Hells Canyon NCA that overlooks the Wild and Scenic Snake River and offers tent and vehicle camping opportunities for visitors. The campground is open year-round and available on first-come, first-served basis.
This campground features 28 campsites for tents and trailers, many of which accommodate large RVs and trailers. Within the campground, there is an accessible facility that has accessible campsites.
Amenities in the campground include picnic tables, vault toilets, camp spurs, centralized waste water dump station, and shade shelters. Within the area, there is an accessible boat ramp provided. Potable water is not available, so come with all the water you’ll need.
RVs and trailers as long as 40 feet can be accommodated in the campground.
Opportunities to enjoy commercial and non-commercial boating are available on Snake River within the Hells Canyon Wilderness area. Guests can enjoy powerboating, rafting, and floating on Snake River, even though these activities are not common on most wild and scenic rivers.
These sports are not recommended for novices or inexperienced boaters. Moreover, all boaters are required to be properly equipped and scout the water for the safest and best routes on the river. Permits are required for non-commercial floating and powerboating.
At the nearby Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, hunters and anglers are offered the chance to pursue their recreational interests to the fullest. Both activities require that you possess an appropriate license and read the applicable fish and game laws.
Coldwater fish species present within Snake River include salmon, rainbow trout and steelhead, while the river also supports warm-water fish such as catfish, crappie, and bass. Huntable game to go after include deer, elk, and bear.
Hells Canyon Wilderness lies within a fascinating setting that provides jaw-dropping sights, as well as good study opportunities for geologists and scientists. Hells Canyon, being the deepest river gorge in the US, has been carved out for millions of years by the Snake River.
The oldest rocks within this canyon are products of underwater volcanoes that were created about 150 million years. Evidence of human habitation as early as about 7,000 years ago has been found through the discovery of a rock shelter in the area.
Hells Canyon Wilderness is a great place to visit if you’re looking to enjoy hiking adventures. Within the wilderness, there is an extensive trail system that follows old Forest Service routes used by ranchers who move their livestock to watering holes and remote salting areas. These routes, in places, follow moderate to steep slopes and ridges, so prepare for a challenging exercise.
The upper elevation areas in the wilderness also feature the Western Rim/Summit Ridge Recreation Trail, a National Trail popular among hikers in the region.
Horseback riding is one of the most interesting ways to explore this Bureau of Land Management property in Oregon. Even though there are no designated horseback riding trails in the wilderness, there are plenty of paths and routes that have been carved out by equestrians on which riders can spend quality time.
Additionally, at Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, equestrians can enjoy the use of various dedicated horseback riding trails that stretch out for miles through backcountry areas.
Nature lovers are treated to wonderful views at Hells Canyon Wilderness. For flora enthusiasts, the beautiful vegetation that characterizes the different elevations are all open to photography and study. In the higher elevation areas, the rocky slopes and groves feature grasslands, ponderosa pine, and Douglas fir. The lower elevation areas, on the other hand, consist predominantly of grassland benches.
Wildlife watchers get to see mule deer, bighorn sheep, chukar and Rocky Mountain Elk within the wilderness’ corridors.