Adventure seekers from all over the world gather in Hells Canyon every single year. Nestled between western Idaho and eastern Oregon, Hells Canyon is truly a sight everyone needs to visit at least once. Below, we’re sharing just a few of the top reasons why you must see Hells Canyon.
You Get a Taste of History
Once you’re familiar with Hells Canyon’s history, you’ll be itching to catch a glimpse of the area for yourself. To start, the canyon formed millions of years ago as a result of volcanoes emerging from the Pacific Ocean. Once these diminished, limestone formed on top of the chain of volcanoes, and sedimentary rock occupied the space between the underwater platforms. Millions of years after this activity, basalt lava flowed over the area, resulting in a plateau. The Snake River, which currently winds through the area, carved out Hells Canyon from the plateau.
What about the canyon’s original inhabitants? Native American tribes first occupied the area, and today, you can still spot pictographs and petroglyphs on the canyon’s walls. Fast forward to the 1800s, and the Lewis and Clark and the Wilson Price Hunt expeditions stumbled upon Hells Canyon via the Columbia and Salmon Rivers. Gold miners arrived at the canyon shortly after—and to this day, it’s still apparent that they made a stop in this part of the Pacific Northwest. In fact, people believe that miners’ remains are still in Hells Canyon. Subsequently, homesteaders as well as cattle and sheep ranchers took over the area. From the canyon’s old rocks to the fascinating physical evidence left by its earliest visitors, there is no shortage of history here.
It’s Breathtakingly Beautiful
Let’s face it—Hells Canyon is scenic. You’ll find yourself in a lush green, gray, and brown landscape; although rock commonly breaks up the scenery, you can still see several types of bushes and trees throughout the canyon, such as Douglas fir, Engelmann spruce, and ponderosa pine. Not to mention, you’ll glimpse grasses and shrubs in some spots, too. And when you look up, you’ll catch the remarkable Seven Devils mountain peaks. And of course, nobody can help but fixate their eyes on the unbelievable rock formations, which create tremendous dark walls that tower over visitors. Without a doubt, the ever-changing terrain and various vegetation species are truly social media–worthy.
Plus, if you see Hells Canyon during the summer months, we’re certain you’ll find gorgeous wildflowers. In autumn, the fall foliage is worth the trip as well; canyon guests will notice a lovely sea of reds and yellows. When you’re in this part of the country, photo opportunities are endless, no matter when you visit. If you need some suggestions to get you started, consider viewing the canyon from above and drive to the Hells Canyon Overlook. You may also want to head to the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, which runs through the magnificent Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
Most hikers and nature enthusiasts seek a quiet, peaceful retreat in the wilderness, and Hells Canyon is a prime example of such a place. The area is heavily regulated, so it’s not too crowded most of the time. Further, because you can access Hells Canyon’s Snake River only by driving on three roads, you’ll see very few vehicles in the area. There aren’t any bridges, either. If people wish to access Hells Canyon, they typically can do so only by boat, horseback, or foot unless they have cars or trucks with four-wheel drive. Truly, if you want solitude, this canyon is quite a good choice for being alone among nature.
There’s Plenty of Wildlife
When exploring a new environment, you can’t help but be amazed by the wildlife—and Hells Canyon doesn’t disappoint. Here, you may discover bears, bighorn sheep, coyotes, deer, elk, mountain goats, and many other animals. If you’re hoping to see some birds, the eagles and hawks will pleasantly surprise you. And if you decide to fish in the Snake River, bass, catfish, sturgeon, and trout are just a few of the fish species you have the opportunity to catch.
The Abundance of Activities
You’ll never ask yourself what you should do in Hells Canyon. Why? You have options! Let’s take water activities, for example. Because the Snake River runs through the canyon, numerous folks enjoy whitewater boating, kayaking, and rafting. Perhaps you’re not necessarily interested in going out on the water. That’s okay, too! You can also hike through national forests; there are various trails you can choose, and you can always stop to picnic along the way. Hikers only need to be mindful of possible rattlesnakes and poison ivy.
Plus, because Hells Canyon seemingly spans countless miles, some folks also like to hunt or embark on horseback when they visit. Should you choose to make your trip a multiday event, you can plan an entire camping experience in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. You know what’s even more fantastic about camping in the canyon? You’re near other national parks, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. If you don’t mind traveling a little farther out, you can visit Crater Lake, Glacier, and North Cascades National Parks as well.
The best part about partaking in fun activities here? No mosquitoes—yes, you read that correctly. Because the river’s levels frequently change, it’s difficult for these insects to breed in the water. That means no bug bites for you, family, or friends.
So, there you have it—what we believe to be the top reasons why you must see Hells Canyon. Are you ready to cross seeing the deepest canyon in North America off your list? Well, just know that your best view of stunning Hells Canyon is right on the water. River Adventures leads Hells Canyon boat rides that are sure to spur lasting memories. Our experienced guides know the river, so they’ll safely take you jetting through the roaring rapids. Book your boat ride today. Do you have questions or want more information? Give us a call or reach out via email. Don’t forget to follow us on social media!