One of the best ways to soak up the ancient natural beauty of Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America, is to explore it on foot. The following spots in particular are popular with hiking aficionados of all skill levels. No matter how much or how little hiking experience you have, the trails around Hells Canyon are natural beauties not to be missed. Pick one that’s best aligned with your experience level and set out on an adventure. You’ll see gorgeous mountain views, seasonal wildflowers, and even some local fauna along the way. Lace up your hiking boots, get your gear ready, and head off to some of the best hiking locations around Hells Canyon on your next nature outing.
Beginner: Heaven’s Gate Trail
At less than half a mile on the eastern edge of Hells Canyon, this hiking trail is perfect for a gentle walk with the family. Hike up to the Heaven’s Gate Lookout and gaze into the depths of Hells Canyon. You can also see a panoramic view of four states—Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Montana—from the lookout!
This peaceful little trail is perfect for birdwatching and, during the early summer, enjoying the colorful wildflowers. Take the kids along on this friendly hike and enjoy the wild beauty around you through a child’s eyes. Heaven’s Gate Trail is a high-elevation hike at an altitude of over 8,100 feet. It’s not excessively steep. It’s a gentle workout.
Easy: Stud Creek Trail
On the Oregon side of the Snake River, below Hells Canyon Dam, you’ll find a neat little hike along the Stud Creek Trail. A round trip is just under two and a half miles; if you’ve got any outdoorsy older kids who love to hike, this one is a good pace for them. Be forewarned, however: there are no guard rails along the edges and the hike can get a little steep. Keep an eye on your kids and a leash on your dog.
Stud Creek Trail is the perfect way to get a taste of Hells Canyon from the majesty of that deep gorge to the flow of the Snake River. If you’re lucky, you might even spot an eagle or a mountain goat in their natural habitat!
Intermediate: Bench Lakes Trail
Reach the Bench Lakes Trail via the Hells Canyon Trail and enjoy the view deep into the canyon and up Spring Creek. At just over eight miles, this isn’t a hike for the faint of heart, but it’s a healthy workout. Get up extra early and let the sun rise as you traverse this trail. As you enjoy your view of the various rivers and creeks, including the Snake River, you may be inspired to take a Hells Canyon boat ride after your hike. At River Adventures, we know the waters like the backs of our hands. We’ll happily guide you through the tranquil stretches and the rushing rapids of the Snake River. That way, you can sit back after and let us do the work for you.
If you visit Hells Canyon during the fall, the Bench Lakes Trail hike will give you a perfect view of the area’s fall foliage. Soak up the seasonal colors and tackle the diverse terrain with gusto. (Be prepared to take your shoes off at a few river crossings, including McGraw Creek, during high water season. The water’s not deep, but it will drench your socks.)
Difficult: Buck Creek Trail
If you feel comfortable going cross-country on your hikes, you’re in luck: Buck Creek Trail has very few actual trails. This six-mile stretch is rarely visited by hikers due to its rugged and unkempt terrain, so it’s ideal for those who prefer solitude. The trailhead is marked only by a rock cairn, and in many places, the trail itself is solely marked by cut logs and faint blazes.
Bring hiking poles with you for tricky ascents and descents. Buck Creek Trail will bring you deep into the canyon gorge and high above it. If you’re hiking in the middle of summer, bring your binoculars and take a gander at the lush carpets of wildflowers on north-facing mountain slopes. (Look out for rattlesnakes, though. Summertime brings beauty and risk to your outdoor experience!)
Extreme: Seven Devils Trail
For pristine views of dozens of lakes and rivers, as well as all Seven Devils (the mountain range around Hells Canyon), challenge yourself to this hefty hike. The trail is not maintained, which means that any natural hazards—big rocks, fallen trees—remain intact for you to navigate around. Stretches of the hike have little natural cover, so bring your sunscreen and apply it often. A sun hat and a pair of shades aren’t bad ideas, either. Seven Devils Trail is just short of 28 miles and features some steep ascents, but the view of the mountains is a dazzling reward.
Seven Devils Trail only sees light traffic from hikers due to its difficult terrain. However, don’t assume you’ll be lonely: you may encounter a few animal acquaintances! Deer, elk, and mountain goats graze in the vicinity. Admire them from a safe distance as you traverse the rocky terrain. When you’re ready to sit and rest for a moment, the trail is home to a few golden spots for fly fishing, so pack accordingly. Seven Devils Trail is recommended for experienced hikers who aren’t afraid to kick off their boots and wade across a stream or two. If you’re up for the challenge, spend a weekend conquering the Seven Devils with your equally experienced hiking companions.
Next time you visit Hells Canyon, take advantage of all the adventure opportunities in front of you. Let River Adventures take care of your Hells Canyon boat ride needs, and take a few hours to explore the terrain on your own. As you plan your outdoor excursion, make time for a little solitude in the wilderness. Check out the best hiking locations around Hells Canyon and take the best hike according to your skill level. You may find yourself with a new hobby!