Hell's Canyon


Hell's Canyon is big. Way big.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

In McCall we still have a couple feet of snow in the yard and it has been unusually cold, so a hike at 1000' el and some warmer weather was sounding pretty good. After a 2 1/4 hour drive down the Little Salmon, main Salmon, then over the hill from White Bird, we were on the Snake and leaving Pittsburgh Landing trail head. It wasn't really warm, but the sun was not yet up so we still had hopes. This is looking upstream, to the south.


This trail is sort of quirky; the worst bits are the first half mile and the last. So the initial rocky climb worked to our advantage, quickly warming us up despite the shade. This is looking back toward Pittsburgh Landing.

Punchy snow

The trail is awesome, spending most of the time hanging from the sidewall of the canyon a couple hundred feet off the deck, giving a wonderful perspective on how big this ditch really is. Contrasting with the Grand Canyon, it's not so grand but you appreciate Hell's Canyon's size/depth more.

Dry hillside

The trail runs up side canyons occasionally to gain elevation. This canyon was very green, and will look even greener when the leaves come out on the poison ivy.

Up the ridge
Much of the trail is at or near a precipice. It's not really scary, but you would not want to trip in the wrong place. Again, awesome views. Booting
It's still early though, and there was fresh snow on the foothills of the Wallowas. But that's in Oregon. South Fork
As I said, the first and last half miles are pretty tough with lots of climbing. But much of the middle part of the hike is a cruise. You can see the trail easily. If you click for the bigger version, you can also see Art and Jeff. Lookout

The last half mile drops about 700' back to the river at Kirkwood Ranch. You'll be climbing back up this on the return.



At the ranch, there are camp spots, a solar toilet, and lots of historical stuff. We laid around in the sunshine eating a leisurely lunch and wondering if we would ever again see Jeff's dog Sis. Then we wandered around looking at the artifacts while Professor Troutner lectured on ancient farm equipment.


With the sun full up, the canyon warmed up nicely. So on the return we were sweating in shirtsleeves. Julie and I were in casual mode while Art and Jeff visited "the mansion". We got back with enough lead time to sit on the picnic table, sip coffee, and air our feet before the drive home.

Great spring hike. At a reasonable pace, it's about 2.5 hours each way. Don't do it if it's hot. But at this time of year the sun felt great and all the oxygen at low altitude makes you feel like Superman.

Note: Although we did not see any, this area of the river has earned a reputation for a certain reptile.....


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