Hells Canyon Area Hikes

Rapid River
Distance: variable – from 1 mile to 40 miles
Climb: begins gradually, but becomes steeper after the first 11 miles
Difficulty: easy to difficult in areas
Usage: heavy
Location: Drive 4 miles south from Riggins on US Highway 95, exiting onto the road leading to the Rapid River fish hatchery. Park at the top of the fish hatchery’s loop road.

Following the main fork of the Rapid River, this trail winds through a scenic canyon designated as a unit of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Although most hikers opt for a short 1-2 mile day hike, several options abound for those interested in a longer, more strenuous trip. After 1.5 miles, hikers will reach the first river crossing. Trail engineers have placed bridges at all river crossings during the first 11 miles to make the trail accessible for hikers of all experience levels. In another 1.5 miles, hikers have a unique opportunity to view a Pacific Yew, a special evergreen tree commonly found near the ocean. At the 4-mile mark, hikers can opt to take the trail fork leading to the West Fork of Rapid River and eventually to the base of the Seven Devils Peaks. For those who stay on the main trail, the route passes Castle Creek, Copper Creek, Paradise Cabin, and ends at Frypan Creek. Here, hikers must either ford the river or bushwhack 2 miles beyond the ford point. After doing so, hikers can choose to take a loop along the North Star Trail or follow the Black Lake Fork of the Rapid River that climbs to the Seven Devils. Both of these trails are strenuous and require a multi-day backpacking trip. Best months for hiking are May and September when temperatures are moderate and foliage and wildlife are at their best. However, the canyon is often accessible from mid-March until mid-November. Summer months require caution as temperatures soar in the canyon, and later months can also be dangerous due to icy patches on the trail.

Seven Devils Loop
Distance: 29 mile loop
Climb: steep
Difficulty: difficult
Usage: moderate

Location: From Riggins, head south on US Highway 95, bearing west (right) onto Forest Road (FR) 517. Continue on FR 517 17 miles to the Windy Saddle Trailhead at Windy Saddle Campground.

Wandering through the peaks of the rugged Seven Devils Mountains, hikers will experience breathtaking views of the 8,000-foot deep Hells Canyon, likely encounter wildlife, and have an opportunity to camp at some of the 30 lakes found in the area. The area is known for violent summer thunderstorms, so hikers should use caution at all times and be aware of their surroundings. After climbing the first 5 miles to Iron Phone Junction, proceed straight ahead to Bernard Lakes, keeping right at all further trail junctions until reaching the Dry Diggins Lookout. This point provides views of the Snake River and Hells Canyon, and mountain goats are commonly found in the area. From the lookout, continue on the main trail to the right and hike to the sign for Potato Hill and Little Granite Creek Trails. Take the left Potato Hill Trail, and in 0.3 miles, reach a side trail leading to Echo Lake. Many hikers opt to take this 1-mile roundtrip detour to view the forested Echo Lake with the 9,393-foot He Devil Peak rising at the lake’s base. Back on the main trail, proceed to another possible side hike in 1.5 miles. This 2 mile roundtrip side trail leads to the heavily used Baldy Lake where views of He Devil, Mount Belial, Devils Throne, and Twin Imps Peaks are offered. Following the main trail, reach Horse Heaven Junction and continue on Boise Trail past Hanson Creek to the heavily used Cannon Lakes. A short side trail leading to the lakes will provide hikers with views of Goblin, She Devil, and the Tower of Babel peaks. From the lakes, it is another 2.5 miles to the trailhead. Best months for hiking are mid-July to mid-September.

Lochsa River Historical Trail
Distance: varies
Climb: moderate
Difficulty: moderate
Usage: heavy
Location: Find various access points along US Highway 12.

Hikers will wind along a historical pack trail built in the 1920s that served as the precursor to US Highway 12 and was named part of Idaho’s Centennial Trail in 1990. To access the Split Creek Trail, travel to milepost 111.4 on Highway 12 and hike 16 miles to the Sherman Creek Trailhead at milepost 122.6. Hikers can also opt to access the Beaver Flat Trailhead. At Highway 12 milepost 118, turn onto Beaver Flat Road to locate a trail on the road’s north side. Best months for hiking are June through September.

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