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Backpacking in Hells Canyon

by Cassie Hayden

I Left Montana and went on a backpacking trip to Hells Canyon, Idaho. I didn’t know it until just before the trip, but Hells Canyon along the Snake River is the deepest river canyon in the U.S. We choose the Snake River because it was the closest place that droped to an elevation of one thousand feet, so we guessed the weather would be a bit milder. Although the highest point of our trip was going to be six thousand feet, which is what the snow line reached in Big Sky. Mike Griffen and I left Big Sky, MT and drove into a snowstorm, it was snowing all the way down to three thousand feet, berrrr. The highest peaks in the canyon reached up to 9000 ft and had a ten foot snow pack on top, an awesome sight.

We lucked out with mostly sunny and pretty warm days, but it still was a little chilly on some nights. It turned out to be a great five day backpacking trip with incredible views. The trail along the river was a gorgeous historical trail with old cabins and old farming tools along with great views from rock outcroppings high above the river. Our two day side hike trail was often not a trail at all. Map and compass skills and a relatively large open area kept navigating pretty simple. Walking along the grassy ridges we were lucky to see many elk and deer. On the third day progress was at an ants pace as we climbed two thousand vertical feet and then post holed our way through waist deep snow along the ridge. After the ridge we descended four thousand vertical feet back to a nice stream and a small historical cabin on Bernard Creek where we spent the night. The final days we cruised along the well defined Snake River trail.

The Snake River would also make a nice multi day float trip for anyone interested. If you are ever in the area be sure to check out the twin falls area too, there are some amazingly huge waterfalls. Shoshone Falls is 212 feet tall and Twin Falls is 125 feet tall, but they only occasionally have water going over them. Near Twin Falls is also were Evel Knevil tried to jump the canyon.

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