Snake River Recreational Trail, Idaho (Hell’s Canyon)

Snake River Trail.

The Trail

Jet Boat

We are on the Idaho side looking across the river at the steep canyon walls on the Oregon side. The Snake River Recreation Trail starts at Pittsburg Landing, and follows the river on the Idaho side for 30 miles upstream (south) to the Snake River Dam. We set our goal for the Kirkwood Ranch, 6 miles up river. That would make it a 12 mile round trip. While we could have walked a mile to the trailhead, in this case we decided to drive and save a couple of miles, 12 was quite enough thank you.

Along the Edge

Most people who view the depth’s of Hell’s Canyon do it by jet boat or raft, it’s really the best way to see the whole canyon as there are no real roads into or along the rim of the canyon, but there is another way, by trail…on foot.

The camper is in the middle of the picture, back a mile or so.

Obviously we could not do all 30 miles of the trail, but 5 or 6 miles would give us a good look at the canyon. It was an easy decision. The trail follows along the river, sometimes right down along the bank, but at other times when the river is bounded by steep rocky cliffs the trail climbs hundreds of feet above it. While the trail has it’s ups and downs, and at times is only a foot or two wide with a wall on one side and a cliff on the other, it was a relatively easy 6 miles and on reflection I would probably say that this easy, quiet, view of the canyon is preferable to the fast, noisy, jet boats.

The rivers rapids, at least from our elevated view, did not seem to be very difficult and we would consider kayaking at least part of the river on a future trip.

We met this cute little fellow on the trail. It watched us cautiously, then backed up and scooted off the trial into the bushes. I think it’s a fox, Cheryl thinks it’s a coyote pup.

Surprisingly, we saw no Osprey along the river and a biologist we met at the campground said that was because the fish were too big in this stretch of the Snake River for an Osprey to lift.

In the morning we had the shady side and it was a nice cool 70° – 75°. As expected the trip back was in the sum and the temperature rose considerably.

The trail is cut into the rugged basalt cliffs and while the gradients were relatively gradual for most of the 6 miles we did, the trail often hangs precariously on the cliff walls hundreds of feet above the river.

Several sections of the trail ran across basalt scree slopes from old lava flows.


Apricot Tree.

The poison Ivy Forest.


The day after hiking the Snake River Trail, which goes upstream, we bushwacked (hiked without a trail, watching, of course, diligently for rattlesnakes) downstream for a couple of miles. We found what looked like an old wagon road along the cliffs. The road, obviously constructed many many years ago, was cut into the cliff for a few hundred yards and just ends at rather serious dropoff. Who knows? But, it was a nice hike with some great views of the river and the canyon itself.

Pittsburg Landing is a gorgeous campground but after 4 days of rising temperatures, heading back to the Hell’s Canyon normal, we needed to head south, around the bottom of the canyon, into the Ponderosa Forests of Oregon.


One response »

  1. Ted,

    You should have been fishing every one of those pools in the photos. The Snake is a famous trout river and you were likely within range of some finny dirigibles.


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Sharing our love of America's Natural Wonders


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