This tour includes two major canyons that are distinctly unique and beautiful in their own way. Hells Canyon is the deepest gorge in North America and the Imnaha Canyon is Northeastern Oregon’s second largest; together they form the heart of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Standing on the ridge across from the Seven Devils Mountains is a sight like no other, truly a natural wonder.
The journey offers several pull-outs with incredible views plus an opportunity to stop in Imnaha for food or refreshments.
The tour covers a wide array of elevations and environments, from sagebrush desert to sub-alpine forest. The area is so varied and beautiful that you could easily take a full day exploring it. You might even consider staying overnight to enjoy the stars (from 7000') and the incredible sunrise as it slowly lights the mountains and canyons.
FAIR WARNING! This is also a journey that some will never do again because it frightened them so much- there are steep drop-offs and a very narrow, steep and almost one-way road. But, if you're into wild adventure then this is the one you'll fall in love with. Please review the vehicle and driving directions below.
Distance Totals: Joseph to Imnaha, 29 miles. To Granny View, 46 miles. To Hat Point, 52 Miles, 1:50 Transit Time to Hat Point.
Road Conditions: Paved Hwy to Narrow Gravel, somewhat rough.
Vehicles: Cars to Standard Trucks. Good tires and brakes are a must. While you could make it with a RV or Trailer, the lower part of the Hat Point Road could put you in a serious bind (literally) should you encounter another vehicle coming the opposite direction (quite possible). Wide vehicles can't pass on that 7 mile, one-way, steep and dangerous section of the road.
Opens: Late June to July. Check with the FS Office @ 541-426-5546
Preparations: Gas up in Joseph or Enterprise before you depart. Check your spare. The full, round trip excursion takes up at least 4 hours and services nearly non-existent, so bring water or better yet- plan a picnic.
Vehicle\Driving Directions: Set your trip odometer at the Joseph Market and head east on Hwy 350 for 29.3 miles to Imnaha. While there, you could stop at the store and grab some lunch and enjoy the river- it's all good. Head straight through town (don't blink or you'll miss it) and follow the signs to Hat Point. After a few miles on a fairly bumpy narrow gravel road, the road will narrow further as you traverse and climb along a steep hillside, ever higher over the Imnaha Valley. It's here that you or your passengers might begin to completely freak-out. While it's not a cliff (and no, there is no guardrail), it looks completely impossible to pass should you encounter another vehicle. It's not, I've done it, but the poor person coming up the road at the time had eyes as big as saucers and I'm glad I wasn't driving something wide- an RV would have only one choice- to backup. Remember, you must yield to uphill traffic.
After a few miles the road actually widens (inexplicably) and the danger is over.
16.5 Miles from Imnaha you'll encounter Granny View Vista, complete with informative reader boards, a nature trail and a fantastic lookout platform that overlooks the Imnaha Valley. Slow down, read and study the landscape and flora and you'll come away wiser. This is one of Hells Canyon's 'Special Places' for all the right reasons.
From there, travel another 1.4 miles and you'll reach Saddle Creek Camp that sits right on the ridge overlooking the Hells Canyon. This is a dry Tent Camping area with 7 sites and a vault toilet. There is no water (or user fees).
Onward another 4.9 miles and you'll reach the final destination, Hat Point Lookout, complete with a fire lookout, nature trail, information boards and several picnic tables. You can also climb the lookout tower for an even greater view.