Hells Canyon isn’t a National Park, but should it be… maybe… It’s a National Recreation Area.
We haven’t taken the time to figure out what it takes to make a place a National Park, and now that I’m thinking about it… maybe it shouldn’t be a National Park.
Here’s what I’m thinking. If Hells Canyon became a National Park way more people would come to visit. As of right now, the parking lot at the visitors center can only hold about 20 cars, and there are only 2 official campgrounds in the area.
Well, enough on that thought train, let’s talk about Hells Canyon!
When we started our search about what to do around (and in) Hells Canyon we couldn’t really find much information. This could mean two things… either Hells Canyon sucks, and no one wants to publish anything about it (or they don’t know SEO), OR, it’s awesome, and there just hasn’t been much written about it.
To solve our problem of what to do in Hells Canyon we practiced one of my favorite pastimes, go ask people that know more about it than you. So, we headed straight for the visitors center, and we weren’t disappointed.
At the visitors center we talked to the ranger and found out about why it’s called Hells Canyon, as well as the top hikes in the area. ***We’ve found this to be a MUST DO whenever you can. You can bypass all of the research and get the “locals” info on the area.
The ranger recommended that we do two hikes…
Hiking in Hells Canyon
The Hells Canyon Trail and Allison Creek Trail were the ranger recommendations.
The Hells Canyon Trail is 2 miles and runs right along the Snake River as an out and back. But… you could connect a few trails and do a pretty sweet point to point hike/run if you had two cars. See 1890 on the map below and follow it up river.
We did the Hells Canyon Trail as a quick 4 mile (out and back) trail run. It was very beautiful, and we would recommend connecting trails to do a longer variation if you have the time.
Camping at Hells Canyon
There is quite a bit of free camping in the area, and some very cool spots along the river at Big Bar campgrounds. The only downside (for us) is cell signal is completely zero at the free sites.
There are two campgrounds that are owned by Idaho Power in the area (both are right on the Snake River), and they both have paid WiFi available, which was something we weren’t expecting to find.
Our original plan was to get into Hells Canyon, check it out, and have to run back to Halfway to find cell service to work, but with WiFi available via Pinetel for $5 a day, our plans quickly changed!
The two campgrounds that are run by Idaho Power are Hells Canyon Park & Copperfield Campground. They have a bunch of campgrounds in the area that can be reserved ahead of time, and you can check them out here.
Copperfield Campground (this is where we stayed)
Camping – RV’s $16/night – Tents $10/night
Cell Service – Zero
WiFi – $5/day – $10/3 days – $25/month
The WiFi is awesome when it works. It’s something like 15mb/second down, but almost nothing up.
- You also have to refresh your passcode ever 15 minutes, which is a huge pain if you need to login to a secured network for work. For most things (blogging, social media, etc.) it’s fine. Update: I emailed Pinetel telling them we were working from our computers at the campsite and the 15 minute login was super annoying, and guess what… they asked for our Mac addresses and lifted the 15 minute login requirement. #boom
- Cool things – Very clean – quite – swimming/fishing in the Snake River – free showers
As far as we are concerned, this is about as good as it gets. Off the grid, but with WiFi for working, very few people, beautiful environment, low price to stay, outdoor actives galore, and even a cement pad for lifting weights! Oh, and we didn’t see one mosquito the whole time!