Early season recommendations - Wallowas, Hells Canyon

Trip recommendations, current conditions, and other trail related Q&A
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jmland
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Early season recommendations - Wallowas, Hells Canyon

Post by jmland » April 7th, 2021, 1:02 pm

I will be in the Wallowas/Hells Canyon/Blue Mountains area this coming week (April 12-18) and am looking for recommendations for some hiking, camping, and/or backpacking, and maybe even a summit or two over a 3 day period. I don't mind hiking in or even camping on snow, but ideally would prefer trails and campsites that are free of snow if they can be found right now.

Does anyone have any recent beta on trails in these areas? I'm an experienced mountaineer with advanced route-finding skills.

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Bosterson
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Re: Early season recommendations - Wallowas, Hells Canyon

Post by Bosterson » April 7th, 2021, 2:18 pm

Looks like everything in the Wallowas above 1500 ft is currently under a fair bit of snow. Hells' Canyon might be clear if you crest it and actually go down to the river itself, but caveat emptor. It is April, after all.

https://adamschneider.net/hiking/snow_depth.html
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justpeachy
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Re: Early season recommendations - Wallowas, Hells Canyon

Post by justpeachy » April 7th, 2021, 6:26 pm

You'll probably have better luck with Hells Canyon than the Wallows, where snow can linger well into summer. I did the Eckels/Allison Creek hike in mid-May one year and it was really nice, but not sure how it would be in April.

I would recommend getting in touch with one of the ranger stations out there: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/wallowa- ... st/offices

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retired jerry
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Re: Early season recommendations - Wallowas, Hells Canyon

Post by retired jerry » April 8th, 2021, 5:06 am

nice stretch of weather next week.

I'm thinking about a trip to the coast of the Olympics in northwest Washington

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drm
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Re: Early season recommendations - Wallowas, Hells Canyon

Post by drm » April 8th, 2021, 6:13 am

Freezeout Saddle into Hells Canyon is usually snowfree by now. April is actually often peak season. It's one of the more common ways to access Hells Canyon Wilderness and the trail over the pass is well maintained, though the trail getting straight down to the river on the other side is rougher. Most people turn north on the Bench/High Trail.

jmland
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Re: Early season recommendations - Wallowas, Hells Canyon

Post by jmland » April 9th, 2021, 8:30 am

Thanks for the tips, everyone! I got a hold of the local ranger's office and they also recommended Freezeout, so I think I'll try that.

Does anyone know if there are campsite opportunities along the Saddle Creek trail on the way down to Snake River? I was looking at Google Maps 3D view, and it looked like there might be some possibilities at the various creek junctions, like at Rough Creek, or Big Creek?

jmland
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Re: Early season recommendations - Wallowas, Hells Canyon

Post by jmland » April 9th, 2021, 10:28 am

And thanks to Bosterson for the link to the snow depth page. How did I never know that data existed?! That site is a bit janky for me though. After zooming in and out for a while, the snow depth data disappears and I can't get it back, even after refreshing. I went to a different browser and the data reappeared, but disappeared again there after a while.

I finally tracked down where the data was being pulled from. The map backgrounds aren't as nice, but at least the page is stable.
https://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/interactive/html/map.html

Sure enough, there's a gap in the snow cover right at Freezeout Saddle!

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lordgares
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Re: Early season recommendations - Wallowas, Hells Canyon

Post by lordgares » April 9th, 2021, 11:38 am

jmland wrote:
April 9th, 2021, 10:28 am
After zooming in and out for a while, the snow depth data disappears and I can't get it back, even after refreshing. I went to a different browser and the data reappeared, but disappeared again there after a while.
I have the same issue on both mobile and on my computer, it isn't just you. It's rather annoying.

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retired jerry
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Re: Early season recommendations - Wallowas, Hells Canyon

Post by retired jerry » April 9th, 2021, 12:46 pm

same here

I just close it and restart

what I like about the adam link is you can hit "usgs topo" which overlays on top so you can see exactly where the snow is

another thing is, on any of those, if it shows any snow at all, there's probably too much on any road to drive on it, or mountain passes are probably difficult. It shows the average number of inches of snow over an area about 1/2 mile square. For some reason, roads often have more snow on them. And mountain passes or ridges are a small amount of that 1/2 mile square area.

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drm
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Re: Early season recommendations - Wallowas, Hells Canyon

Post by drm » April 10th, 2021, 10:37 am

jmland wrote:
April 9th, 2021, 8:30 am
Thanks for the tips, everyone! I got a hold of the local ranger's office and they also recommended Freezeout, so I think I'll try that.

Does anyone know if there are campsite opportunities along the Saddle Creek trail on the way down to Snake River? I was looking at Google Maps 3D view, and it looked like there might be some possibilities at the various creek junctions, like at Rough Creek, or Big Creek?
It's been years since I did that trail. I remember that it is brushy with a number of potentially wet creek crossings (in general "brushy" and "Hells Canyon" are synonymous), so be prepared to wade. I don't remember any campsites on the way down, but I was always planning on going to the river so I wasn't looking, and that was probably a decade ago. If you just have a small tent, I would think you would find something, but in general Hells Canyon does not have frequent established campsites, they can be miles apart. You often find flat areas with tall grass.

There are massive elk herds in there, if you get lucky.

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