During our recent vacation to rediscover the Oregon Trail, the lovely wife and I abandoned the trail several times in search of alternate adventures. Our first such adventure was driving the 208 mile Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. The scenic loop winds through the northeast corner of Oregon while overlooking Hells Canyon and encircling the Wallowa Mountains. A good portion of the road is very narrow and winding but the views are incredible. Do not plan to make this drive in the winter unless you own snowshoes.
Hells Canyon Scenic Overlook looking east into Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains
Hells Canyon is North America’s deepest river gorge which was carved out of volcanic lava flows by the Snake River. The gorge is ten miles wide and at its deepest point is a staggering 7,993 feet. The canyon is largely inaccessible by road and is best experienced while floating the Snake River in a raft.
Once leaving the canyon’s rim area, the drive continues through the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest finally descending into the community of Joseph, OR and nearby Wallowa Lake. When you make your visit to Wallowa Lake, be sure to ride the Wallowa Lake Tramway to the summit of Mt. Howard. The ride to the summit takes about about twenty minutes but other than hiking, it’s the only way to reach the summit which is just over 8,000 feet in elevation.
The photo above was take through the window of the tram. Notice the graffiti on the plexiglass left by some young lovers. Once you reach the summit, the views of the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area are unquestionably without equal.
Summit of Mt. Howard looking east into the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area
Once departing northeast Oregon, we continued our trip east along Interstate 84 as we headed to Lowman, Idaho for our next adventure. The next logical question is where in the heck is Lowman and why drive over five hours to get there? For the answer to that question, stay tuned.