The Hells Canyon Scenic Byway winds its way along the east side of this massive rift that separates Idaho from neighboring Oregon. While the view from the road is breathtaking, a guided float trip or jet boat tour of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is a must. Towering cliffs of black and green basalt hang so high above the Snake River and its sandy beaches that boaters strain their necks to see these places. Outfitters offer one-to six-day trips.
During the summer months, visit the Hells Canyon Creek Visitors Center just below Hells Canyon Dam, the entrance to the wild and scenic part of the Snake River. The surrounding area was the home of Chief Joseph’s band of Nez Perce Indians. Other tribes, including the Shoshone, Bannock, North Paiute and Cayuse Indians, were frequent visitors to the area. These tribes were drawn to the region by relatively mild winters, lush foliage and plentiful wildlife.
Today, walls of the canyon are like a museum, where pictographs and petroglyphs display evidence of the Indians’ early settlements.