Hells Canyon: Eckels and Allison Creeks

Last Monday Deb and I drove from Portland out to Hells Canyon. We scoped out Hells Canyon Park as a possible campground and decided to stay. It’s run by Idaho Power and is not set up like a traditional campground with individual sites that each have their own little driveway. The tent area was a big grassy area with trees and picnic tables and site numbers and you had to walk a short distance from your vehicle. No worries. It totally worked for us.

Campsite

Monday evening we saw some Canada Geese and their fuzzy goslings. Cute!

Goslings

The campground is situated on the Snake River, but since this spot is upstream of the Hells Canyon Dam the river is actually a reservoir at this point.

Reservoir

It got pretty cold Monday night and I could not get warm even in my toasty sleeping bag. I put my hiking pants on over my long johns, along with four layers on my torso (one of which was my down jacket), and then I finally was able to sleep!

Tuesday morning was VERY VERY windy. Even with our wind-blocking efforts it took half an hour to boil water for tea because the burner on the gas stove was so wind-blown.

We decided to hike up Eckels Creek, traverse north on the Kinney Creek Trail, then descend on the Allison Creek Trail. We hit the trail at 9:40 and started hiking up. We were surprised by how green it was here!

Green

We saw quite a few wildflowers:

Wildflower

Paintbrush

The trail left the high slopes and got closer to the creek. This section was extremely brushy.

Brushy

Creek crossing

It was a relief to leave behind the brushy creek canyon and climb back up to the meadowy slopes. at 11:30 we stopped for a break at those trees ahead.

On the slopes again

Looking back down:

Snake River

The trail kept climbing a bit more until we reached a junction with the Kinney Creek Trail, which travels north while traversing the open slopes high above the Snake River. There was a spiffy new-looking sign at the junction. The junction, by the way, is in the wrong spot on the topo map.

Junction

The Kinney Creek Trail was pretty spectacular and we passed through fields of wildflowers while also getting great views of Hells Canyon. The weather turned overcast and very windy for awhile along this stretch.

High above

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Lupine and paintbrush

Hells Canyon

We left the Kinney Creek Trail at another well-signed junction.

Junction

From that junction we had pretty nice views of the mountains rising to the east.

Mountains

Snow

Then we began the long descent back down to the road.

Descent

Descent

We hiked through more wildflowers.

Descent

Descent

And we got a view of a cave we would pass once we got down further.

Cave

The cave is in a big limestone outcropping known as The Flatiron.

Flatiron

Descending to Allison Creek we entered more brushy areas, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the sections along Eckels Creek had been.

Descent

Creek crossing

Once we got to the cave, a short side trail led to the entrance.

Cave

Deb decided to explore.

Cave

From there we were quickly back to the road, albeit at a different trailhead. We briefly┬áchecked out the Big Bar campground across the road from the Allison Creek Trailhead. There were a few RVs, but it was pretty quiet. There’s a little boat ramp into the reservoir.

Reservoir

It was less than a mile to walk back to the Eckels Creek Trailhead where we had parked. Along the way we passed an interpretive sign and a gravesite. The sign explained that the graves were those of Archibald Ritchie and John Eckles, who had an orchard at the site that is now the Big Bar Campground in the late 1800s.

Graves

We were camped next to a very nice and friendly couple from Boise and they had told us when they hiked a ways up the Eckels Creek Trail they had picked up quite a few ticks on their clothes. We were super paranoid about this and tucked our pant legs into our socks and our shirts into our pants. The only tick we saw the whole time was one on Deb’s pants when were at the cave. Other than that, no ticks. There was LOTS of poison ivy on this hike and it’s so ubiquitous that it’s totally impossible to avoid. Long pants and long sleeves are highly recommended.

Wednesday: The Dam >>