This page will keep you informed of byway road conditions related to weather, construction projects or other human-caused activities. For additional weather related road conditions, please go to www.tripcheck.com or www.fs.usda.gov/wallowa-whitman for the most up-to-date information. The communities and businesses along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway want travelers to know they are open for business and happy to serve you all year (even when winter snow closes the mountain pass).
May 30, 2021 As of Thursday, May 20, 2021, FS Road 39 was deemed passable by the Wallowa-Whitman NF roads manager, although it was not officially open at that time. Knowing there was inclement weather coming over that weekend he anticipated there to be more rocks and debris possibly on the road after he had gone through and cleared out what was there. Aside from the trees, rocks and potholes to watch out for, there are also hazards such as speeding vehicles and larger vehicles taking wide corners that folks should always be aware of. Although it is a scenic byway, it is a backroad through a forested area and anything can happen at any time. Always use caution and lower your speed, and be aware that cell phone service is often not available, so getting assistance can be daunting.
Be sure to also watch for livestock along all sections of the byway. Most ranchers have turned their cattle out to summer grazing and cattle have the right-of-way in Oregon, so may be on the road in remote places that aren’t fenced or where fences haven’t yet been fixed after the impacts of winter. Cattle drives take place on byway roads, as well. When encountering a cattle drive, please slow down and be extra cautious. Cattle, calves, horses and dogs can be very unpredictable around vehicles, especially when stressed. Honking the horn won’t help and can cause an accident. Watch for signals from people tending the livestock, as they will help you navigate through the herd, whether you are traveling with or against the flow of animals. We appreciate your patience and hope you will enjoy this enduring and necessary spectacle of the West.
The Forest Service Road 39 is closed and unpassable by passenger vehicles throughout winter and spring, because of heavy snow accumulations in the mountain pass. Due to high elevations, the road is not maintained by the Wallowa Whitman National Forest for passenger vehicle or truck travel through winter. It is only available to snowmobiles from November through around Memorial Day Weekend. This is the section of mountain road that connects Halfway, the Snake River and Pine Valley with Joseph, Enterprise, Wallowa Lake and the Wallowa Valley.
Although the FS 39 road closes through winter every year, all communities along the byway are open year-round for business and can be accessed by Oregon State Route 82 to Joseph, via La Grande, and Oregon State Route 86 to Halfway, via Baker City. Enjoy dramatic landscapes, beautiful scenery and byway hospitality any time of year, but stay safe and do not use FS Road 39 until it’s opening is announced late in the spring!
During the fire season, please check for details on fire activity in Northeast Oregon at the Blue Mountain Fire Information blog. More information on the Public Use Restrictions can be found at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/PURS.
Please be aware of the extreme hazard for wild fires late summer through early fall. Vehicles can start fires simply by parking off pavement or gravel, where hot equipment comes into contact with the dry grass and weeds. Be very cautious and follow these restrictions with care:
Phase C (indicators are Adjective fire danger rating of Extreme; IFPL level IV)
1. Campfires not allowed. Liquid and bottle gas stoves only.
2. No internal combustions engine operation, except motor vehicles.
3. Smoking allowed only in enclosed vehicles and buildings, developed recreation sites, or cleared areas.
4. No off-road/off-trail vehicle travel or travel on roads not cleared of standing grass or other flammable material; no vehicle travel on those FS roads where access has been impeded or blocked by earthen berm, logs, boulders, barrier, barricade or gate, or as otherwise identified in the Fire Order.