The route of the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway is a loop that encircles the Wallowa Mountains, intersecting with Interstate 84 at La Grande and Baker City. Small towns, scattered along the drive, offer visitor services. The entire route is on a paved highway. Plan ahead – you’ll find stretches of more than eighty miles without gas and with few services. A segment of the Byway between Joseph and Halfway closes with snow in winter, but allows access to winter recreation areas, offering a whole other kind of Northeast Oregon adventure. Visitor information for communities in each of the three counties through which the byway passes is available by clicking the links at right.There are five ports of entry into the Byway:
- La Grande from I-84
- Elgin via OR Hwy. 204
- Enterprise via OR Hwy. 3
- Oxbow via Idaho Hwy.71
- Baker City from I-84.
To encompass the entire route, the itinerary under Towns & Country on this website follows the Byway traveling from La Grande to Baker City, but driving the route in reverse is just as appealing. See map | see byway segment details
You can drive the Byway in about four to five hours, but to really enjoy it, you will need a few days. We recommend you reserve lodging accommodations prior to your trip.
Here is a list of mileage for several byway segments and side trips:
- La Grande to Enterprise = 63 miles; all paved
- Enterprise to Joseph = 15 miles; all paved
- Joseph to Imnaha = 30 miles; paved
- Imnaha to Hat Point = 24 miles; all gravel (Highly recommended for the best view of canyon, but it is an investment of about 5 to 6 hours in time, round trip from Joseph.)
- Imnaha to intersection with FSR 39 = 26 miles; all gravel
- Joseph to Hells Canyon Overlook = 35 miles, plus 2 miles; all paved (We highly recommend this side trip to get a good view of the canyon from above.)
- Joseph to intersection with OR 86 = 54 miles; all paved, disregarding the 13-mile temporary construction zone (if you take the detour around Fish Lake, the mileage from Joseph to Halfway is 64 miles, with about 21 gravel)
- Halfway to Copperfield (at the Snake River) on OR 86 = 21 miles; all paved
- Copperfield to Hells Canyon Dam = 27 miles; all paved (Highly recommended side trip for experiencing the canyon from river level.)
- Copperfield to Baker City = 70 miles on OR 86; all paved
Although the digital world is great, we still strongly recommend people pick up a free official Oregon State Highway map, put out by the Oregon Department of Transportation, for travels throughout Oregon, available at visitor centers throughout Oregon. Also good to have is a Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Map for travels in the mountains of northeast Oregon, including the HCSB. Purchase this map at any Forest Service District Ranger office (Baker City, La Grande, Joseph, Halfway) and many other locations.
BYWAY TRAVEL SAVVY
Before starting out, take notice of the travel times as well as mileage between stops and keep your fuel tank as full as possible.
If you plan to hike, ski, snowmobile or otherwise explore off the main Byway routes, pick up detailed maps and additional information from the offices listed on the links to the right.
Be prepared for temperatures that vary as much as fifty degrees as the day wears on.
Remember to take along your camera, binoculars, a picnic or snack foods, plant and wildlife guides, first aid kit, drinking water, a blanket and jackets.
Unless familiar with the byway country, please stay on the byway proper or the identified side trips. Do not rely only on GPS generated driving instructions as they may lead to little traveled roads or roads that are not suitable for passenger vehicles or closed seasonally.