Forty-five miles of paved winding road on steep side slopes, allow 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The road narrows to 1 1/2 lanes for about 11 miles along Gumboot Creek.
No gas, no services; water at some Forest Service campgrounds.
The FS 39 Road is open to wheeled vehicles June – October; in winter the route is groomed for snowmobile travel and Nordic skiing. For up-to-date road information and Wallowa Whitman National Forest recreation opportunities, go to www.fs.usda.gov/wallowa-whitman.
The Wallowa Mountain Loop (FS Road 39) connects the northern leg of the byway, Oregon Highway 82 from La Grande to Joseph, with the southern leg of the byway, Oregon Highway 86, from Baker City to Halfway and the Hells Canyon and Brownlee dams of the Snake River. The road completes the loop that encircles the magnificent Wallowa Mountains. This segment offers exceptional views of the Wallowa Mountains and the distant Seven Devils Mountains on the Idaho side of the Snake River. It crosses several river drainages, including the Imnaha where Snake River Chinook Salmon and Bull Trout spawn. Along the way are numerous trailheads and campgrounds as well as the Canal Fire burn, where a lightning-caused fire burned 23,000 acres in 1989.
Near mile post 5.
Restrooms, no drinking water.
In summer this is a hiking trailhead area; in winter, it’s the end of the paved road and the entrance to a snowy playground. Ahead are Lick Creek Campground and Guard Station, listed on the National Historic Register, and Ollokot Campground, a site historically used by the Nez Perce Tribe and named after Young Chief Joseph’s brother. Side trips off this segment include (3) Hells Canyon Overlook, at mile post 29 for expansive views of canyon country and (4) Snake River Segment, at the junction with Highway 86, to enjoy the riverside campgrounds and the chance to fish, boat and raft the Snake River.
Hells Canyon Overlook
Ample parking for large vehicles; interpretation; paved paths; rest rooms; picnic tables
A short two-mile paved road leads from the FS 39 Road to the Hells Canyon Overlook, where panoramic views of the canyonlands opens before you. The rugged basalt breaks drop to the river far below. A series of ridges are divided by creek drainages that feed the rushing Snake River and over time, have helped to carve the dramatic landscape that opens before you. This is a favorite photo stop along the byway.