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).
The Forest Service Road 39 is CLOSED AND IMPASSABLE 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.
All seasons, slow down and watch carefully for branches, rocks and potholes. Also watch for hazards such as speeding vehicles and larger vehicles taking wide corners. Although it is a paved, two-lane highway, it is a backroad through a forested area and anything can happen at any time. Always use caution and be aware that cell phone service is often not available, so getting assistance can be daunting. Be prepared – fill your tank before setting out (Joseph and Halfway have fuel stations) and carry drinking water, snacks and jackets for changes in the weather. Forest Service campgrounds may not be open and serviced until mid-June.
Be sure to also watch for livestock along all sections of the byway. Ranchers turn 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.
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.