Drives: Hells canyon scenic byway

Drives: Hells canyon scenic byway

Traveling the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway is a great way to create a theme for your vacation. In the course of the 218-mile trip you will find yourself engaged in time-travel back to a simpler but tougher way of life. You'll be amazed at the beauty your forebears enjoyed and awed that they survived in such rugged country.

It's a trip you should make at a leisurely pace and with an open itinerary. Although the entire route can be driven in about 5 hours, you won't want to speed through this experience, and nearly 200 miles of side-trips will only enrich your life more.

You'll pass through verdant valleys where some of the most progressive no-till practices preserve and feed the land. If you're game enough and fit enough, you can hike two days into the Eagle Cap Wilderness and up onto Cusick Mountain to see a newly discovered ancient Limber Pine that was growing in that rocky landscape when Genghis Kahn began to conquer the Far East. You'll have the opportunity to glass for Mountain Sheep; observe great herds of elk and deer and flocks of wild turkey from the roadside; spot a black bear; watch Bald Eagles fish in glacier fed lakes and Red Tail hawks float on thermals above rocky slopes; see across the borders of three states as you stand above North America's deepest canyon; visit the stunning Imnaha country - where you may encounter a real cattle drive; and if you are very lucky, see a wolf in the wild.

A variety of lodging opportunities can fit every need, or you can spice up your evenings with a selection: a night in a Bed and Breakfast, another in a motel with a pool, another at a real working ranch, another at a camp along a rafting tour route, another in a tent in the wilderness under the stars. You can go on a nature hike with guides, rafting, jetboating, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, skiing or snowshoeing in season, camping, hiking, horse riding, bicycling, art shopping . . . and anywhere you care to point your camera you'll see the makings of a ravishing picture.

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