High above Hells Canyon in Idaho, the Heavens Gate Lookout is an extraordinary place to take in the surrounding landscape. It sits at the entrance to the Seven Devils Mountains, and at 8,429 feet, you can see entirely across the state of Idaho to Montana's Bitterroot Mountains. The lookout is staffed from June through the end of fire season, where a seasonal Forest Service employee welcomes visitors between watching for forest fires. Take the opportunity to say hello, sign the ledger kept in the lookout, and get oriented in the surrounding mountain peaks that are visible in four western states: Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana. From the Seven Devils down to the Snake River the canyon drops over 7,200 feet, making it the deepest canyon in North America. From the lookout you can't see the waters of the Snake River far below, but you can see much of the canyon.
A wildfire ripped through Heavens Gate and the surrounding area in 2008, leaving the charred remains of pine trees and open space that yields an incredible wildflower display on the surrounding hillsides after the snows melt. Colorful blooms of lupine, paintbrush, avalanche lily, and a wide array of other flora stretch across every available nook found in the rocky escarpment. Marmots, pika, and mountain bluebirds are seen and heard all around. Mountain goats, mule deer, and elk are common visitors to the area and found in the nearby Seven Devils Mountain.
The lookout should be the start to every visit to the Seven Devils. The mountains, just 2 miles from the lookout, loom large yet remain inviting. The Seven Devils Campground offers a nice place to sleep for a night, and the trail into the wilderness starts from the Windy Saddle just down the road. Reaching the lookout requires driving for 17 miles on a rough gravel road that gains 5,500 feet along the way. The road is well maintained but, due to its length, elevation gain, and remoteness, requires slow travel and efforts to avoid the numerous, deep potholes. The lookout and surrounding area is only accessible once the snow melts in late June and until it returns in October or November.