Average Gradient
12.00 ft/mi (2.27 m/km)
32.00 mi (51.50 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Hells Canyon is a classic desert multi-day run with incredible scenery, quality whitewater, and relatively warm water temperatures. This stretch may be combined with a Class II stretch down river that extends this float by another 30 miles. With only two Class IV rapids, this stretch makes an ideal multi-day experience for those interested in a mellow float with a few big thrills. The two downfalls of the Hells Canyon experience are the difficulties in obtaining permits during summer months and the jet boat traffic, although the jet boats can be thrilling to watch as they climb the same rapids you are descending.

A brief list of some of the notable rapids on this run follows, but please consult a river map for specific locations and information.

  • Wild Sheep: Large waves throughout with big holes at the bottom left and midway through the rapid on the right. Scout on river left.
  • Granite: One of the steepest rapids in the canyon. Multiple lines are available. Scout on river right.
  • Lower Bernard Creek Rapids: This rapid rovides an excellent surf spot at a variety of levels with eddy service on river right.

Permitting + Camping

In an effort to to preserve the popular river's natural resources, permits are required for launch dates between Memorial Day Weekend and September 10. These are available via the Four Rivers Lottery system, which also serves the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the Main Salmon, and the Selway rivers. Outside of those dates, self-issue permits are available.

While this stretch can be done in one day, many people will spend two or three days floating. Camping is restricted to designated sites only; however, there are plenty throughout the majority if the canyon. Sites do get sparse around 5 miles from the takeout, so plan ahead. Campers should follow the Leave No Trace ethic, and regulations require boaters to pack out garbage and waste.

It is highly recommended to use a shuttle service to get your vehicle to the takeout. Hells Canyon Shuttle Service is great and very friendly.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)


Parking Pass

Not Required


Wild and Scenic River. Nation's deepest river canyon. Relatively warm water.


Jetboat traffic. Difficult permitting in peak season. Long shuttle.

Put-in location (lat, long coordinates)

Hells Canyon Dam

Take-out location (lat, long coordinates)

Pittsburg Landing


Backcountry camping
Bird watching

Overall difficulty


Route Characteristics: Character

Pool Drop

Suitable for



Nearby Adventures

Hells Canyon + Seven Devils Mountains, Idaho
Hells Canyon + Seven Devils Mountains, Idaho

Nearby Lodging + Camping


Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.