Snake River Hiking
In 1989, ROW Adventures pioneered the concept of raft-supported hiking and walking tours on the Snake River in Hells Canyon, Idaho. Our walking trips and hiking vacations allow you to comfortably follow an isolated river's path on foot while a cargo raft carries your camp gear. You can enjoy the scenery and photograph wildlife, carrying only water and a small daypack.
Human history in Hells Canyon dates back at least 10,000 years and the people that we call the Shoshone and Nez Perce lived here until the late 1800’s. We’ll visit a number of their rock art and ancient dwelling sites. Your guides have an intimate knowledge of these people and will share their history, mythology and archaeology. In 1877, Chief Joseph crossed the Snake while trying to lead his people to freedom. Listening to this story today, it will be easy for you to picture this amazing scene, with dozens of Indians and horses swimming the river.
You’ll also discover a grand variety of flora and fauna. Hells Canyon is the home to Rocky Mountain big horn sheep, Rocky Mountain goats, mule, deer, elk, black bear, otter and numerous smaller mammals. As well, Golden Eagles, hawks and falcons soar in the skies above, while ducks and other waterfowl swim in the river. Numerous songbirds live in the thick brush along the tributary creeks. The land is fairly arid and slopes are covered with Ponderosa Pines, mountain mahogany, bunchgrass and ninebark. Along the many side creeks you’ll see netleaf hackberry, aspen, willow, bitterbrush, bittercherry, serviceberry and Bartonberry.
Hiking the Snake River lets you experience the beauty of the deepest canyon in North America. During the months of April, May and June, due to the low elevation and mild weather, Hells Canyon is a heavenly place to be. Wildflowers and cactus are blooming, birds are nesting, elk are calving, the grass slopes are still green from spring rains and very few people are in the canyon. On our September and October trips, fall colors show on the slopes of grass and bushes.
Arrive in Cambridge, ID, Orientation Meeting
Travel from you home to Cambridge, Idaho and meet ROW's Team Leader at the Frontier Motel at 8:00 PM Mountain Standard Time (MST) for a one-hour orientation meeting to answer last-minute questions. You'll also receive your waterproof gear bags. Dinner on your own.
Hiking Hells Canyon, Wildlife and Nature Viewing
Carving the deepest canyon in North America, between the borders of Idaho and Oregon, Hells Canyon is a place of grandeur. During the months of April, May and June, due to the low elevation and mild weather, Hells Canyon is a heavenly place to be. Wildflowers and cactus are blooming, birds are nesting, elk are calving, the grass slopes are still green from spring rains, and very few people are in the canyon. On our September and October trips, fall colors show on the slopes of grass and bushes.
ROW’s walking trips are designed for people who enjoy walking without the encumbrance of a heavy pack. All you carry during the day is your own small daypack with a camera, binoculars, water bottle, ROW provided lunch, and whatever else you want. The trail parallels the river with a surface of either dirt or crushed rock. Most would consider this a moderate hike, although some of our guests have described it as difficult due to the rough trail. There are ups and downs, especially the first day of the trip. Normal weather conditions are ideal (highs 70-85), but unseasonably hot (90+ degree) weather can make this a more challenging hike. All participants should be in good shape, have a strong heart and be comfortable walking 8 -10 miles a day. There is a fair amount of poison ivy at some points on the trail, and people with hypersensitivity to poison ivy should call us to discuss the trip.
Our trip begins at Hells Canyon Dam, elevation 1450 feet, where we board our large cargo boat (18 – 20 feet long), or a 14’ paddle raft for a four mile float to the put-in. (We do float through a few minor rapids on our way to the trailhead. PFD's (personal floatation devices formally known as lifejackets) are worn during this ride, which takes less than an hour.)
In order to minimize your driving time to and from the river, we start our trip in Cambridge,Idaho (two hours northwest of Boise) and end in Lewiston, Idaho. ROW provides transportation from the Boise airport to Cambridge, Idaho for the start of your trip and then to Lewiston, Idaho after the river trip. Many airlines offer "Open Jaw" fares that allow you to fly from your hometown to Boise and then return from Lewiston. However, it may be less expensive to buy a roundtrip ticket to Boise, and then a one-way ticket to take you from Lewiston to Boise at the end of the trip. Horizon Air and Delta Air offer service from Lewiston to Boise. Southwest Airlines (1-800-435-9792) serves Boise and Spokane with good rates. Depending on the price of flying out of Lewiston, you may find it more economical to fly into Boise, then at the end of the trip take a taxi from Lewiston to Spokane for about $160 and fly from Spokane back home. This is especially true for groups of 3 or more. To arrange for a taxi ride, call AAA Taxi at 888-534-9644. Ask the airlines or your travel agent about which option would work best for you.
ROW is proud to be an Equal Opportunity recreation service provider and employer under permit from Salmon, Payette, Boise and Challis National Forests. All our operations and facilities are operated on a non-disciminatory basis. ROW Inc. is bonded and licensed by the State of Idaho Outfitters & Guides Licensing Board.
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The quality of our food reflects the quality of the wilderness environment in the Middle Fork canyon. We hand-select the freshest fruits and vegetables we can find and pack them carefully in huge ice-coolers. Likewise, these coolers carry fresh dairy products and meats. From these ingredients we prepare bountiful, healthy meals. Sustainably harvested wild Alaskan Salmon served with a fresh garden salad; Prime Rib combined with a fresh Chilean salad and Idaho mashed potatoes or made-on-the-river lasagna is a few possible entrees. Big salads of vegetables and fruit add color and variety to every meal. Desserts are made each evening in our Dutch ovens and range from authentic cobbler and pineapple upside-down cake. We serve juice each morning and moderate amounts of bottled wine with dinner. We also provide two beers and two sodas or juices per person per day. There's always plenty of cold water, lemonade mix, tea, coffee and cocoa. You're welcome to bring your own beverages or alcohol as well. We always have plenty of ice to keep your drinks cold.
We call it luxury camping. In order to make your trip run as smoothly and comfortably as possible, we use a large cargo raft to carry camping gear, food and supplies ahead of the main group. This allows our smaller rafts to be lighter and more maneuverable, which makes for a safer ride with more bounce and splash. And the cargo raft arrives at camp early to setup the kitchen and spacious 2-person tents we supply for you. All you have to do is carry your personal gear to the tent of your choice and roll out your sleeping bag, flannel liner and thick, self-inflating foam sleeping pad (all of which is provided by ROW and stored in a ROW-provided waterproof bag). There are no mosquitoes on this stretch of the river and our camps are on flat benches beneath pine trees or on sandy beaches. To give you the opportunity to go hiking, fishing, read a book, etc., we generally arrive in camp no later than 4:00pm. Around 5:30, we serve hors d'oeuvres with dinner following around 7:00pm. (Note: In rare circumstances we may have a trip on the Snake River with less than 13 guests. In this case, we may not run our cargo raft. Our guides are still happy to set up your tent.)
The elevation on the Snake River in Hells Canyon is only 1,500’ at the put-in and around 800’ at the take-out. This means the weather is typically much warmer than other parts of Idaho. This trip is excellent throughout the season, but the Snake River in Hells Canyon is an ideal choice for spring or fall vacations because of the mild climate and few other people.
Hells Canyon Dam controls water flow so there are excellent levels year round but the highest water is typically in June and September. Air temperatures in the spring and fall range from 65-85 degrees and most nights cool to around 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. It's warmer in late June through late August with daytime temperatures between 85-95 degrees, dropping to 65-70 degrees at night. It rarely rains in Hells Canyon, but sometimes we'll witness a dramatic thundershower which instantly freshens the air. Water temperatures are usually around 60 degrees in June and September, and 70 degrees in July and August.
On any river trip the guides are the most important factor for your safety, enjoyment and the success of the trip. ROW guides are exceptional people with years of river experience. We maintain a tobacco-free policy and most of our guides have taken interpretation courses from certified instructors. We look for guides who are willing and eager to share, teach, listen, learn, laugh, play, discuss and, above all, work hard to provide a safe, relaxed and spontaneous adventure. While in camp two or three guides are preparing dinner while the others are free to spend time with you. They might show you the way to a nearby hot spring, give a fly-fishing lesson or just to sit and visit with the group. Our guides are the main reason many of our guests return to ROW time and time again. (References gladly provided.)