East of Joseph, marking the Idaho border, the Snake River has cut the deepest chasm on the continent – Hells Canyon, a 130-mile-long gorge that’s a thousand feet deeper than the Grand Canyon, though it doesn’t really look it, since it spreads out wider and lacks the sheer cliffs of its Arizona counterpart. With the Seven Devils mountains rising above it, the area is preserved as Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (day pass $5; w http://www.fs.fed.us/hellscanyon), where otters, mink and elk live, along with rattlesnakes, black bears and mountain lions. Motor vehicles are banned in much of the canyon, so you can only explore by foot or on horseback. Many of the forest roads that skirt the area are closed by snow much of the year. When open, if you intend to use them, first check with the rangers in Enterprise, 88401 Hwy-82 (t 541/426-5546), or Baker City, 1550 Dewey Ave (t 541/523-6391). Also available is information on the US Forest Service’s twenty scattered primitive campgrounds (first-come, first-served; free or $5) – eleven in Oregon, nine in Idaho.
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