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TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County

Baker City
Level Contributor
231 posts
TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County

I finally found the great Hells Canyon overlook.

Views from the top of Hells Canyon are hard to find. The official Hells Canyon Overlook on Forest Road 39 in Baker County is somewhat disappointing, you can't see the Snake River.

After some research I learned of Hat Point Viewpoint, far off the beaten path, in Wallowa county. I drove there to see what I would find.

It was really worth it. I found far more than I expected. There are multiple canyons to see.

To get there you drive 30 miles from Joseph, Oregon to tiny Imnaha. A beautiful drive: high grasslands, rock cliffs and mountain valleys.

From Imnaha, at the Imnaha Store & Tavern (you can't miss it), you start the 24 mile climb up Forest Road 2640, a.k.a. Hat Point Road, to the final viewpoint. This is a single lane gravel road.

Many people fear to take this drive because of the first 6 miles. It is very rough, a 16% grade, no guard rails and often has severe drop-offs right next to the road. However, if you aren't afraid of heights, have good tires, drive slowly and are careful, you shouldn't have any problems. After the first 6 miles the scary part is over and the road becomes a ordinary, single lane, gravel road.

The views, dozens of them, from this road are amazing – all the way up to the end. Nothing else like it in Oregon.

Here are links to 4 of the interactive panoramas I made with my drone. Best viewed on a computer rather than a cell phone or tablet. You can move around with your mouse and zoom with your mouse wheel. Click on the full-screen icon at the top right for best view.

First, after only 4 miles, from 4800', Wallowa River Canyon. The Wallowa River, 2500' below, eventually drains into the Grande Ronde River: https://kuula.co/post/7PpSF

Next: Horse Creek Canyon, from 5920'. The creek, which you can't see, I should have flown out farther, is about 3500' below. Horse Creek drains into the Imnaha River: https://kuula.co/post/7PpSX

Next: Imnaha River Canyon from 6380'. The river is 4300' below. It flows into the Snake River. You can see the Wallowa Mountains in the distance. If you move around you can see Idaho's Seven Devils Mountains. This is an official viewpoint named Granny View. It has vault toilets: https://kuula.co/post/7PpSn

Finally, the end of the road. Hat Point Overlook. Hells Canyon, carved from a high plateau by the Snake River for 6 million years, the deepest gorge in North America, viewed from 6980'. In my opinion, easily the most spectacular view in all of Oregon. You have to see it in person, 2D photos don't do it justice.

Zoom in on the Snake River more than a mile below to see the white rapids. To the right are the Seven Devils Mountains in Idaho. Move around and to the right of the fire watch tower you can see the Wallowa Mountains.

There are picnic tables and toilets at this viewpoint. You can climb to the top of the fire lookout tower.

Enjoy: https://kuula.co/post/7PpJV

12 replies to this topic
Eugene, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Eugene, Springfield
Level Contributor
10,176 posts
205 reviews
119 helpful votes
1. Re: TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County

Fantastic visuals. This may be as close as I'll ever get, however. You lost me with 24 miles of gravel road. Perhaps, when you get a bigger two passenger drone you will give me a ride up there with you.

It's such an isolated corner of the state that it's never explored by tourists. My wife and I did the Pendleton Joseph Baker City John Day loop several years ago and haven't been back since. We tried to arrange a summer family gathering in the Wallowas, but the logistics of getting family members there were just too difficult.

I'd like to do another trip up there, but I'd skip #39. You're right, it's disappointing. I envisioned a fantastic view and it wasn't there.

Thanks for the great aerials.

Camp Sherman, Oregon
Level Contributor
1,988 posts
2. Re: TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County

Ah that’s it! Been 17 years since we were there! Getting old! Couldn’t remember the name. Pappa you’ve mentioned several times you weren’t impress where you where. Now we know why and the right spot. Us and then then young kids climbed that tower. Cool area.

Corvallis, Oregon
Level Contributor
1,329 posts
89 reviews
47 helpful votes
3. Re: TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County

Kuskokwim, this is wonderful! Thanks so much for posting!!

Oregon Coast
Destination Expert
for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
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44,767 posts
1,114 reviews
2,826 helpful votes
4. Re: TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County

Wonderful views... and so easy from my chair :-)

I did get a chuckle reading your description of the road. A few years ago we were RVing in Joseph and drove to Imnaha; it is a lovely drive. We started on Hat Point Road. Oh my, it was indeed rough and not the most, er, relaxing road. I think I demanded a turnaround in just a couple of miles, LOL.


r c
Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
10,316 posts
1 review
2 helpful votes
5. Re: TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County


when i was just starting high school the family went up there. IT was a challenge with the station wagon and tent trailer in tow. Those sparse turnouts were interesting and you had to look way ahed for them and any oncoming traffic to judge if you could make the next one or pull over and wait.

I really enjoyed the view and would have loved to camp up there, but it wasnt going to happen.

You could see the mail boats running up/down the river from there too.

I strongly remember the high sulfur content in the water in Imnaha and the wooden sidewalks on the storefronts.

yes that road with no guard rail was cool and scary at the same time. Since i was on the cliff side on the way up, i had a better view.

Baker City
Level Contributor
231 posts
6. Re: TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County

I was going to recommend not trying the climb with an RV or with a vehicle towing a trailer but my post was getting so long I decided not to.

The drop-offs aren't totally vertical where, if you go off, you have a few seconds of peace so you can say your prayers before meeting an instant end. Instead, they are near vertical, where you would be thrashed to death while rolling down a few thousand feet with an occasional end over end flip for extra style points. :-)

Level Contributor
40,121 posts
1,023 reviews
1,817 helpful votes
7. Re: TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County

Great post! 😎

Banks, Oregon
Level Contributor
6,037 posts
35 reviews
38 helpful votes
8. Re: TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County

Kuskokwim thanks for your trip report. I, also, have fond memories of Hat Point. Back when I was a kid, my parents and us three kids went up that road. Then later, possibly in my thirties or so, I went back alone in my little Toyota 2wd pickup. Had fun on top wandering around and that magnificent view from the tower ! I am thinking ,from your repirt, that both time and weather have taken quite a toll on the road so good thing I went when I did. I also was lucky in that I did not get a flat tire until I got back off the mountain,on another gravel road close to Imnaha. The service station was still open. I lead a charmed life :).

We surely do live in a beautiful state!!

2 posts
9. Re: TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County

Could a little ole lady in a 2017 Subaru Legacy make it up....??

r c
Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
10,316 posts
1 review
2 helpful votes
10. Re: TRIP REPORT: Hidden Oregon-Hat Point Road Wallowa County

"....Could a little ole lady in a 2017 Subaru Legacy make it up....??

I dont see why not. the time we went up there was in a rear wheel drive station wagon. Roads were dry and in good condition.

when we took that trip, the road was not rutted, so alot of ground clearance was not needed if any. Even with your 6 inches of ground clearance on your subi, you should be fine, again assuming the road has not changed.

If the road or turnouts havent changed, then you need to "think and look ahead" as a driver. It was a gravel/dirt road, so ANY vehicle would create a dust wake behind them. Not that difficult to see either, so when you peek out from around a bend/corner, you start looking for plumes along the road.. You can usually see the turn outs too. So whoever gets to it first waits until you pass and then do the same until you are done.

just make sure your vehicle is in good shape since you really dont want to have a breakdown on that road.

good luck

Edited: 6:14 pm, September 29, 2018
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