Summit Ridge Trail

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 5.3 miles roundtrip
Elevation Loss: 1,100’
Trailhead Elevation: 6,280’
Best Season: June through September,
         once access road is snow-free
Driving Access: Any vehicle, with care

Plus Points
• A nice view hike down a rugged scenic ridge, with vistas to the Snake River
• Trail skirts the edge of the Hells Canyon Wilderness, from rim to Freezeout Saddle
• Long views east to the Seven Devils Range and west to the snowy High Wallowas
• Spring wildflowers include paintbrush, penstemon, goldenrod and mountain balm
• Lots of elk sign along the ridge, plus grouse are very common near the trail
• Though lightly used, the trail is well-built on a good grade, with switchbacks

Minus Points
• In a few stretches, the trail is narrow and rocky, with loose rock underfoot
• Long sections of trail have no shade, so try to get an early AM start on hot days
• Rattlesnakes are a possibility at the lower elevations in summer, so be alert

Download (PDF, 758 KB): Photos of Summit Ridge Trail
Download (PDF, 884 KB): Topo Map for Summit Ridge Trail
Download (PDF, 866 KB): Road Map for Summit Ridge Trail

Trail Notes
Map of the Summit Ridge Trail
From a dirt road just off the Hat Point Road, the trail starts at a large rock cairn with a faded wooden sign ("Summit Ridge, Trail #1774"). The trail switchbacks down the west side of the ridge through douglas firs, past a small spring, then traverses south to a point on the ridge crest at 0.5 miles. Here one has the first views east of the picturesque Seven Devils Range in Idaho. The trail continues to descend the ridge, across open slopes and through forested draws. At 1.0 miles, the trail descends into a saddle on the ridge, with good views east down Saddle Creek and south to Freezeout Saddle.

From this saddle, the trail climbs a short distance, then begins a long traverse around the west side of the ridge, finally topping out at 1.4 miles on a side ridge coming in from the west. The trail descends west down this side ridge, past douglas firs on the north slope and open grassland on the south. Look for grouse in the underbrush here and enjoy long views west of the snow-capped High Wallowa peaks.

At 1.6 miles, the trail reaches the end of the west ridge and make a sharp switchback to the east, with wide views of Freezeout Saddle and the trail ahead down the grassy hillside. At 2.2 miles, at a signed rock cairn in Freezeout Saddle, the trail intersects the east-west Saddle Creek Trail. It's best to continue south along the ridge trail, as the saddle is very open and exposed and can be windy. Following the ridge trail south, one comes to several forested, rounded points at 2.6 miles, which make a good shady lunch and hike destination. From here, the views are spectacular to the east down Saddle Creek to the Snake River and to Hat Point on the skyline above.

Road to Trailhead
From Hwy 82 in Joseph, OR, turn east on the Imnaha Highway and drive 29 miles on the paved road, down Little Sheep Creek, to the small hamlet of Imnaha. Following the sign for Hat Point, drive the steep gravel Hat Point Road up the hill for 17.3 miles to where the road begins a wide turn east and north, at Jim Springs.

Look for a small, unsigned dirt road on the right (west), just across the Hat Point Road from the Jim Springs dispersed camping area. This turnoff is about 0.5 miles before the Saddle Creek Campground. About 20 yards up this dirt road, look for a large rock cairn on the right, with a faded "Summit Ridge, Trail #1774" sign.

NOTE: The first 7 miles of the Hat Point Road past Imnaha are very steep (16% grade). The entire road is single lane, with turnouts, so camping trailers and RVs are not recommended. The gravel surface is OK for passenger cars.

Camping Options
The nearest developed campground is the Saddle Creek Campground, on the Hat Point Road 0.5 miles northeast of the trailhead. This has 7 walk-in sites for tent campers only, with a vault toilet, and each site has a picnic table and fire ring. There is no drinking water and no fees. Though the campground is on the well-used Hat Point Road, all the sites are along the edge of the Hells Canyon rim, with unbelievable views east over the deep gorge to the rugged Seven Devils Range across the Snake River in Idaho.

For those campers that are entirely self-contained, with their own sanitation, another option is dispersed camping sites in the Jim Springs area, just across the Hat Point Road from the trailhead. There are 5-6 sites here, some in open grass meadows, others in pullouts among the trees. The sites are very primitive, with no tables or fire rings, but they are isolated.

Please note there is no overnight camping at the Hat Point Lookout and there is no potable drinking water available anywhere in the area. Campers will need to bring enough drinking water for the entire length of their stay.

Agency Contact: Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, (541) 426-5546

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local public land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 12/10/14