Saddle Creek/High Trail Loop
Low Point: 1300'
High Point: 5500'
DirectionsFrom Imnaha Oregon take County road727 south for 12.5 miles to forest road 4230. Turn left and follow the road 2.8 miles to Freezeout trail head.
The trail described lays on the Oregon side of Hells Canyon, within the Hells Canyon Wilderness area. The area is characterized by semi-arid, open canyon lands. High Northern slopes are timbered, where lower elevations make way to prickly pear, rattle snakes, and other desert flora and fauna. If a hiker doesn't see wildlife here it is likely they are hiking blindfolded. Wildlife is both abundant and diverse. Elk, mule deer, black bear, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats are just a few of the many species regularly seen. Though the scenery is spectacular and the wildlife viewing will have your attention along the hill sides, don’t forget the trail poses hazards in the form of rattlesnakes, poison ivy, and stinging nettle. Hells Canyon, especially the lower elevation, is typically very hot during summer months. I recommend hiking this trail from the time Freezeout Saddle is accessible util early June or from Fall until the snow flies.
Have your energy bars handy. Trail 1776 starts out climbing from the parking lot, snaking up the mountain. After nearly 2000 feet over 3.3 miles, the trail meets the summit of Freezeout Saddle. The saddle offers views of the Wallowa mountains to the West, the Northern portion of the Seven Devils to the east and the vast Hells Canyon that lies ahead. After taking in the views make the decent down the other side of Freezeout Saddle into the headwaters of Saddle Creek. After 2 miles, you will find the junction of the High Trail(1751). Head North along the High Trail, without much elevation change along the way. This portion of the High Trail ducks in and out of the canyons that feed the river below, crossing several streams, through old burns, and over park-like benches for 8.5 miles to its junction with trail1752. There is an established camps at this point and an opportunity to climb to Hat point( the highest point on the Oregon side of Hells canyon). To reach the Snake River and continue on the loop, take trail 1752 east through the a grassy valley beginning the approx. 3200 foot decent. After approx. 3.5 miles, the trail comes to the junction with trail 1753. Stay to the right continuing on trail 1752 as it drastically drops to the Oregon Snake River Trail, another 2 miles. After the Junction with trail1726 head South upstream about a half mile to the mouth of Saddle Creek. There is an established campsite here and a great opportunity to enjoy the river, but watch out for rattle snakes and poison ivy. From here trail 1776 joins the Snake River Trail. Hike along on 1776 Saddle Creek 0.7 miles to the junction with trail1786. Stay on 1776 heading back towards Freezeout Saddle. After about 2.5 mile the trail crosses Saddle Creek and crosses back over within a quarter mile of the first crossing. Continue up the trail dodging poison ivy, while watching the trail for rattle snakes. It is 6 miles back to the junction with the High trail from the river. Continue back over Freezeout Saddle and back down to the trail head.
For a longer trip one could extend this loop by continuing further past trail1752 and approach the river and trail 1726. It would be possible to hike a 100+ mile loop.