Located on the ridgeline above Hells Canyon the Hat Point Overlook and Day Use Area offers fantastic views of the canyon and the Wild and Scenic Snake River. The site has interpretive panels about the canyon and scenic views of the canyon below. A climb up the fire lookout tower allows better views of the river and rugged canyon landscape.
Totally worth it!
I'm writing this review so that other people wanting to visit Hat Point in early June can hear our experience. I looked everywhere prior to our visit and couldn't find ANY updated road conditions. Every website said the road normally opened in July so I started to lose hope that we could even go. We ended up calling the Forest Service office in Joseph and the woman only had a week-old update for us, saying that there was snow 1.5 miles from Hat Point, but because of high temperatures it could be melted by the time we went. Based on that information, we decided to risk it and I'm glad we did (because the snow HAD melted a lot in a week!). Obviously the weather will be different every year, but don't be scared to call and ask about conditions if you can't find them online. We spent a week in the Joseph/Wallowa Lake area and the drive to Hat Point was on the top of our list. We went the first week of June and were able to get 1/2 a mile away from Hat Point before having to park and walk due to snow. We were in a 2WD Toyota Tacoma and my husband didn't want to risk it since the snow was on a hill around a curve and we couldn't see how far in it went. We parked in a pull-off area and once we started walking on the snow, we were pleasantly surprised (and kind of frustrated) to see that the snow was only in a short "shaded" stretch of the road. Once we passed this area, it was clear the rest of the way. Just that little tiny area of snow would deter most people from continuing! I didn't mind the 1/2 mile hike...especially since we drove all the way up there and I was NOT going to miss out! It was kind of eerie once we got to Hat Point because we were the only people there! We are normally very good about having bear spray but we didn't have any with us because we honestly didn't plan on hiking or being alone, so we kept clapping and making noise just in case. Luckily the only wildlife we saw was a mountain goat. My husband went halfway up the fire lookout while I stayed at the bottom watching the ground squirrels. Overall, the super long, bumpy ride and the 1/2 mile hike to the end was totally worth it! You can see the Snake River, the Seven Devils Mountains in Idaho, Hells Canyon, AND the Wallowas! As far as the drive to get there goes...I could see it being scary for someone that is scared of heights. We have driven quite a few “scary” Colorado roads but this road honestly made me a little bit more nervous. We were lucky because we didn't pass anyone until we got closer to Hat Point and the road isn't scary that high up (we only saw 3 other vehicles the entire trip). The first 2-3 miles after Imnaha were the worst (one lane, super bumpy, blind curves, no guardrails, small pull-offs). Fortunately, you can see pretty far ahead so you will know if someone is coming. I can't imagine doing this drive in July when I'm sure it gets busy. After 2-3 miles the road evens out and you drive through forests and open meadows...very interesting and different compared to the first 2-3 miles! Granny Vista Viewpoint has pit toilets and a great view, too. I've read a lot of reviews that say you don't need a high-clearance vehicle, but there is no way I'd want to do this drive in a sedan. If you have 5-6 hours and can muster up the courage to drive along the edge of a mountain for a few miles, do it! You won’t be disappointed!
Hat Point, one of the best views you can find anywhere
The views are spectacular from beginning to end, valleys, 7 Devils, mountains, Snake River Canyon beautiful all the way.
Hat point Overlook, Hells Canyon
The Overlook is worth the drive. Except for 2 - 3 miles of it, it is in good shape, gravel. The 2 - 3 miles are on a steep mountainside, narrow road but lots of turnouts and good visibility for oncoming traffic. You can climb up the lookout tower if the firewatcher is there. From the Overlook you can see down to the river, the Seven Devil mountains and the Wallowa mountains. Plan on about 4 1/2 hours for the trip.
Worth the trip! Photos don’t do it justice - must see in person.
This 24 mile (one way) adventure drive is well worth the time if you are experienced driving mountain roads. It is well maintained, but is mostly one lane, with turnouts. You don’t need 4 wheel drive or high clearance. You DO need to know how wide your vehicle is and be comfortable pulling tight to the edge of a road to let someone pass. The road has lot of washboards, so it will be bumpy unless you have something like a Range Rover to smooth the ride. Also, remember to stay on the right side of the road - there are a lot of places where you could suddenly meet an oncoming vehicle. The views are spectacular in several places, but definitely go all the way to the top. There is an active fire lookout tower there, along with restrooms, benches and picnic tables... and you have a gorgeous view of the Seven Devils Mountains! The Imnaha hills are also visually striking, with their numerous layers of rock outcroppings. There aren’t many overlooks that rival this in the Idaho/OR/WA area. Take your time on this trip, stop often (lots of places to pull over for photos) and enjoy this journey.
Well worth the harrowing drive on a day with excellent visibility
Took this drive based on the lonely planet book on best ONW road trips, and this side trip to Hat Point must be the highlight. Fabulous views, especially if the fire watcher is present and allows you to the top of the fire tower. Not for the timid driver or low clearance vehicle; 24 mi single tack , gravel road. One way. Allow plenty of time. Next time we visit, we'll have to try the campgrounds nearby.