Idaho’s vast wilderness areas and sparse population make it a great place for finding solitude in remote canyons. Idaho has easy access, half-day canyoneering adventures and countless remote exploration possibilities. Technical canyoneering is in its infancy in Idaho and there is much to explore and discover. Idaho canyons tend to be wide, rocky gorges rather than skinny slots. Skinny slot canyons do exist but they are usually short.
Due to the remote nature of the canyons and sparse number of descents each year, always bring plenty of webbing and be prepared to create your own anchors. A neutral color of webbing is recommended. Idaho has a natural anchor ethic and large rocks tend to be abundant. The best seasons are spring when canyons are flowing or fall for a drier experience. Winter is also a good time. Summer descents have the potential for abundant poison ivy and increased rattlesnake encounters.
Trip Planning and Logistics
The Owyhee and Bruneau-Jarbidge River Wilderness Areas are Idaho’s main canyoneering destinations. They are located on the high basalt plateaus of Owyhee County in southwestern Idaho. These areas are primarily accessed via the towns of Nampa and Mountain Home. Beware of the dirt roads in these areas, as they are mostly 4WD and can turn to slick mud quickly in the event of rain. Always check the weather forecast before your trip. A full sized spare tire and plenty of extra water are essential. There is no cell service and help could be a long time away.
From the BLM website: The Bruneau-Jarbidge and Owyhee areas were the sites of two massive volcanic eruptive centers, fueled by what is dubbed the Yellowstone Hotspot. Both the Owyhee-Humboldt and Bruneau-Jarbidge eruptive centers began with very explosive events that led to gradual collapse, creating basins. The next series of events was the eruption of massive rhyolite flows that filled the basins, the largest flow was over 200 cubic kilometers. Basaltic eruptions followed. Then, about two million years ago, glacial rivers slowly began to carve out the extraordinary canyons that we see today, brilliantly showcasing the events of the last 13 million years.
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area straddles the border of Oregon and Idaho. This area has 6000-foot descents from the top of the Seven Devils Mountains all the way down to the Snake River as well as shorter canyon adventures. The Seven Devils Road out of Riggins may allow a vehicle shuttle all the way to the top of the longer routes. Shorter routes may be accessed exclusively by boat. This area is largely unexplored and beta does not currently exist.
Beta for Idaho canyons can be found on the Canyoneering Northwest website: canyoneeringnorthwest.com
There are currently no known access issues. We can keep it this way by staying off private property and respecting all “No Trespassing” signs. Always check the BLM land boundaries. When you encounter gates close them behind you. You may be traveling through remote areas where ranchers are not used to seeing canyoneers. Make a good first impression for the canyoneering community by being courteous to both the ranchers and their livestock.
24-hour Emergency Response: Call 911
Note: Cell phones do not work in much of the region.
Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue: 208-342-0809. They are based in Boise and cover a wide range including southern Idaho and parts of eastern Oregon.
Nearest Medical Facilities:
American Canyoneers Access contact: Lisa Jennings