Q: Around this time of year, I always start to get excited about going on camping and backpacking trips. I was looking into an area that I have never been before in Hells Canyon called the Seven Devils.
It looks like, while there are peaks and pretty rugged terrain, the overall elevation is much lower than other areas like the Sawtooths or the White Clouds.
When do you think is the earliest that a person could plan a backpacking trip in that region and be clear of snow in lower areas, freezing temps and high water crossings?
THOMAS SMITH, via email
A: You're still looking at sometime around the July 4 weekend, like other high country areas throughout Idaho. That's the word from the folks at the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area headquarters in Riggins.
I'm going to side with them, although in some low-snowpack years you could get up there in the last week of June. But that's rare.
The key to getting to the trailhead at the northern end of the Seven Devils Mountains is getting up the road to the trailheads and campground at Windy Saddle.
That road, which is the Seven Devils Road, climbs more than 5,000 feet in elevation in about 17 miles. You'll find the turnoff for the road on U.S. 95 just south of Riggins. You can get road conditions from the Forest Service office at 628-3916.
It's a pretty good gravel road to the top, but it can be closed by a single snowdrift in the shady curve. I've been up there early in the season and have been stopped by snowdrifts in June.
Although most trails in Hells Canyon are at low elevations and can be hiked in early spring, the Seven Devils area is a different story.
The trailhead at Windy Saddle is about 7,600 feet. The alpine lakes are at 7,000 to 8,000 feet, and snow can remain in sections of the trails well into summer.
It's the same story for the Black Lake Road going to the southern part of the Seven Devils from the Cuprum area. I was up there in July one year and the road was still blocked by snow.
I wouldn't attempt that route until mid-July and on an ATV or dirt bike, unless you want to beat up your SUV or pickup.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors