East Fork Owyhee River Canyon

A moderate to strenuous hike with options from 9 to 19 miles and 1,200 to 3,400 feet if elevation gain. Explore spectacular remote desert river canyon of Idaho's East Fork Owyhee Wilderness from the winding rim, along steep multicolored walls and spires, and at river level to Tules. Enjoy spring wildflowers and abundant wildlife, especially bighorn sheep and birds. It's best to go mid-April through early June and September through October.

getting there

Drive I-84 to Mountain Home and take the first exit.  Follow signs for ID-51 and Bruneau. Drive through Bruneau and follow ID-51 to Duck Valley Indian Reservation. Drive one mile south of the Idaho-Nevada border and turn right on Boney Lane.  In 2 miles and turn right on Pleasant Valley Road. In 4.1 miles, turn left on Stateline Road, the main dirt road. In 10 miles bear left and head toward Juniper Basin Reservoir. At the reservoir, turn right and head north toward the East Fork canyon. In 6.3 miles, turn left at a Y-junction and in another 1.1 miles turn left at the T-intersection. Drive 4.4 miles to the pipeline pump station junction and turn left.  In 2.9 miles, turn right, and then right again in 0.2 mile. From this point, a 4WD, high-clearance vehicle is needed. Drive to the road that leads to the Garat boaters put-in for the East Fork Owyhee River.  Park here or drive road another 1.3 miles to the East Fork rim trailhead if conditions allow. 

Alternative: The area immediately around the pipeline pumping station is private property.  Park on the main road away from the station or take the rough dirt road to the right (NNE) of the station that immediately re-enters public land.  If  the road is dry and you drive carefully, most cars can continue for ~0.3 mile where the road forks. Park on the side of the road amid the grasses and sagebursh.

on the trail

Explore spectacular remote desert river canyon of East Fork Owyhee Wilderness from winding rim, along steep multicolored walls and  spires,  and at river level to Tules.  Expect spring wildflowers and abundant wildlife, especially bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope on plateau, high concentration of birds of prey, swallows, swifts, canyon wrens, wetland birds and lizards. Hiking near the rim staggering scenic views and provides excellent bird-watching.

Consider one to two day hikes to Tules at river level or along canyon rim.  A two to four day backpack allows further exploration. There are good base camp options at rim or river level.  Go mid-April through early June for spring wildflowers and September through October. Both of these times avoid the extreme summer heat.


  • Be aware of limited water, limited river-level camps, and private land. 
  • Caution needed for  poison ivy and rattlesnakes.
  • Hiking and backpacking travel is on faint trails, game trails and cross-country routes.
  • Guidebook: The Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide, 1st ed.  by Steve Stuebner and Mark Lisk (Boise Front Adventures 2013). See #55 East Fork Hike to Tules. Paperback and digital version available at stevestuebner.com.
  • Guidebook: Backpacking Idaho: From Alpine Peaks to Desert Canyons, 2nd ed. by Douglas Lorain (Wilderness Press 2015). See #25 Owyhee Meanders.
  • Suitable Activities: Backpacking, Day Hiking
  • Seasons: April, May, June, September, October
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
  • Length: 19.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft
  • 5,158 ft
  • Land Manager: Idaho BLM
  • Parking Permit Required: None
  • Recommended Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Party Size: 6
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
  • USGS Jarvis Pasture
  • USGS Piute Basin East
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