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Seven Devils Mountains, Idaho – He Devil Summit Hike (July 2021)

Seven Devils Mountains, Idaho – He Devil Summit Loop Hike

hiker standing on the summit of he devil peak in the seven devils mountains, idaho

  Watch the He Devil Summit Hike Video On Youtube 

  • Hike Location – Seven Devils Mountains, Idaho – Hells Canyon Wilderness
  • Land Administration – Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, managed by the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest 
  • Hike Type – Loop
  • Fees & Permits – No fees or permits needed
  • Trailhead – Windy Saddle
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 1 day
  • Miles Hiked – 15.56
  • Route Difficulty – 7.5
  • Scenic Beauty – 8
  • Solitude – 8

Video: He Devil Summit Loop Hike – Seven Devils Mountains, ID

Pre-Hike Planning Notes

There are no fees or permits required to hike in the Seven Devils Mountains. The road up to Windy Saddle is doable by car, but it’s a bumpy ride in places with a lot of washboard roads. There are a lot of steep inclines, your vehicle will be working hard to get up here. There is a FREE campground a half mile from the Windy Saddle Trailhead called the Seven Devils Campground. This is a great place to stay the night before your hike, if doing a day hike, or perhaps the night after finishing your hike. There is no water up here. There are pit toilets at the campground and the trailhead. 

He Devil Summit Hike Maps

Here’s the caltopo map of my He Devil Summit Loop Hike: 

elevation gain chart for he devil summit hike loop

Download GPX file for the He Devil Summit Loop Hike

 

He Devil Summit Hike – July 15th, 2021

Miles Hiked – 15.56
Elevation Gain – 5300′
Route Hiked – Loop hike from Windy Saddle to He Devil Summit and back

My buddy Sam and I slept in the Seven Devils Campground last night in my camper van, about a half mile from the Windy Saddle Trailhead. This made it easy to get an early start on today’s hike, a loop that bags the summit of He Devil, the highest point in the Seven Devils Mountains of Idaho at 9,393′. We’re on the east side of Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in the US, within the Hells Canyon National Recreation area and the Hells Canyon Wilderness. We had a much longer hike planned for this area, but because of the thick forest fire smoke and high temperatures, we’re cutting this adventure short, and just doing a day hike to the summit of He Devil. 

There were maybe 4 other vehicles parked at the Windy Saddle trailhead this morning. We started walking just as the sun crested one of the hills above the saddle. Through the thick forest fire smoke, it was an orange ball of fire. Pretty cool looking, but also pretty sad that we won’t get the distant views we were hoping for here.

he devil summit hike, walking east fork shep creek drainage through dead trees

Hiking East Fork Sheep Creek, near Windy Saddle

The trail begins by dropping in elevation from the trailhead and traversing a massive area of dead trees. The trail was clear, thankfully, but this area just looked dead and barren. 

forest fire smoke obscures view into hells canyon wilderness

View north to Hells Canyon Wilderness

After dropping to 7,200′, the the trail quickly begins to climb up in elevation now, traversing a ridge facing northeast. We’ll climb to 8,000′ as we round the corner of a ridge. Our first big views towards Hells Canyon would have been here, but the thick forest fire smoke obscured them. There are some nice purple wildflowers up here along the trail, especially prospering in some of the old burn areas.

hells canyon wilderness wildflowers while hiking

Wildflowers in the Seven Devils Mountains, Idaho

Next we drop in elevation again, from 8,000′ to roughly 6,600′ as we drop down into the canyon with West Fork Sheep Creek. Switchbacks at the top make quick work of the biggest descent. Soon enough, we trade mountain views for the cover of the forest. Here, things are green and lush, thriving, unlike the valley we started our hike in. 

hikers view of west fork sheep creek hells canyon idaho

West Fork Sheep Creek

West Fork Sheep Creek was a solid flowing body of water, with some small cascades. Very nice, very pleasant. Then we climbed out of the forest again, and our mountain views returned. This was some pretty solid high mountain scenery, especially considering the surrounding area of Hells Canyon which doesn’t really have anything else like this nearby. 

hiking hells canyon wilderness

Hiking the Seven Devils Mountains near Lily Pad Lake

The trail leads us up and out of West Fork Sheep Creek and leads us to a pass between Dry Diggins Ridge and Lily Pad Lake. It’s pretty flat here at the moment, with a great view of the hazy mountains in the distance. There’s lot of water here now, and the route will pass by 5 small lakes on the way up.

mountain goat along hiking trail in hells canyon wilderness, idaho

Mountain Goat in the Seven Devils Mountains

While hiking through another patch of forest, in between Lily Pad Lake and Basin Lake, we spotted a Mountain Goat alongside the trail. He was pretty chill, just doing his own thing. Always cool to see.

view of mountain silhouette from hiking trial in seven devils range idaho

Hiking the trail along the chain of lakes

view of gem lake from he devil summit hike trail

Gem Lake

Now the trail continues to climb uphill around Shelf Lake, and then passes Gem Lake. The trail stays a distance away from both lakes, though, staying elevated above them. Good trail, good views. 

hiker looking up at silhouette of seven devils ridgeline idaho hells canyon

View up towards the Sven Devils ridgeline

hiker in hells canoyn idaho walking up mountains

The trail climbs above Rock Island Lake, again with no real view of the lake. Soon though, we leave the trail and begin our hike off-trail through a boulder field to continue our route up to the summit of He Devil. 

hiking boulder field on he devil summit hike seen devils mountains idaho

Climbing the boulders to the ridgeline. He Devil is the jagged peak along the ridgeline

hiker climbing over boulders along mountainside in hells canyon idaho

Climbing over the boulders

Next we worked our way out into a large boulder field in order to reach the ridgeline. The route wasn’t too bad, just slow and tedious. 

hiking now field below ridgeline seven devils mountains idaho

Snow field below ridgeline

melting two bottles of snow for water in idaho mountains

Melting snow for water

I should have stopped to fill up on water at one of the creeks we passed farther back, but I didn’t. I figured I’d gone past the last liquid water source, and I turned to a snow bank for water now. I stopped to fill up two 1 liter bottles with snow, and will let them melt as I carry them. 

view to hells canyon idaho in forest fire smoke

Hazy view towards Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in the US… 7,993′ deep at it’s deepest point!

hiker walking up ridgeline in mountains to summit

Sam hiking up the ridgeline to He Devil

views through forest fire smoke on he devil summit hike

Good views despite the forest fire smoke

There was one steep section to climb before gaining the ridgeline. From here, it’s a straight shot up to He Devil. There’s sometimes a path to follow, but also, it’s occasionally a bit of a scramble up the boulders. The views are as good as they can be with the smoke.

He Devil Summit in Sight

It was a good hike along the ridgeline. The route is not super well defined, but easy enough to figure out on your own. It was mostly a fun walk up. The final approach to then summit block required a short bit of scrambling to reach, with no exposure. 

he devil and she devil peaks in the sevin devils mountains idaho

He Devil summit view northeast to She Devil

he devil summit view, seven devils mountains idaho

He Devil summit view south to Mt Belial & Devils Throne

hiker standing on the summit of he devil peak in the seven devils mountains, idaho

Sam on the summit of He Devil (9,393′), highest point in the Seven Devils Mountains, Idaho

The views form the summit of He Devil were awesome, even with the forest fire smoke. It’s an impressive ridgeline, with a view of the other 6 “devils”. It’s just the kind of ridgeline you want to find your self on top of. However, because of the smoke, we had practically no view of Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in the US. I could see the outline of the Oregon side of Hells Canyon in the distance, but just barely. I wondered how the view would be, on a clear day. At it’s deepest point, Hells Canyon is 7,993′ deep. That’s a pretty serious landform, just the kind you’d want to overlook from a peak like this. 

hiker climbing down from summit of he devil peak

The initial climb down from the summit

Sam descending the mountain

hiker on summit hike to he devil mountain idaho

Sam on the ridgeline

The hike down from the summit was pretty quick and easy. Just a return hike down the same ridgeline for now. 

hiker traverses snow and boudlers below he devil peak, idaho

Sam working his way to a snow field

hiker glissading down the snow on idaho mountains

Sam glissading down the slope after a failed ski attempt

When we dropped down from the ridgeline, we took a slightly different route on the way down than we did on the way up. We made it down a section of steep and loose boulders and reached a snowfield. Sam and I had been talking about our skiing abilities, hat is, the ability to slide down the snow on your shoes, like skiing. I’m pretty decent at this, and made my run a couple hundred feet down hill with no poles, and didn’t fall. Sam bit it after a few feet, and glissaded the rest of the way down. Good times. 

hikers view of sheep lake seven devils idaho

Sheep Lake

After a tedious walk through the lower section of boulders below He Devil, we reached a more suitable hiking terrain of soil, green grasses and small rocks. We find ourselves on a saddle, which we crest for our first close view of Sheep Lake.

view of sheep lake

Hike down to Sheep Lake

sheep lake shoreline views of mountain ridges above

Excellent views nearing Sheep Lake. She Devil peak looms above

shores of sheep lake in seven devils mountains idaho

Sheep Lake from break spot

We picked up on a hiking trail again as we descended down to Sheep Lake. Now we have good trail and outstanding views. Once down at the lake, it was the obvious place for a break. I drank some of my snow melt water here, which was freezing cold. I also filtered some water from the lake, which was a much more tolerable drinking temperature. 

alpine lake view in the seven devils mountains idaho

Hiking the south side of Sheep Lake

sheep lake hiking view

View across Sheep Lake

Hiking around small off-shoot of Sheep Lake

Next we traversed the south shores of Sheep Lake, below She Devil. There’s a short section of boulders here, otherwise it’s a nice grassy walk. The shoreline wraps around to another smaller lake, an off-shoot of Sheep Lake. Nice views here too. This would make an excellent place to camp, if we were staying the night. But we aren’t, so it’s back to the van. 

hiking faint trail in the seven devils mountains

The route up. Can you spot Sam?

steep loose chute to hike up mountain

The route we hiked up

hiking trial in seven devils mountains

Narrow path along this ledge provides easy walking

Now we are looking for a trail that could connect Sheep Lake to Mirror Lake. From the other side of Sheep Lake, it doesn’t look like it would be a good route, too steep. From up close, it looks very steep too, but we started to see a weakness in the mountainside that could allow a path to hike up. USFS and USGS maps don’t show a trail here, but OpenStreet maps does. Interesting. We thought we could see a very faint path to follow as we hiked up the steep slopes, so it was a good sign. Additionally, there was indeed a narrow ledge, more or less, that allowed for easy passage compared to the surrounding terrain. Things are looking good. 

hiking trail to mirror lake seven devils mountains idaho

Nearing the top of the pass to Mirror Lake. 

mirror lake pass hike

view from pass in seven devils mountains over mirror lake

First view of Mirror Lake from pass

At one point, we had to squeeze through two rocks, a space barely big enough to fit with a backpack on. Past this, there was more steep terrain, but it’s all been manageable. This route has really worked out. This is way more direct, shaving off several miles of hiking versus the way we started the hike this morning. It’s a different route and it’s scenic, so its a win-win.

elevated view of mirror lake, seven devils mountains, idaho

Mirror Lake

hiekrs view of windy saddle in the seven devils mountains

View of Windy Saddle Trailhead in the distance

After cresting the pass, Mirror Lake came into sight. This was a really nice lake, and well hidden from the Seven Devils Campground, but just a few hundred feet away. For now, a steep descent stand in the way. There was some slippin’ and slidin’, but we both made it down in one piece.

view of mirror lake from shoreline

Mirror Lake

We made it down off the steep slopes and hiked over to Mirror Lake to enjoy one last view of this fine alpine lake. I didn’t expect much out of this lake, because it was so close to the Seven Devils Campground and honestly, because it was tucked away in an otherwise ugly spot, with all the dead trees and such. This was a really nice surprise and a nice way to end our He Devil summit loop hike. From here, it’s about 1/2 mile back to the Windy Saddle trailhead where we parked. 

 

 

 

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