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blueBlack Hell Canyon Trail

  5.0 ( 4 ) Favorite


5.4 mile 8.7 kilometer loop


Ascent: 606' 185 m
Descent: -629' -192 m
High: 5,790' 1,765 m
Low: 5,296' 1,614 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 38% (21°)


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Trail shared by Greg Sage


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Experience beautiful surroundings along this great loop trail through West Hell Canyon.

Greg Sage

Features Birding · Cave · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly Only one section is steep, but still passable by children. Doing the route counterclockwise would be best for kids.

This is a No Open Fire area, so heed the designation.


This is a great loop trail that packs both a ridgetop traverse and a meandering canyon route into one manageable hike. Parts of this area were burned in wildland fires back in 2000, but they have since regrown and created beautiful scenery along your route. If you're interested, the fire damage is especially visible along the ridge at the beginning of the hike.

If kids are part of your hiking party, you might want to consider hiking this trail in the counterclockwise direction, opposite to how it's mapped. This allows for more gentle inclines as you ascend from the canyon floor to the ridge above. If adults comprise your group, however, then the mapped direction is the way for you.

Need to Know

• Much of the trail is exposed, so take precautions for the sun.
• Ticks are prevalent in the area, so always check yourself after your hike.
• There are NO bathroom facilities or trash services at this site.
• Don't expect cell coverage anywhere in this area.


Trail maps are available from the US Forest Service at the trailhead in a box mounted to the kiosk at the trailhead, or you can bring the Hiking Project mobile app along on your phone to keep you on track.

Starting from the trailhead, follow the trail as it ascends the steepest part of the hike right away. Your efforts will quickly pay off though, as the rest of the hike is quite leisurely as you take in the views from the ridgeline. If you'd like, veer onto the Hell Canyon Spur for an interesting look into the canyon.

Past the spur, the trail continues through a small drainage before quickly climbing again over a varied tread along the canyon wall. Eventually, the trail enters the mouth of the canyon and begins a steady descent to the canyon floor. While in the canyon, soak up the views of your surroundings as you make your way back to the trailhead and parking area through lush, verdant undergrowth.

Much of this trail exhibits loose and rocky footing, so you might have to find a balance between enjoying the views and watching where you place your feet.

Flora & Fauna

Deer, skunk (didn't see but could smell), prairie song birds, and ticks are some of the wildlife you may see on this trail. Be careful around the edges of the tread, as poison ivy and oak are both present.

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Apr 6, 2019
Brady Schaner
Nice hike along limestone cliffs 5.8mi — 2h 10m
Sep 18, 2018
Jon Steurer
great trail with tons of changes in scenery. starts off quick to switch back by then fades to an easier hike. very exposed to the sun so protect yo… 5.4mi
Aug 10, 2017
Renée Belisky
Aug 5, 2017
Candace Shelton
Jun 7, 2017
Annie Edwards

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 4 votes


in Custer


  5.0 from 4 votes
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