Backpack the Painted Canyon Loop, Honeycombs Wilderness

Painted Canyon Loop - Honeycombs Wilderness Area

Explore extraordinary and distinctive rock formations and canyons. This hike is an advanced loop for experienced backpackers and allows you to camp by a lake and among spectacular canyons along loop.

The Honeycombs Wilderness Area is one of those top secret spots that backpackers don't like to talk about in fear of it being revealed. The thing that makes this trip special is just that: isolation.

The trailhead is just west of the Oregon/Idaho border but is best to approach from the Idaho side. It is strongly recommended to drive a high clearance vehicle as the road is dirt, bumpy, and slow moving. Also expect to go through makeshift cattle gates along the way (I'm not kidding, this place is OUT there).

  • From Marsing, take Hwy 95 for 21 miles.
  • Turn right and remain on McBride Creek Rd for 8.7 miles.
  • Turn right on Succor Creek Rd and travel for 7 miles.
  • At a fork in the road, hang left and travel for another 7 miles. Begin looking for a cattle trough on your right.
  • At the cattle trough, take a right up the hill (past the trough) and travel the last mile to the end of the unnamed road and the trailhead.

The Painted Canyon Loop begins by heading down Carlton Canyon from the trailhead. Once you've reached Owyhee Lake (6.2 mi), trek north and turn up Painted Canyon and eventually up over Juniper Ridge. The duration of the trip could be anything from a 18-ish mile day hike to a three night backpacking trip. The Honeycombs Wilderness and Painted Canyon are appropriately named…the rock formations and colors along the trail are something you've never seen before.

This loop wouldn't be tagged for Advanced hikers and backpackers for no reason, would it? There are a variety of challenges on the trail and it's crucial to be prepared heading into the trip. Bring a GPS system of some sort. As previously mentioned, this loop is extremely remote and it will help navigate through any doubt. This area also gets very hot as early as March or April. The only source of water is the lake, so plan accordingly and bring extra purification methods. The hike out is a doozy. Incredible, but a doozy.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about the loop, or drop a line about much fun you had on the trip!

Pack List

  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Light tent
  • Food for the trip
  • Water pump and/or water purifier
  • Extra bottles or reservoirs
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Toiletries
  • Camera
  • GPS and map of the area
  • First aid kit including snake bite gear
Show More
RT Distance 18 Miles
Activities Camping, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Spring
Trail Type Loop
Features
Lake
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Be Prepared...

This piece is intense. Bring some major water storage and filtration devices otherwise you will probably die. The rating of "very difficult" is NOT a prank.

Remote and rewarding!

Great overnighter with my son down and back up Honeycomb canyon. Good map reading and GPS important because easy to get off course since trail is sketchy at points. Resist temptation to bushwhack unless only option or confident on direction. Try to stay on trail at least until in the canyon. Had an interesting face off with a solitary stallion who finally backed off. Probably not in danger but he was definitely letting us know we were on his turf. Believe warnings about slick mud with little rain. A great hike!!


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