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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wildlands Report: Snow Peak Trail

Much thanks to volunteer Aaron Theisen for writing this post! Aaron resides in the Columbia Highlands region in the northeastern portion of our beautiful state.

Washington Wild welcomes people to create “Wildland Reports” that chronicle their experiences in National Forests, Roadless Areas, and Wilderness. Find out more information here.

Wildland Report: Snow Peak Trail

Bald-Snow Roadless Area, Colville National Forest

Snow Peak Trail #10 offers a short, but steep, entry into the Colville National Forest’s Bald-Snow Roadless Area, where one can witness the remarkable regeneration of the terrain from the White Mountain Fire, which in 1988 burned over 20,000 acres of forest. Plenty of sunlight and fertile, fire-rejuvenated soil mean a feast of flowers.

The trail begins among scattered old-growth Douglas-fir and Ponderosa pine that escaped the wildfire. Massive spikes of purple lupine grace the open understory. After several quick switchbacks, the route arcs around the southern face of a ridge that juts out from the Kettle Crest.

Although the trail occasionally tunnels through thick stands of Douglas fir and Scouler’s willow, most of the way passes through open forest. To the south stands the pyramidal peak of Bald Mountain, but the dazzling array of wildflowers– buckwheat, lupine, aster, yarrow, paintbrush, hawkweed and others–will likely keep your attention focused on the foreground.

After nearly two miles, the trail gains the ridge, and young trees begin to close ranks among huge hunks of ancient granite. A few minutes of rollercoaster hiking brings you to the intersection with the Kettle Crest Trail, 2.7 steep miles from the trailhead. Ahead lies the steep western flank of Snow Peak, the second-highest peak in the Kettle Range and a wintertime destination for backcountry skiers. To the north and south stand the other peaks of the Kettle Range and 45 miles of world-class wilderness hiking.

Although the Forest Service recommended part of Bald-Snow Roadless Area for Wilderness status in its draft forest plan, the agency left the entire northern half of the roadless area, including Snow Peak itself and the area traversed by Snow Peak Trail, outside the recommended Wilderness boundary. It’d be a shame to leave this beautiful hike and beautiful mountain unprotected.

Driving directions: From Republic, travel east on Highway 20 6.9 miles to Hall Creek Road 99. Follow Hall Creek Road 3.3 miles to Road 100. Turn left on Road 100 and drive 3.5 miles to the trailhead on the right side of the road.

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