Bounded on the east by North Cascades National Park, the U.S.-Canadian border on the north and the shrub steppe of coulee country on the south, the Okanogan and Colville National Forests offer spectacular treasures and forests with a whole different feel than the wetter side of the Cascades. From Hart's Pass to Sullivan Lake, you'll discover incredible peaks, lakes, wildflowers, rivers, campgrounds, solitude and dog-friendly trails in this northern band of Washington hiking.
Before you go: Call or stop by the local ranger station, refresh your wildlife-identifying skills and stay alert to the hazards of hiking in forests recovering from a burn. If you are hiking in late summer and fall, make sure to know when hunting season begins.
Okanogan - Wenatchee National Forest
Chelan Lakeshore Trail
Location: Lake Chelan
Round Trip: 10 miles (or longer)
Elevation Gain: 1000’
Skirt the shores of glistening Lake Chelan, hidden in a basin of white-crested peaks. If there is one trail that WTA has "adopted" over the years, it's the Chelan Lakeshore trail. This April two Volunteer Vacation crews cleared away brush and logs and restored drainage on this popular early-season backpack. When you've had enough of the wildflower-sprinkled ledges and gently-lapping waves, catch the Lady of the Lake back to civilization.
Round Trip: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3030’
An abundance of wildflowers are not this trail's only charm. Besides incredible views and the option to overnight here, you can get a work-out on this trail -- more than 3000 feet in four miles. Starting close to the Klipchuck campground, the trail wastes no time in gaining elevation, and in the summer, you can get to 6,000 feet without encountering snow. Climbing up, you'll also have a chance to see how quickly plants regenerate after a burn.
Location: Okanogan National Forest
Round Trip: 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 1550’
Take a long weekend and make the drive from either the west or east sides of the state up to Horseshoe Basin. It’s a backpacking favorite, especially when the wildflowers are still blooming. You can spend a day—or a week—exploring the wonders of this alpine landscape. Climb the local peaks, check out the Canadian border monuments, or kick back and watch the marmots. At night, listen for the coyotes and count stars.
Twisp Pass - Dagger Lake
Location: Near Twisp
Round Trip: 10 miles
Elevation: 2460 ft. gain
Best Season: July - October
Larches anyone? These golden beauties and the brilliant red of huckleberries are a key reason to hike here in the fall. But what about summer? How about wildflowers, spectacular views along the route and an incredible North Cascades vista. Many hikers do it as a day hike, but why not stay overnight? Just drop down to Dagger Lake where you'll find more roaming possibilities. And while you're hiking, admire the fine rock work along the trail - courtesy of WTA volunteers.
Colville National Forest
Location: Colville National Forest
Round Trip: 19 miles
Elevation Gain: 3400'
Best Season: Summer, Early Fall
Hidden away in the corner of Washington between Idaho and Canada, Salmo-Priest is as remote as it gets. Here you'll find old growth and wildflowers and views from Shedroof Divide out over the Selkirk Mountains. WTA crews have put a lot of work into keeping this trail logged out and hikeable over the years, and this summer we'll return with a Back Country Response Team to make sure that stock can access this trail.
Location: Colville National Forest
Round Trip: 8-16 miles (with car shuttle)
Elevation: 2000+ ft. gain
Best Season: Late June- Mid October
Have you hiked in the Colville National Forest before? If not, we highly recommend this little-known area for its broad vistas, rolling hills and incredible solitude. Thirteenmile offers all of these and a whole lot more - glorious ridges, forested valleys, the charred remains of lightening-struck trees and the chance to ramble for miles. Bring your own water, as sources dry up as the season progresses.