Colville National Forest

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Colville National Forest Overview

Tucked up into the northeastern corner of Washington, the Colville National Forest is where the dry desert of Washington's middle gives way to the far western foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The forest's two north-south-oriented mountain ranges, the Kettles and Selkirks, are mellow, rounded peaks rather than typical Rocky Mountain crags; they've been gradually ground down by the ebb and flow of yesteryear's glacial ice sheets. Between the two ranges runs the Upper Columbia River, broadened by the Grand Coulee Dam into 130-mile-long Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. The forest's other major river, the Pend Oreille (Pond-er-ray) runs through a trough within the Selkirks.

The outstanding feature of the Colville is the high-country Salmo-Priest Wilderness, a vaguely wishbone-shaped tract atop two Selkirk Range ridges that intersect at 6,828-foot Salmo Mountain, wedged within a few miles of Washington's northeastern corner. The Salmo-Priest's scenery and wildlife are full-on northern Rockies; be ready for encounters with grizzly bears, woodland caribou, and even gray wolves; less rarified creatures include mule deer and white-tailed deer, elk and black bears, cougar, bobcat, wolverine, badger, pine marten, lynx, bighorn sheep, and moose. Below the ridgetops you'll find the largest growth of virgin forest left in eastern Washington: western red cedar, western hemlock, Douglas fir, grand fir, larch.

The Colville National Forest is bordered by Kaniksu National Forest to the east, which spreads itself past the border of Idaho and towards some other Idaho State Forests. To the west lies Washington's Okanogan National Forest. Nestled in the core of the forest is Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, which is famed for its trout fishing. Both the Colville and Spokane Indian Reservations are adjacent to the forest. Across the Canadian border are several Parks and Recreation Areas.

Peek at the Arctic
Colville's animal life seems to resemble that of Canada's arctic region. Grizzly bear, caribou, moose, wolf and bald eagle all inhabit regions of the forest. It also has a fair share of some threatened species, including pine marten, peregrine falcon and cougar, which are all endangered in some U.S. states. Think about a trip on the spectacular Crowell Ridge Trail (7.8 miles long), which runs along the rockier, more rugged western arm of the wilderness.

Hike the Stage Trail
Follow in the footsteps of the original pioneers on this 10-mile hike between Albian Hill and Lambert Creek. It follows the pine wood forest of the Republic Ranger District and is the only wagon trail within Colville. It passes historic Lust Spring and connects to the Kettle Crest National Recreational Trail.

Bike Bead Lake
Purple and yellow wood violets edge this 6-mile old growth cedar path that tracks the east side of Bead Lake. Though parts of the trail can be uphill and demanding, the lush vegetation, Idaho mountain vistas and huge white pines create an enchanted-forest feeling. The Newport Ranger District is only a one-hour trip from Spokane.

Fish Sullivan Lake
Get ready for some ling cod and record size rainbow and brown trout. Nearby fishing destinations include Mill Pond, Crescent Lake and the Pend Oreille River where you can fish similar species of trout. The forest also offers opportunities to catch cutthroat, German brown and eastern brook trout. Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, which is located in the center of the forest, has a supply of walleye, sturgeon and kokanee salmon.

Ski Geophysical
Geophysical Cross Country Ski Trail is composed of three trails that cater to skiers of all levels. Rolling terrain combined with some steep areas travel past fir and lodgepole pine and a few scenic views. Trail length ranges from 0.9 to 2.6 miles. Also accessible in the Colville are some down hill skiing areas in Chewelah and 300 miles of snowmobile trails.

Drive Sherman Pass
This twisting road truly shows off Colville's natural beauty. It follows Highway 20 between Republic and Kettle Falls Ranger District, and offers a great opportunity to view scenery of both. It is not usually heavily trafficked and leads to viewpoints, historic sites, campgrounds and trails—including the Log Flume Interpretive Trail—along the way.

Camp Swan Lake
Three campgrounds lie within a 5-mile proximity to Swan Lake. Moose, deer, osprey, and golden eagles accompany campers year round. Features include easy access to hiking and mountain biking trails that are used for cross-country skiing during the winter months. Nearby Ferry Lake is a popular fishing destination.

Ride the Kettle Crest
Despite the dry spots along the way created by the lightening storm fire of 1998, The Kettle Crest Trail remains a scenic and challenging quest ideal for horseback riders. It is closed for motorized use so motorcycles and ATVs are not a concern. The trail climbs Sherman Pass and continues until it hits Bald Mountain, gradually descends and eventually again climbs to White Mountain.

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