While considered rough and rustic living by some, for seasoned backpackers the Snow Peak Cabin’s many amenities offer a taste of the glamping high life within the heart of Washington’s Kettle Range.
On Sunday, I sampled just a few of the many recreational treats accessible from the cabin. Tucked at the base of Snow Peak, the cabin is a good home base for an array of summer and winter recreation, including hiking, biking and horseback riding.
I spent two nights at the cabin, which sits at 6,400 feet and provides easy access to the 44-mile Kettle Crest trail, part of the 1,200-mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. The cabin’s visitor book featured many weary through hikers who spent a night or two in the cabin.
Padded cots provide a comfortable place to rest after a day of hiking. A propane stove with assorted bowls, pots, pans and utensils makes cooking easy and left me wishing I’d brought more than rice and noodles.
Completed in 1995 after three years of volunteer effort, the 17-by-19-foot cabin sleeps four and can be reserved for $30 a night. Tethering posts for horses make it a good place for equestrians as well.
Summer access to the cabin is a relatively easy 3.1-mile one-way hike from the Snow Peak trailhead (see sidebar). Winter access is from the Kettle Crest Trailhead on top of Sherman Pass and clocks in at 5 miles one way.
From the Snow Peak trailhead, the trail climbs about 600 feet over roughly 3 miles. The final 1.6 miles to the cabin are relatively flat.
My hiking partner and I used the cabin as a launching point for day hiking. On Monday, we headed north and completed the Sherman Peak Loop. That loop, including the walk from the cabin, was just more than 7 miles.
The well-maintained trail started us up high with expansive views of the Colville National Forest. About 3.5 miles into the hike, we dropped several hundred feet into a shaded riparian area.
We opted to bring a water filter instead of humping the extra weight. We were rewarded about halfway through the hike with a clear, fast-moving stream that gave us a much-needed hydration and shade break.
From there, we continued along the loop heading around the south side of Sherman Peak. Here the remnants of a 1988 lightning-started forest fire were visible with snags and crisped trees scattered across the landscape.
We started regaining the elevation we’d lost. As the midday sun heated up the landscape, we eagerly returned to the cabin.
Once back at the cabin, we ate lunch and napped away the hottest hours of the day.
Early in the evening, we headed out for the second hike of the day.
This time we went south, following the Kettle Crest Trail toward Bald Mountain. The landscape was gentler and the trail dipped in and out of the forest.
Although tempted to continue exploring, we turned around after 1 1/2 miles of enjoyable jaunting so as not to be caught in the dark. We’d made it to the base of Bald Mountain. If time had permitted, a scramble to the summit (6,926 feet) would have been a nice finishing touch.
If we had continued along the trail for another roughly 8 miles, we would have arrived at White Mountain, a Native American spiritual site and the terminus of the Kettle Crest trail.
The entire area is habitat for deer, coyotes, grouse, black bears, songbirds and the rarely seen lynx.
There are numerous other hiking opportunities accessible from the front porch of the Snow Peak Cabin. For more, check out “100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.”
Back at the cabin, we settled in for a night of reading and quiet. Sitting on the porch watching the last hues of pink fade from the slopes of Snow Peak, it was easy to forget the wider world just miles away.
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