Swauk Forest Discovery Trail—Golden forest beneath the Diamond Head

Discover the beauty of larches in autumn along this trail

Discover the beauty of larches in autumn along this trail

Quick Facts:

Location: Blewett Pass

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 2.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 350 feet

Green Trails Map: Wenatchee/ Mission Ridge, WA- No 211S

Contact: Cle Elum Ranger District: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest 

Access: From Cle Elum follow WA 970 east for 7.0 miles to US 97. Continue north on US 97 for 14.0 miles to Blewett Pass. Turn right onto FR 9716 and proceed .4 mile to trailhead.

Notes: NW Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required.

Delightful to hike any season, in autumn the Swauk Forest Discovery Trail is golden thanks to its abundance of western larches. But there are other trees lining this family friendly loop trail, too. And you can learn all about them and the practice of silviculture (forest management) at numerous interpretive signs along the way.

Despite being located just off of Blewett Pass on busy US 97, this well developed trail is lightly visited (and unfortunately sees 095little maintenance-so expect some blowdowns). Constructed by the Northwest Youth Corp in 1992, the Swauk Forest Discovery Trail is meant to enlighten visitors on forest management practices and how they are implemented by the Forest Service. Pamphlets may be available at the trailhead kiosk for you to take along. And while you may not want to make 25 stops along the way to learn about forestry practices, do definitely stop at the tree identification plaques.

The trail contours a ridge above the highway meandering through patches of forest in varying age categories. At about .6 mile enjoy a nice view west to Teanaway Ridge. Then traverse a sunny slope of ponderosa pines. Gradually climb, round a ridge and head east watching for deer along the way and enjoying excellent views out to Diamond Head. In autumn larches set this locally prominent peak aglow.

At 1.4 miles reach a junction. Turn left to shorten your trip or continue right for the best part. Cross FR 9717 and wind your way up to a 4,550-foot knoll with excellent views north to Tronsen Ridge, west to Mount Stuart and the Enchantment Range and south all the way to Mount Rainier. Now close the loop by meandering through impressive ponderosa pine groves returning to the trailhead in 2.8 miles. Consider a return trip in winter with your snowshoes.

For more information on this hike and 124 others nearby;

Check out my Central Cascades Day Hiking book!


Scatter Lake — Golden larch lake high on 8,321-foot Abernathy Peak


Abernathy Peak provides a stunning backdrop to Scatter Lake.

Quick Facts:

Location: Twisp River Valley

Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Roundtrip: 8.5 miles

Elevation gain: 3,800 feet

Green Trails Map: Stehekin, WA – No 82

Contact:  Methow Valley Ranger District: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest  

Notes: NW Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required

Access: From Twisp, follow Twisp River Road west for 21.8 miles to trailhead (road becomes FR 44 at 10.8 miles).

Good to Know: Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness, exceptional autumn colors; dog-friendly, Practice Leave No Trace Principles

In an area of supreme larch hikes, Scatter Lake ranks among the best of them. Start your hike by warming-up on the Twisp River Trail. After immediately encountering a junction, bear left.  Soon afterwards reach another junction. Turn right here. The first mile or so is easy climbing gradually out of the Twisp River Valley through an open forest of fir and pine.


A hiker explores Scatter’s lakeshore.

The gentle grade however becomes a thing of the past once Scatter Creek is encountered. On a bank high above the chattering creek the trail changes direction and course. Heading now straight-up the narrow creek canyon, elevation is rapidly gained. Soon enter the Lake-Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Area, a 145,000-acre protected band of high peaks, alpine lakes, unbroken forest and some prime Lake Chelan shoreline as well.

Switchbacks grow tighter. The trail gets steeper. Forest begins to open up and meadows appear. Scatter Creek is soon crossed. Switchbacks fade from existence as the trail gets even steeper. At about 3.5 miles reach a delightful meadow in a small basin. You’re almost there. On steep slopes matted with blueberry bushes and punctuated with tenacious white-bark pines, sub-alpine fir and larches, the trail makes its last climb to the lake.

Rising above a small cascade, the trail enters a beautiful cirque beneath the 8,321-foot summit of Abernathy Peak. Within this high basin find the larch-ringed tarn, Scatter Lake. Soak feet (if you dare), soothe your soul, or just stare up at the barren slopes sliding into the lake. And of course rejoice in the beauty of the golden larches reflecting in the lake’s sparkling waters.

Scatter Lake is one of 125 great hikes in my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades Book. 

Get your copy today!



Looking for great places to stay in the Methow Valley?

Visit Northwest Tripfinder for great lodging and dining options.


Sherman Peak Loop– In general, the views are great


From the summit of Sherman Peak, enjoy an excellent view of snaking SR 20 through waves of peaks.

Quick Facts:

Location: Kettle River Range, Ferry County

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 6.0 miles

Elevation gain: 1200 feet

Contact: Colville National Forest, Republic Ranger District

Notes: Hunting season has begun, wear orange

 Access: From Republic, head east on SR 20 for 16.8 miles to Sherman Pass. Turn left and follow access road .1 mile to trailhead. If coming from Kettle Falls, follow SR 20 west 26 miles to Sherman Pass.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, exceptional wildflowers, exceptional views, kid-friendly, exceptional autumn colors


On the Trail

This loop allows you to enjoy striking views of a landscape struck by the forces of nature. Follow this loop full-circle around 6998-foot Sherman Peak and discover this mountain’s two contrasting sides; a forest of lush green old-growth, and one scorched by wildfire leaving a surrealistic landscape of silver snags. In summer Sherman bursts with wildflowers. Come autumn its larches streak its slopes in gold.

Easy access, being a loop, and having plenty of nice views makes this hike one of the more popular ones in the Kettle River Range. From the trailhead, head left on the Kettle Crest Trail quickly coming to a junction with the Sherman Pass Trail and the Sherman Pass Tie trail. For Sherman Peak, continue right dropping steeply into a cool, wet, tight ravine. Then climb out of it coming to SR 20. The trail resumes on the other side of the highway; be careful crossing the road.


Entering the burn zone.

In cool larch and lodgepole pine forest, gently climb winding around granite ledges and passing window views east. At 1.0 mile, come to a junction. You’ll be returning right on the Sherman Peak Loop Trail, so continue left on the Kettle Crest Trail. After skirting beneath a large talus slope reach the edge of the 1988 White Mountain Fire burn zone. This lightening caused fire burned over 20,000 acres of timber. But now over 25 years since much of the surrounding slopes went up in flames, new green growth has crowded out the silver snags and overtaken the blackened logs left in the fire’s wake.

Begin a long sweeping traverse of Sherman’s eastern ridge. Pause frequently to take in breathtaking views of the Sherman Creek Valley. Come October, the normally deep emerald valley is laced with soft yellow patches thanks to stands of western larches. After cresting the ridge in a small saddle, traverse Sherman’s southern slopes taking in excellent views south. The trail climbs higher upon Sherman, but doesn’t go to its pyramidal summit. It’s an easy scramble however to the summit if you feel inclined to peak bag.

At 3.2 miles, come to a junction. Head right on the Sherman Loop Trail crossing gorgeous meadows and savoring sweeping views west across snaking highway twenty to the Okanogan Highlands and North Cascades.  The way then descends at a good clip to reenter forest before wrapping around the north side of Sherman Peak. Skirt beneath a scree slope and by little Sherman Pond, one of the few ponds located within this mountain range. Cross its outlet and shortly afterward reach a familiar junction to close the loop. Turn left and return to your vehicle in one mile. General William Tecumseh Sherman (of Civil War fame, who this peak is named for) once said “War is Hell,” but up here on the Kettle Crest, it’s nothing but heaven.

For more information on this hike (including maps) and many others in the Kettle River Range, consult my ((co-written by Rich Landers) Day Hiking Eastern Washington guidebook (Mountaineers Books).Day Hiking Eastn Washington

For more information on things to see and do in Northeastern Washington, consult Northwest Tripfinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

For excellent accommodations in Republic, stay at the Northern Inn.DSCN4774

Tiffany Mountain — Enjoy horizon-spanning views at the edge of the North Cascades



Alpine tundra carpets the Tiffany Highlands. (c) C. Romano

Quick Facts:

Location: Northeastern Cascades

Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Roundtrip: 6.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet

Green Trails Map: Green Trails, Tiffany Mountain, WA- No. 53

Contact: Tonasket Ranger District, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Access: From Burlington follow SR 20 east to Winthrop. Then continue north on East Chewuch River Road for 6.5 miles and turn right onto FR 37. After 13 miles turn left onto FR 39 continuing for 3.2 miles to trailhead at Freezeout Pass.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, exceptional summer wildflowers, autumn larches, extensive views



A hiker admires Tiffany Lake from the summit of Tiffany Mountain.

One of the highest summits in the state that can be hiked up; 8,242-foot Tiffany Mountain teeters on the eastern edge of the North Cascades commanding far reaching views from the craggy Cascade Crest to the sprawling Columbia Plateau.

The trail starts at a lofty elevation of 6,500 feet, traversing pine groves and stands of golden larches on its way to windswept alpine tundra.  At 2.5 miles, turn left at a junction and head up slopes of swaying golden grasses to Tiffany’s wide open summit. Savor the cool crisp autumn air while marveling at the horizon-spanning views. To the north it’s a panorama of Pasayten Wilderness peaks and British Columbia’s hulking Snowy Mountain. South, waves of emerald ridges streaked gold by a profusion of larches fade into the distance. To the east the Okanogan Highlands yield to the sun-kissed Columbia Plateau. And west, the snowcapped North Cascades glisten in the autumn sun.

For detailed information on this hike (including mileage, elevation and maps) and other stunning hikes throughout the state, pick up a copy of my brand new 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books)!9fe142a9-db8e-4f6f-aaec-ce9adf30c1e0

For Information on where to stay and dine in the Methow Valley, consult Northwest TripFinderNWTFmasthead_layers15