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Highlands highlights

Three special areas make up much of the Columbia Highlands: the Kettles, Salmo-Priest, and Hall Mountain.

A big, wild land

The Columbia Highlands of northeastern Washington is a big, wild land of mountains and grasslands encompassing the many unroaded wild forests and streams and rivers that feed into the Columbia River watershed. Three key areas make up the Columbia Highlands.

Twin Sisters in the Kettle River Range. Photo by Eric ZamoraKettle River Range

The Kettles run north to south out of the Colville Indian Reservation and up into southern British Columbia. Eighteen separate wild areas are found in the Kettle River Range. The largest, Copper Kettle, at about 110,000 acres, contains the biggest single complex of wild forests in the Colville National Forest.

The Kettles are dominated by gently rolling mountains (17 higher than 6,000 feet)  rising from the arid lowlands of the Columbia River Basin and the Kettle River and San Poil River valleys. The rolling, formerly heavily-glaciated terrain extends north to the Monashee Range of British Columbia, east to the Okanogan National Forest, and west to the Midway Mountains. It is separated from the Selkirk Mountain Range to the east by the Columbia River.

Scattered big sagebrush highlands, old growth and younger forest, and wildflower meadows can be found along the 45 mile-long Kettle Crest National Recreation Trail, a very popular route with local hikers. Numerous “feeder” trails connect into the Crest Trail from both the east and the west.

Thirteenmile Basin, Bald-Snow, South Huckleberry, Paradise Mountain, Hoodoo, Twin Sisters, Jacknife Mountain, Copper Kettle, East Deer Creek, Owl Mountain, Jackson Creek, Bodie Mountain, Clackamas, and Mount Bonaparte


Beargrass blooms along Cromwell Ridge. Photo by Charles GurcheThe Salmo-Priest wildland areas are contiguous to the federally designated Salmo-Priest Wilderness Area in the extreme northeastern corner of Washington, directly east of the town of Metaline Falls, and bordering with Idaho. Due to a wildfire in the 1930s, the forest is young. Yet young trees still provide good habitat. The unroaded areas adjacent to the Salmo-Priest Wilderness are home to an impressive diversity of animals - including moose, elk, white-tailed deer, black and grizzly bears, pine marten, cougar, lynx, mountain caribou, and many species of birds.

Parts of the area are within a grizzly bear management unit, and the north section of the 3-Mile Roadless Area (Addition B) is inside a caribou management area. In addition to their value as critical wildlife habitat, these adjacent wildlands are popular hunting and hiking destinations which add greatly to the wilderness quality of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness Area.

Abercrombie-Hooknose, Three-Mile Ridge, Leola Peak

Grassy Top–Hall Mountain

Hall Mountain-Grassy Top. Photo by Dick VogelThis wild roadless area lies just south of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness and is one of the closest wild forests to Spokane. Watered by creeks including Harvey and Granite, many of the steep, thick forests and towering peaks in this popular recreation area are connected by a system of trails.

Hiking, backpacking, trail riding, camping, hunting, and fishing are all popular here. Grassy Top–Hall Mountain is also excellent habitat for popular big game species such as moose, bighorn sheep, elk, black bear, and mule deer and such critically threatened and endangered species as the woodland caribou, grizzly bear, gray wolf, lynx, and bull trout.

Grassy Top-Hall Mountain, Hungry Mountain
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