Stretching between the Pasayten Wilderness and the Kettle River Range, the Okanogan Highlands defy expectations of the landscapes of the Northwest with a climate that nears desert conditions. Hot, dry summers follow cold winters which bring heavy snowfall.
In Whistler Canyon, hikers are likely to spot bighorn sheep, but should be wary of rattlesnakes – this is one of the few sections of trail where they are likely to occur. In the Highlands, stock graze in open, rolling sagebrush parklands, while moose, elk and deer inhabit vast forests. Stands of lodgepole pine provide important habitat for the Canada Lynx, which feeds almost exclusively on snowshoe hare.
The trailside communities of Eastern Washington still keep close ties to the land. Ghost towns and abandoned mines refer to area’s heritage, while the Okanogan River Valley, the halfway point of the trail, is home to bountiful fruit orchards and friendly, Oroville, Washington, once known as the “City of Gold.”