Above: The Okanongan Highlands in Eastern Washington. Photo by Tyler Yates.
Okanogan Highlands, Section 5
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.”
Sweat Creek to Cold Springs (Loomis, WA)
104 mi (167.4 km)
Highest Point: 6,205’
Elevation Gain/ Loss: +11,200’ / -8,460’
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
- Proper food storage for black bear habitat is required
- Fire Restrictions on the Okanongan NF prohibit alcohol and twig burning stoves and most campfires
- Campfires are only allowed in designated campgrounds in the Loomis State Forest
The weather and climate across the trail corridor can vary greatly by geographic area, elevation, and season. The major mountain ranges of the PNT create rain shadows. This effect creates drier and warmer east sides, that can approach desert-like climates, and much cooler and wetter west sides that include rain forests.
“Against the Grain” is the unofficial slogan of the PNT, with good reason. This rugged, 1,200 mile route climbs over seven mountain ranges and it presents some unique challenges along the way. For those uncomfortable with hazardous situations, there are many trails on the PNT that are accessible to a wide range of visitors.
The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail travels through many different public and private lands. You can help to protect our natural resources, and the quality of the experience. Respect private property and learn the regulations of the area you are visiting.
Today, the PNT offers an experience that may be more challenging and rugged than it will be a generation from now. Until then, making the effort to be fully prepared for an adventure on the PNT is key to having a safe and enjoyable trip.
The PNT travels through some of our wildest public lands. These special places are home to animals iconic of wilderness, and species found nowhere else. By following the regulations of our National Parks and National Forests, you can help keep wildlife wild and the backcountry safe on the PNT.
Getting to and from the Pacific Northwest Trail is part of the adventure – America’s wildest National Scenic trail is located in some of the most remote mountain ranges of the Northwest and logistics are part of the challenge.
A visit to the undiscovered communities of the Northwest is a fun part of any trip on the PNT. From rugged mountain towns, to historic seaside cities, the diverse communities visited by the trail provide a peek into the lifestyles unique to the Northwest.