Northeast Washington is home to innumerable roads and trails for hiking, biking, driving, and wintertime sports such as snowmobiling. Many gorgeous areas are ignored, however, even by local residents, as they commute on high-speed state highways or county roads in their ever-present desire for speed and efficiency.
But, if the state’s recent lock-down and quarantine has done nothing else, it has forced us to rely on our own resources, which is a good thing in the long run for our physical and mental health, if we don’t isolate ourselves from the beauty of nature! When you can’t gather with family due to quarantine restrictions, find solace in God’s country, as Northeast Washington is certainly that – a land blessed with natural beauty, amazing geology, and fascinating history!
One route that’s especially beautiful in the fall is the Smackout Pass Loop route, an approximately 63-mile route not far northeast of Colville on gravel county and U.S. Forest Service Roads. This loop can be driven in either direction, but a favorite way to see this area is to simply drive east on Hwy 20 to the east end of Colville, then turn north on Aladdin Road just before the airport. Continue north to Smackout Creek Road, just past the electrical substation – OHV users can park their trailers behind this substation to follow the Smackout Loop route. Turn east on Smackout Creek Road and you’ll enter ranching territory with lots of mining history! Much of this area is open range, so watch for range cattle and all kinds of wildlife, as the meadows along the route and many water sources, attract many animals into the Colville National Forest.
Just a few miles east on Smackout Creek Road is the intersection with the U.S. Forest Service 1728 road – turn right on this and follow it as it proceeds generally southwest down the ridgeline to Ione Hill. There are many side roads, but the 1728 offers the best road service for 2WD or low-clearance vehicles, and many of these side roads are dead-end. You’ll get great views of the area from Ione Hill, and then you’ll intersect Meadow Creek Road at the base of the hill. Turn left, or east, to continue on this loop route. There are old mining claims and mine sites in this area, which is just west of Aladdin Mountain, and it’s also not far south of the famous Electric Point and Silver Creek mining areas.
You’ll find that Meadow Creek Road is a mostly flat, well-graded gravel road. The first viewpoint is at a restored pioneer cabin site that’s a lovely picnic area with restroom, off-road parking, and a hiking trail to the Meadow Creek area. Take a few minutes to imagine living in this cabin off-grid as a pioneer, so many miles from town! Big Meadow Lake is the next stop, just east of the pioneer cabin, and offers hiking trails, fishing, a restroom, and camping. There are gorgeous lake views, a developed campground, and well-maintained hiking and biking trails in the area. Please note that OHVs (Off-Highway Vehicles) are not allowed into the campground area. There are many dispersed U.S. Forest Service campsites available along both Meadow Creek and Smackout Creek roads, as well. Meadow Creek Road intersects Smackout Creek Road not far east of Big Meadow Lake, at a T-intersection – turn left to Smackout Pass. If you’d like yet another route option suitable for all vehicles, you can turn right to Ione, as this route makes for a beautiful trip to the Ione area and the Pend Oreille River, with full services in the small town of Ione. OHVs are allowed on this route into Ione, as well! If you want to simply continue the original loop route, just continue west to Smackout Pass. Enjoy the lovely views and beautiful granite formations at the top of the 3,727’ pass – bring a camera, as the views are incredible no matter what the weather. Continuing west from the pass, you’ll return through the lovely Smackout Meadows open range area. Take a few minutes to stop and read the informational sign about the range conservation program established here and visit with range riders if they’re in camp. Proceed west past Smackout Meadows and you’ll be back at your starting point.
After enjoying a day in the Colville National Forest, head back south to Colville on Aladdin Road for a meal to end your perfect day in Northeast Washington!
Northeast Washington Trails Strategy Survey
The Northeast Washington Sustainable Tourism and Recreation Team (NEWSTART) has facilitated an all-hands, all-lands coalition of land managers and trail advocates that are working on a strategic plan for trail development and stewardship in our region, including motorized trails. Please take the comprehensive, 20-minute survey by visiting the website below. We appreciate and value your input! www.newashingtontrails.com