There’s still plenty of snow—and plenty of great backcountry powder—in the mountains, but Hoodoo Canyon makes a refreshing destination for those itching to put boots on dry ground.
The hike up Hoodoo Canyon from Trout Lake to Emerald Lake is a classic, low-elevation Inland Northwest hike through one of the largest remaining low-elevation roadless areas in the Kettle Range. Beginning at still-frozen Trout Lake, Hoodoo Trail #17 quickly switchbacks up and out of late-lingering snow through a forest of western redcedar with a carpet of creeping Oregon grape. The route quickly opens up to grassy slopes, out of which jut old-growth ponderosas and magnificent rock formations.
Because much of the trail traverses an open, grassy west-facing slope with a few widely spaced ponderosas, it is blessedly blow-down free, with only a handful of small-diameter logs across the trail.
In addition, one advantage to hiking before the aspens and serviceberries have leafed out is unobstructed views up and down Hoodoo Canyon.
In just over 2 ½ miles, a spur trail meanders down to Emerald Lake, which is completely ice-free and living up to its name. Linger as little or as long as you like before heading back the way you came in.
Sagebrush buttercup and spring beauty are blooming right now. The next few weeks should bring balsamroots, woodland stars and others.
The only downside: ticks. Dress appropriately—long, light-colored sleeves and pant legs tucked into socks—and bring a pair of tweezers for any stowaways.
From Kettle Falls, travel west on Highway 395. After about 4 miles you will cross the bridge over the Columbia River. Almost immediately after crossing the bridge, turn left (west) on Highway 20, toward the town of Republic.
Follow Highway 20 6 miles to Trout Lake Road, where you will turn right (north). Stay on this main road for about 6 miles until it dead-ends at Trout Lake Campground. The Hoodoo Canyon trailhead begins here.