Posted by: columbiahighlands | April 29, 2011

Early-season Spring hike – Hoodoo Canyon

Emerald Lake is snow free and living up to its name. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

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.

Sagebrush buttercups are blooming now. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

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.

Interesting rock formations flank the trail. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

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.

Driving directions:

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.



  1. this is such an amazing area! it’s one of my favorite hikes.

  2. The turnoff onto Trout Lake Road is indeed to the north which is a RIGHT (not left) turn when coming from Kettle Falls and Spokane.

    If coming as a group this hike can be done as a through route. When you cross over the Columbia River (Roosevelt Lake) stay to the right on Hwy 395 and travel north a bit over six miles and turn left (West) onto the Deadman Creek Road. Go up the gravel road and stay on the main route and into the Colville Nat. Forest after six miles and a couple of miles farther you will see the Hoodoo Canyon trailhead on your left (south). There is also plenty of open space here to set up your tent camp at “trails end”. Leave a vehicle here and then go back down Deadman Cr. to 395 and back south to Hwy 20 then follow the directions to Trout Lake road and then drive up to the lake and the trailhead at road’s end. (Even better is if one of your group is more interested in camping rather than hiking. Have them drop you off at the Trout Lake trailhead in the morning and then they drive to the Deadman Cr. trailhead and set up camp by the time you arrive late afternoon.)

    The Emerald Lake spur is at the trail’s apex. But rather than returning to Trout Lake continue to the north and drop down to Deadman Creek. The trailhead is where you left the first vehicle is about 1/4 mile beyond the footbridge over Deadman Cr.

    • Hi Joe,
      Thanks for catching the error in the directions! The route continuing north to Deadman Creek is indeed a beautiful trail and quite a change in scenery from the section coming from Trout Lake. I haven’t been on that section this spring, but in past Aprils there has been a fair amount of deadfall to negotiate around.

  3. That sounds inviting (outside of the ticks). Wish I lived a little closer.

  4. Thanks for leaving a few of those ticks at our house! Glad you had a fun day, and none of those little suckers were able to get a good bite!

  5. […] Check out this slideshow of some of our area’s early bloomers, and then take a hike! Hoodoo Canyon, and Thirteenmile are good bets for great wildflower […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: