Posted by: columbiahighlands | August 4, 2011

Grassy Top

A tributary of Tillicum Creek in the Grassy Top Roadless Area. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

Although Grassy Top Roadless Area is often associated with the beargrass-clad balds of its namesake peak, the roadless area also encompasses thousands of acres of intact, diverse mid-elevation forest.

East of Grassy Top a trio of peaks—Tillicum Creek, High Rock Mountain, and Orwig Hump—enclose a horseshoe-shaped drainage, out of which flows Tillicum Creek on its way to Granite Creek, a major tributary of the Priest River. Western hemlock and western redcedar dominate the canopy in the creek drainages, underlain by ferns and thimbleberry. Subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce take over as the elevation increases, joined here and there by ancient western larch.

Although Grassy Top Trail from Pass Creek Pass is justifiably one of the most popular trails in the Columbia Highlands, the eastern half of the roadless area offers miles of little-explored terrain.

Two generations of trail signs on Tillicum Creek Trail #261. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

Trails built in the 1930s, some of them by the Civilian Conservation Corps, serviced lookouts on the peaks and provided backcountry access for wildfire fighting. Because these trails were built for work, not play, they waste no time or elevation getting to their destinations. Abandoned for years, many of these trails have escaped oblivion thanks to the efforts of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington and the Forest Service.

Hikers looking for a strenuous, but scenic, approach to Grassy Top can access the peak via Tillicum Creek Trail #261. Beginning on an old road, the trail quickly reverts to singletrack as it follows its namesake creek past immense cedars spared by the wildfires of 1926. The trail crosses a small tributary stream at its confluence with Tillicum Creek before beginning a sustained, switchbacking climb out of the creek bottom. The trail gains a small saddle, then attacks a steep wooded rise before intersecting with North Fork – Grassy Top Trail #379. Trail #379 undulates over several ridges and nobs before finding the open slopes of Grassy Top Mountain.

Looking out from Tillicum Creek Trail over the unlogging forests of Grassy Top and South Fork Mountain Roadless Areas. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

Huckleberry hunters willing to put in serious miles will find ample pickings and no (human) competition.



  1. That’s really pretty country! I’d love to see it some day. Great photos! Once again, it’s a good feeling to know that such places still exist and to see photos of them!

  2. Thanks! The Colville and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests are actually in the midst of the comment period on their draft forest plans, so now is a great time to let them know you want our wild places to stay that way. You can take action at

  3. […] have proposed that two roadless areas bordering the creek, Harvey Creek and Grassy Top, be protected as Wilderness, which would preserve the creek for its aquatic and terrestrial […]

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