Posted by: columbiahighlands | September 20, 2011

Day hike: Jungle Hill

Jungle Hill Trail features a variety of Columbia Highlands habitats, including sagebrush meadows, mixed-conifer forest and aspen groves. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

The Jungle Hill Trail is one of the most popular feeder trails to access the Kettle Crest, and it’s easy to see why: in just under three miles this trail features a staggering diversity of classic Kettle Range habitats, from interior mixed-conifer forest to aspen groves and sagebrush meadows.

The Jungle Hill Trail begins with a quick dip in a creek before attacking the steep slopes of the Kettle Crest. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

Departing from the Jungle Hill Campground—an excellent base for exploring the northern half of the Kettle Crest and the nearby Twin Sisters area—Jungle Hill Trail #16 immediately begins with a dip into a boot-soaking  stream, followed by a steep climb through a dark forest of Douglas-fir, western larch and lodgepole pine carpeted by creeping Oregon grape and kinnickinick. Owls frequently can be seen gliding between the trees.

At approximately 1 mile, reach a rocky parapet with views of the nearby Kettle Crest. After another series of switchbacks through forest, the trail breaks out into groves of aspen and gnarled sagebrush. In high summer, expect to see a riot of color both terrestrial—the sky-blue of alpine forget-me-not, the deep purple of larkspur, the mustardy yellow of lomatium—and airborne; this is butterfly heaven.

From openings in the trees, the Jungle Hill Trail offers expansive views of the northern Kettle Crest. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

Prepare to be surprised by the heart-stopping thrrump of grouse flushing from the trees, which are thick with three species of these by-turns wary and credulous creatures.

The trail dips in and out of the trees before a final traverse across a sagebrush slope that can be sweltering in summer.

At 2.75 miles, reach the junction with the Kettle Crest Trail at a well-used outfitters’ camp and wet meadow.

Fill your canteen from the spring and relish your options: To the north and south lie 45 miles of wilderness-quality wandering on the Kettle Crest Trail. Or you can simply sit back and enjoy the view over miles of intact, wildlife-filled forest.

Although the Kettle Crest north of Jungle Hill has been proposed for Wilderness designation, the roadless terrain south to Sherman Pass, including Columbia Mountain, was left out of the Forest Service’s draft recommendations. If you’d like to see stronger protections for the entire northern section of the Kettle Crest, let the Forest Service know by September 28.

Driving directions: About 4 miles west of Kettle Falls on Hwy 395, cross the bridge over the Columbia River.  Almost immediately (1/10 mile), turn left (west) on Hwy 20, toward the town of Republic. 

Continue to the Albion Hill Road turn-off (just east of the top of Sherman Pass near milepost 323). Turn right (north) off of highway 20 onto Albion Hill Road and drive a little less than a mile to the signed Jungle Hill Campground entrance. Turn left and  proceed to the campground loop at the road’s end.

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