Posted by: columbiahighlands | September 27, 2011

Day hike: Thirteenmile – part 1

An off-trail scramble up Fire Mountain provides views over the Thirteenmile Roadless Area and Moses Mountain on the Colville Indian Reservation. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

Over the course of its 16 miles, the Thirteenmile Trail covers the spectrum of western Columbia Highlands habitats, from the ponderosa and sagebrush hills at its west end to montane lodgepole and subalpine fir forests at the feet of the Kettle Range. And with four entry points, the Thirteenmile Trail delivers mix-and-match options for hikers seeking a quintessential eastern Washington wilderness experience.

The 11-mile hike described below takes you through a rolling parkland of huge old-growth ponderosa pines, western larch, Douglas-fir and lodgeppole pine, interspersed with granite outcroppings and moist, aspen-lined draws. Incredible views of the southernmost Kettle Crest and Moses Mountain on the Colville Indian Reservation are guaranteed, and you’re likely to spot signs of cougar, deer, moose, elk and brown bears in this important wildlife “superhighway”.

Beginning near a spruce bog, Bear Pot Trail #19 ducks into a quiet forest dominated by scraggly lodgepole pine.

The Bear Pot Trail passes by a historic trapper's cabin. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

In about 0.5 mile, enter a clearing claimed by a historic trapper’s cabin. This decaying structure has long passed fixer-upper status.

At approximately 1 mile, reach the junction with Thirteenmile Trail #23. The route to the right gradually drops through progressively drier ponderosa and Douglas-fir parkland until it reaches the westernmost terminus of the trail on the San Poil River.

From high vantage points can be seen the southernmost peaks of the Kettle Range. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

At just over 3 miles, the trail gains the wooded saddle between Fire and Seventeenmile Mountains. A short off-trail scramble can bag you the rounded, glacier-ground summit of Fire Mountain. Admire the weathered granite rock underfoot; the Kettle Range shows its age here with some of the oldest stone in the state. Fire Mountain has been proposed as a Research Natural Area in recognition of its unique mix of habitats, including old-growth ponderosa pine and subalpine fir.

From here, Thirteenmile Trail rollercoasters 2.5 more miles through a diverse forest of western larch, ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir and lodgepole pine, with aspens and birch lining the numerous creases in the hills.

The trail’s end at Hall Creek Road offers lightly used dispersed camping spots, but better to make it a day hike or set a dry camp on one of the rocky benches you passed earlier.

The golden needles of western larch light up the slopes in autumn. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

The cooler overnight temperatures of early autumn are beginning to usher in the changing colors of fall: the golds of western larch and aspen, and the reds of serviceberry, red currant and huckleberry. Plan your hike for the next few weeks and autumn’s peak.

Driving directions: From Highway 20 7.2 miles east of Republic, turn right (south) onto Hall Creek Road (FS Road 2050). At 5.3 miles, bear right at the junction with spur road 600; Hall Creek Road now becomes FS 2054. Continue 2.7 miles to the intersection with Refrigerator Canyon Road (FS 2053). Turn left to continue on FS 2054. At 0.7 miles from the intersection with FS 2053, turn left onto Bear Pot Road 2055. Continue on this road 3.5 miles to the undeveloped trailhead. (Note: although it still appeas on forest maps as a shorter route to the Bear Pot trailhead from Hall Creek Road, the section of FS 2053 that passes through Refrigerator Canyon washed out several years ago and is unlikely to be repaired.) 



  1. My, that’s beautiful country!

    • Arguably this author’s favorite hike/place in the state!

  2. Thanks for this great trail description and directions to the trail head– we had a wonderful day yesterday hiking to the saddle between Fire and Seventeen Mile Mt. Definitely one of the most beautiful trails in the area.
    One other addition to directions– we thought we could get out via Refrigerator Canyon ( better road and shorter) since it was on the CNF map and, of course, discovered the wash out!! So adding that into the directions might be helpful for those of us who like to think we can try other ways back to Hall Road.

    • Glad you enjoyed the hike! And thank you for the suggestion on mentioning the Refrigerator Canyon closure; I will add that to the directions. I tried to take that same “shortcut” in the past despite being warned that the road had washed out! Fortunately Refrigerator Canyon is a nice little trip in its own right, so I hope you enjoyed your unexpected detour.

  3. […] impressive stands in Clackamas Mountain roadless area, west of Republic, and Cougar Mountain/Thirteenmile roadless areas, south of […]

  4. […] 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 […]

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