Some mountains just don't like to be photographed. Mt. Bonaparte would be one of them. Not photogenic, perhaps? But nonetheless, I felt I captured the mountain sufficiently to offer a page. And to be sure, the mountain deserves a place on this site. I welcome any and all better photos. Two of mine are lame and will be deleted if other better ones appear.
Mt. Bonaparte is the highest peak in the Okanogan Highlands east of the Okanogan River. It is also the third-highest peak in NE Washington behind Gypsy Peak and Abercrombie Mountain. And yet, the mountain is nowhere near those two. It stands alone about 70 miles to their west.
In proper terminology, Bonaparte would be called a monadnock--a high, solitary mountain--for it is the highest summit by a good margin for at least 20 miles around. The nearest higher summits are to the west in the eastern Pasayten--specifically 8,245-ft Tiffany Mountain. About 30 miles to the east is the Kettle Range and its highest summit 7,140-ft Copper Butte.
Because Bonaparte rises so high, it naturally attains its position in the hallowed halls of prominence, just like its namesake did in the hallowed halls of history. Mt. Bonaparte's 3,537 feet of prominence ranks it 31st in Washington and 230th in the contiguous United States.
The Okanogan Highlands east of the Okanogan River are characterized by fertile farmed valleys (usually wide) with gentle uplifts scattered about. These uplifts, including Bonaparte, are typically covered with timber or sub-alpine grasses. Where there's timber, there's harvesting by severing sawyers of the plaid variety. Where there's grass, there's devouring by masticating mandibles of the bovine variety. There is enough forest land to warrant keen lookouts. Mt. Bonaparte was a great place to erect one and in 1914 one was built at the summit. The remaining lookout cabin is now on the national register of historic places.
There are three or four trails that go up or skirt the flanks of the mountain. To avoid confusion, I will present only two of these--the two I suppose to be the most popular. The two I will leave out are the one from the west from FR-3230 and the one from the northwest from near the town of Havillah. The two I will detail here are the Mt. Bonaparte Trail on the north and the Bonaparte Lake-Bonaparte Trail connector trail on the east. The latter is used by those who camp at the lake and wish to climb the peak from there. But first, we must get you to the vicinity of the mountain.
If coming from the west, you will want to drive up US-97 toward the Canadian border. At the town of Tonasket on the Okanogan River 20 miles south of the border, you can either take SR-20 past the south side of the mountain or Tonasket-Havillah Road to the northwest side of the mountain. Using the southside route, you can take a left on Bonaparte Lake Road about 16 miles from Tonasket and drive it about 6 miles to the lake, which is three miles ENE of the summit. Using the route to Havillah, you can then take FR-33 from Havillah to the road up to the Bonaparte Trail. The junction for this road is 4.3 miles from Havillah. The road extends up toward the summit. There are two possible trailheads, so be aware of this. The lower trailhead (4,500 ft) is about 500 feet lower down than the upper one. I suppose it is used when the upper one is still snowed in. It is 1.2 miles from the FR-33 junction. The upper trailhead is 1.4 miles farther on and begins where the road makes a hard left turn at ~5,000 ft. The road is not shown on the map. I don't know where it goes. It is gated (the gate may be open) just beyond the turn. A sign straight ahead at the turn says Bonaparte Trail. The trail is an ATV track that goes all the way to the summit.
If coming from the east, or southeast (from Spokane and environs), it will be faster to drive SR-20 west from Republic, taking a right on either Toroda Creek Road at Wauconda (15 miles from Republic) or Bonaparte Lake Road (18 miles). Essentially, there are a series of roads norrth of Bonaparte Lake that can be used to go around the northeast side of the peak to access FR-33 and the road up to the Bonaparte Trail. In this case, looking at a map will do you more service than my descriptions here.
This trail is an ATV track the entire way (unless snowcovered, in which case you can generally follow blazes or reflectors on trees). You could take a bike and save a lot of time on the descent. Although, due to the density of lodgepole pines beside the track, a head plant could result in planted head in one of these trees. Bike helmets recommended. The trail pretty much goes straight up the ridge and is moderately steep on occasion. It's a good angle for knocking off distance in a timely manner. No useless switchbacks. The trail first skirts an old logged out area but shortly thereafter enters deep forest but with zero underbrush.
In about a mile the junction with the trail to Bonaparte Lake is reached at ~5,700 ft. About 50 yards beyond this junction on the right is another one for a short spur trail to "Lookout Spring." I was a little dubious as to the state of this spring so investigated. Sure enough, water gushes forth from the mossy ground. It's actually a pretty intense spring (but it was Spring when I visited). This spring is a good water source should you need it. The spring is about 300 yards from the main Bonaparte Trail. The last several yards of spur is an integument of windfall. You will either have to step over these or instead find a rough path on the left just before these blowdowns. The rough path diagonals up to the source of the spring, which would be a better spot to refill the canteen.
From the 5,700-ft trail junction, the ATV track continues up. As it nears the summit switchbacks become necessary as the slope steepens. Don't be concerned, though, for I saw nary a cliff on the entire mountain. There are some lonely boulders in the forest and a strew of rocks at the top but that's about it.
Distance = 3 or 4 miles, less if you make a beeline uphill at the upper part
Gain = 2,700 ft from the lower trailhead; 2,200 ft from the upper trailhead
Time up = 1.5-2.5 hours from lower trailhead; 1-2 hours from the upper (depends on how fit you are and whether you're pushing a bike
Time down = real quick if you're on a bike
Bonaparte Lake Trail
I have not been able to determine the exact location of the start of this trail but it stands to reason that, if the trail is marked (signed) at the upper junction with the Bonaparte Trail, then it must have a marked (signed) trailhead. So the proceeding is conjecture based on looking at the map:
At the north end of the lake there is a logging road that junctions off Bonaparte Lake Road and extends west past a campground to FR-100 cutting across the slope at 4,400 ft. At about even with the middle of the lake at 4,560 ft, a trail leaves the logging road and diagonals up to Duff Spring (5,060 ft) then to the Bonaparte Trail. In total, it looks like about 4-5 miles of trail. It is possible the trail extends all the way down to the 3,550-ft lake. A little investigation while in the area could reveal its true location. If you can't find it, you can always make the 30-40 minute drive to the Bonaparte Trail, which no doubt starts at a higher elevation anyway.
There was no red tape that I could see. I saw some green tape and some orange tape though.
When To Climb
Any time of year. The town of Havillah (Havillah means "Land of Gold" in the Bible) is only 5 miles as the crow flies from the summit and since the town is inhabited, you can get this close even in winter. Furthermore, there is a cross-country snowpark just south of town. Bonaparte Lake is also apparently accessible because there is a snowmobile park at its south end.
I might go so far as to recommend Mt. Bonaparte as a winter ski tour. The tree skiing through the lodgepole pines would be fantastic!
The mountain itself can be done in an easy day so no need to camp on it. Campgrounds exist at the mountain's base. There are Bonaparte Lake C.G. and Lost Lake C.G. to the northeast. The latter is close to something called the Big Tree Botanical Area. I guess there are big trees there. Might be worth a short visit.
- Mount Bonaparte Lookout Tower
Historical photographs of the old fire lookout tower, and photos of the views from Mount Bonaparte.
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