Overview[img:517655:alignleft:medium:The Kettle Crest north from the summit of Sherman Peak]
With the exception of some of the local ski hills, very few, if any, roads in northeastern Washington that lead into the highcountry remain open during the winter. Sherman Pass is a splendid exception that gives ready access to some fine mountain terrain along the Kettle Crest at any time of year. In fact, the area is one of the finest backcountry winter recreation areas in the inland northwest. In the summer and fall, it boasts some fine hiking and mountainbiking.
Sherman Peak is the first summit you come to as you head south of Sherman Pass along the Kettle Crest Trail. Were it not for the White Mountain fire in 1998 that burned 20,126 acres (100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest, R. Landers, pg 69) many of the views would be obscured by forest. The fire spared the northeast side of the peak which still has some relatively lush vegetation to include lots huckleberries. Elsewhere on the peak, sunbleached snags stand out in ghostly beauty as memorials to the verdure that once clothed the mountain. The forest is returning however -- according to the natural cycle, many young lodgepole pines have sprung up to take the place of those trees that perished in the conflagration.
Sherman Peak is a hiker's summit. The mountain is more or less a rounded dome of weathered granite, though the northeast face is guared by cliffs that rise a couple hundred feet about a boulder field. On a level bench on the peak's north slope is tiny Sherman Lake. When I was there in April of 2009, I came accross signs of recent moose activity left in the snow -- both tracks and scat. The views from the peak's southwest slope are particularly beautiful as the trail passes through meadows dotted with clusters of white snags. From here, one has nice views of Snow Peak to the south. The Sherman Peak Loop Trail connects at both ends to the Kettle Crest Trail to make a loop around the summit. The hike is 5.3 miles round trip if you include the section of trail that connects the loop to the parking area. Add about a mile for the side trip to the summit which is best done from the pass between Sherman and Snow Peaks.
The views from the summit are quite unique for the area as it takes in at least 3 geographical regions of Washington: The mountains of the northeast, the drylands of the east-central part, and the Cascades of the western part. In addition to this, one can see the Selkirks of Idaho and even into Canada.
Getting ThereEasy. All you have to do is get on Highway 20 (Sherman Pass Scenic Byway) and head east 17 miles from Republic or west 28 miles from Kettle Falls to Sherman Pass (100 Hikes in the Inland NW, pg 68). A small road at the east edge of the turnout on the north side of the pass leads to a parking area (Snowpark Pass required during the winter). There are numerous trails here so pay attention to the signs to make sure you take the right one. Watch for traffic as you cross the highway as visibility is limmited.
Red TapeNot much red tape to speak of during the summer months. No parking passes such as are needed in the Cascades (at least as far as I can tell from the FS website). As mentioned earlier, a Snowpark Pass is required for parking during the winter months.
CampingNo need to make it an overnighter since it is a very doable day trip. Camping spots are extremely sparse if not non-existent as one hikes around the peak. There is car-camping available at the Sherman Pass Overlook Campground at the trailhead.
[img:517656:alignright:medium:The Snow Peak Cabin is one option for overnight stays. Reservations only.]
For backcountry camping, one can follow the Kettle Crest Trail south of the pass between Sherman Peak and Snow Peak about a mile and a half to the Snowpeak Cabin. The cabin has a horse corral for horse packers. Use of the cabin is by reservation only. Contact Colville National Forest for more information:
Colville National Forest
765 South Main Street
Colville, WA 99114
Spotly has a nice trip report on his personal website of a winter trip to the cabin in February 2009 -- Trip Report.