OverviewSnow Peak is the 2nd major summit you come to as you head south along the Kettle Crest Trail from Sherman Pass (Sherman Peak being the first). Being part of the Kettle Mountain Range, it is not as airy as peaks much farther west in the Cascades, or even east in the Selkirks. Think more of a pastoral setting than alpine. But a beautiful pastoral setting it is. Though tree line extends high up the mountainsides in this part of Washington, the White Mountain fire of 1988 has pushed it down for the time being. Thus, the views from the summit and slopes that start up from the Kettle Crest Trail have some magnifiscent views. Under the right visibility conditions, one can see the North Cascades on the distant horizon, the Selkirks to the east, and even into Canada.
[img:518809:alignright:medium:Snow Peak from a meadow on the east arm of Sherman Peak]
Viewed from Sherman Peak, Snow Peak presents a sharp profile by Kettle Range standards. With the exception of its northeast face, though, the peak could be walked up from almost any direction. Trail access is by the Kettle Crest Trail which comes in from the north and south and passes under the peak's west slope. This creates a nice opportunity for a traverse if one hikes to the cabin on the peak's south side, up the south slope, and down the north ridge to regain the trail at the pass between Snow and Sherman Peaks (which is what this author did one snowy late April afternoon).
Like Sherman Peak, Snow Peak is composed of very weathered granite. Though much of the peak is covered with meadow grasses, stunted subalpine fir, and silvery snags left over from the White Mountain Fire, there are granite boulder fields in many places. The openess of the terrain makes for some nice backcountry skiing, but be careful in low snowpack situations. You'd hate to discover a burried log with your patella as you execute a sweet tele turn.
Getting ThereThis depends on which way you desire to come in from. Either way should allow you to bag Sherman Peak as well in the same day. If climbing during winter conditions, the north approach is the one to use.
To approach from the north, drive 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.
To approach from the west, drive Highway 20 to Hall Creek Rd (milepost 309) and turn south. Follow Hall Creek Rd a little over 3 miles and turn left on FS Rd 100. Drive another 4.3 miles to the trailhead which sits at an elevation of 5,800 feet. The trail passes 2.7 miles through the 1988 burn to the Kettle Crest Trail. Turn left to head toward Sherman Peak Loop (1.1 miles) or south to the Snow Peak Cabin (0.5 miles) (100 Hikes in the Inland NW, pg. 69).
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.
CampingPretty much the same as for Sherman Peak, though it is a bit more of a jaunt. The same considerations apply. No 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.
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 and a spring nearby. 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.
[img:518807:alignleft:medium:Looking down on the Snow Peak Cabin from high up on Snow Peak.]
Trip Report of a Sherman Peak Trip where Trailjunky and I got some great viewsof Snow Peak.