Calispell Peak is a regionally important mountain of Stevens County, located in northeastern Washington. Calispell Peak has at least 3635' of clean prominence, making it the 30th-most prominent mountain in Washington. Calispell Peak also is isolated from the nearest higher ground by over 33.6 miles, making it the ninth-most isolated mountain in Washington.
Calispell Peak (Photo From Paul Klenke)
Calispell Peak was named in honor of the Kalispel Indians, a sub-tribe of the Pend Oreille Indians who once lived in the region many years ago. The name became more anglicized over time, changing from Kalispel, later to Calispel, and then later to current "Calispell" spelling.
Looking North From Summit
By being the highest point for over 33 miles, the summit of Calispell Peak proved to be an ideal location for a fire lookout and communications facilities. First, during 1920, a fire lookout camp was established at the summit. The camp then built a 10' x 10' frame cab the following year. Then, during 1936, a 40'-tall pole L-4 fire tower was contructed, which remained at the summit until being dismantled by the Colville National Forest in 1955. Many years later, several communications facilities were built at the summit due to its favorable highpoint above the surrounding region. Those communications facilities are still operational and in use.
Communications Facilities At Summit
Summiting Calispell Peak is not technically demanding, although the extremely poor road conditions leading to the peak might make one wonder if it might be too demanding of one's vehicle. Only high-clearance vehicles are recommended along the standard road approaches, and many summiters might wish to have four-wheel drive capabilities available. The standard road approaches are very rough, rugged, rocky, and unmaintained.
Upper Section Of Calispell Peak Road
Some people might wish to hike up to summit, which could involve as much as 32 miles roundtrip hiking. For such adventurers, it is best recommended to hike up to the summit one day and then find a bivy site away from the communications facilities and summit, and then hike out the following day.
In theory, it is possible to reach the summit of Calispell Peak year-round. Nearly every summiter uses approach road, although it is entirely possible to ascend the peak via off-road, cross-country hiking. However, snow definitely can complicate the routes. Some people might enjoy snowmobiling to the summit during Winter and early Spring, while others might like to snowshoe and snow-camp as part of an overnight trip during Winter and Spring months.
Snowpack on the peak is locally important, too, as least as a barometric metaphor. Some locals look to Calispell Peak to know when to plant gardens and crops, and to help determine when Summer is starting. There is an old local saying that goes something like this:
"Once snow is off of Calispell (Peak), it is OK to plant your garden."
Getting ThereSTARTING FROM HIGHWAY 20 IN CUSICK, WA:
1) Drive approximately four miles north along Highway 20.
2) Turn left onto Tacoma Creek Road, also shown on some maps as CR-2389.
NOTE: This road is dirt, unpaved, and is considered a "primitive" road.
3) Drive 5.8 miles along Tacoma Creek Road.
4) Turn left onto Forest Service (FS) Road 629, heading west. FS-629 soon becomes shown on maps as Calispell Peak Road.
NOTE: There might be a directional sign for Calispell Peak at the road junction of Tacoma Creek Road and FS-629.
Direectional Sign For Calispell Peak
5) Drive FS-629/Calispell Peak Road for 10.2 miles to the summit.
Looking Up At Summit Hill From Calispell Peak Road
An alternate approach is from the southwest starting from Sand Canyon Road. The road becomes FS-9521 and ascends near Chewelah Creek. Maps show the road can be driven past Hidden Meadows to the west base of the mountain. A rough side-road (possibly not shown on maps) leads from FS-9521 to the saddle connecting Calispell Peak and Saddle Mountain. From this saddle, an old jeep track leads up the ridgeline to near the final switchback along Calispell Peak Road. However, it is recommended to hike from the saddle to the summit, rather than driving up the jeep track, if using this alternate approach.
NOTE: Some locals claim that the southwest (alternate) approach, albeit shorter for driving distance, might actually be a rougher route than the standard approach via Calispell Peak Road. However, recent road construction has taken place on Sand Canyon Road, so that approach might become the more viable option in the future. If there are any specific updates regarding this alternate approach, please provide them in the "Comments" section.
Looking Down Upper South Slopes
Summiting Calispell Peak does not require any permits or parking passes. However, the approach roads are in such poor, unmaintained condition that only high-clearance vehicles are advised. Some people might also like to have four-wheel drive capabilities, although not necessarily required.
It is illegal to attempt to enter, disrupt, or alter any communications equipment at the summit. Video surveillance is present.
USGS Summit Benchmark
Due to the rough nature of the dirt roads, it is not recommended to drive on any of the approach roads during wet and muddy conditions.
No camping is allowed at the summit or communications facilities. It might be possible to bivy overnight elsewhere on the peak, as it is administered within Colville National Forest. Use the "Leave No Trace" policy for any bivy location.
No campfires are allowed on Calispell Peak.