The Kettle Crest trail is a national scenic trail located near Republic, WA. By extending it with a couple trails south-west (Barnaby Butte and Thirteen Mile), 75 miles of single track laid the basis for drawing up a bikepacking loop that also included short sections of the Trans-Canada trail and the Pacific Northwest trail. We only rode about half of the planned 225 miles and 35k el. The picture below shows our route:
We arrived in Republic, WA, on Thursday to a warm and hazy evening, even though the weather forecast was telling us that it was currently raining heavily. I was still in need of a spare 29er inner tube and inquiring at the ACE hardware in this small western town we were directed to a nearby bike shop. After calling the shop, the owner Craig, agreed to meet us and sell us a couple spare 29er inner tubes. He also showed us some of the old bikes that he is restoring. We drove back into town, checked into the Klondike motel and readied our ponies with gear.
Day 1: Republic, WA to near Grand Forks, BC
Throughout the night we heard thunder and rain, but by morning only a light drizzle remained. We put on our rain gear and decided to ride the loop clockwise: beginning with roads (dirt/paved), then the Trans Canada bike trail, and leaving the Kettle Crest trail for the end when it would hopefully be dry.
The beginning of the route led us through some sketchy forest service roads – the smell of weed growing operations, signs announcing “private property for the next 1/2 mile”, and dogs smelling us and barking from a 1/4 mile away. We finally took a dirt road down to the Kettle River Rd. and I felt much more at ease. One logging truck headed our direction, but the driver was courteous and gave us plenty of room. Very nice. Just before the turn-off for Midway, BC, we stopped at a memorial for a well-liked local.
After answering a few questions at the border crossing into Midway, BC, we rode along Highway 3 for 2 miles, and then found a way onto the Trans Canada trail. Highway 3, also known as the Crowsnest highway, is pretty busy – but nothing too bad and the shoulder to ride on was pretty wide.
We stopped at the lovely Deadwood Junction cafe in Greenwood, BC, for coffee, OJ, and burgers. The sun was shining and we chatted with a local and a motorcycle rider for a while.
The shelter / cabin looked pretty fancy and like a nice place to spend the night, but I was running short on water and wasn’t sure if I could stop for the night. I explored a bit and found a good-running stream called Fisherman Creek about a mile down the trail. After riding back up to the cabin, the weather was starting to look ominous and we decided to stay there for the first night. Good thing, too, as just after sunset it poured buckets. There was a small leak in the roof when the wind was driving the rain sideways, but otherwise the cabin was very dry and clean.
Day 1: 60 miles, 3600 ft. el., GPX track
Day 2: near Grand Forks, BC to near Orient, WA
We awoke to the sound of drizzling rain on the roof – but all was dry inside. Lovely. Thank you, whoever is maintaining the shelter!
Lee was first to get his gear together and rode into Grand Forks, BC, to look for hot coffee. We also stopped at the bike shop where Lee bought shoe covers to keep his feet from getting too cold and wet.
We still had plans of taking the Dewdney trail east, but before we decided on that, we stopped at Christina Lake Village to fill up on food. The grocery store has a lot of health food options, and a full restaurant.
After talking about the route some more over omelets and steak, it was decided that we would skip the Dewdney trail in the drizzle and instead ride straight to Orient, WA, only 10 miles away and from there get onto the Kettle Crest trail.
I had read a little bit about Orient, and was looking forward to a hot shower ($2) at the People Place grocery store (cash only!), seeing the old school house, and the so-called city hall. The older man behind the counter knew a lot about Orient and had even gone to school there (K-8).
The hot shower felt great, I washed some clothes, and stuck them in the drier. Filled up with food and dry gear, I followed Lee up Boulder Creek Rd. After 2 hours I saw him by the side of the road setting up his tent in the drizzling rain. Though we were close to the road, it was quiet between 10 pm – 7 am and slept quite well. With lots of humidity, I was happy and dry in my 2 wall Flycreek UL1 tent.
Day 2: 52 miles, 3700 ft. el., GPX track
Day 3: Boulder Creek Road to Kettle Crest North
Lee was the first to get going in the morning, and I caught up with him at the beginning of the Kettle Crest trail. I had only 1/2 liter of water left, so I was looking for water on my ride up Boulder Creek Rd. I couldn’t find any good access points to the river in the beginning, and the only water I did find higher up was a trickling stream with some foam building up. The Kettle Crest North trail entrance is a bit confusing: the PNT sign leads to an outhouse, while the start of the Kettle Crest trail is a bit hidden to the left.
Lee’s knee recovered magically once we started up the single track and we rode a lot of things that left us feeling a bit flat by the end of the day. Great times.
After an hour on the trail, we came across a clear running creek, filled up, and stopped for snacks. Loaded up with water, we continued along the great single track.
A bit of hike-a-bike every now and then, but 95% ride-able with bikepacking gear. Fabulous single track, overall.
We rode along stretches of meadows, along hill sides, trees, and on a reasonable grade of ~<5% for the most part, until we came to Copper Butte were we pushed up 1200 feet. We passed Neff Spring and Midnight Spring, both of which were running. Neff Spring had a fence around it, and Midnight Spring was flowing out of a pipe into a trough to protected the water from the cows in this area.
Atop Copper Butte, some cairns seemed to mark graves for automobiles and at least one person. After the bumpy Copper Butte descent, we passed by the Scare and Wapaloosie mountains, where luckily the trail went mostly along elevation contours. Our energy and water levels were starting to decline, and we pushed up sections that early in the morning we would have ridden with grins on our face. A potential waypoint for a spring and campsite near the intersection with Jungle Hill trail turned out to be true – and we were set for the night.
Day 3: 27 miles, 7500 ft. el., GPX track
Day 4: Kettle Crest North to Republic, WA
We slept great, and our tents and sleeping bags had started to dry out over night. Counting our remaining food, we each had only about a half day’s worth left, so we decided to call it quits and ride down to Republic today. As per usual, Lee was ready to ride before me and went on ahead.
After a bit of hike-a-bike, the trail leveled off and I saw a big black furry bear running ahead of me on the trail. We stopped for a few minutes and talked loudly to give the bear a chance to go its way.
The last 15 miles and 3000 ft down passed quickly with some pretty good views. We ate lunch in Republic, and drove back to Seattle.Day 4: 24 miles, 1200 ft. el., GPX track
If I were to ride a big loop here again, I would skip the western section of day 1 and instead go north from Republic along the Golden Tiger / Ferry County rail trail. Otherwise, it was a great route – highly recommended. We didn’t carry bear spray; but Lee rang the bell on his bike frequently to alert wildlife of our presence.