This is a scenic, mostly treeless ridge hike in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness. It is the best ridge hike in the Washington Selkirks. After a not-too-steep 4.8km, this offers continuous scenery at a nearly constant elevation. Going overnight involves about 1 mile of off-trail navigation through slopes of beargrass and talus to reach Gypsy Peak and Watch Lake. A shorter route to Gypsy Peak begins at Bear Meadow, but it is no match in scenery for the Crowell Ridge hike described here.
Roads could be the limiting factor for some hikers. The Road to Bear Meadow is impassable to passenger cars, the road up Sullivan Mountain trailhead is very poor with deep drainage ditches that could bump the bottoms of cars with low clearance.
This is a popular elk, bear and mule deer hunting area in the fall. Also keep an eye out for bighorn sheep that frequent Crowell Ridge during spring and summer.
Elevation gain: 143m (470 ft)
Key elevations: High point 6,790 ft.
Distance: 22.5km (14m) round trip
Time: 8 hour or 2 days
Season: July through mid October
Map: USGS Gypsy Peak
Drive: From Salmo, drive south on Hwy 3/6 to the border crossing at Nelway, BC (open from 8am to midnight). Drive south 16.5km (10.2m) and turn left (east) onto paved Sullivan Lake Road, signed PEND OREILLE COUNTRY ROAD 9345. It is just north of the town of Metaline Falls.
If you’re coming from the south, this turn is 3.3kms (2mi) from the middle of the Pend Oreille River bridge.
0.0. Go east on Sullivan Lake Road
5.2km. Pass Mill Pond historic site
7km. Go left (east) on Road #2212. Pavement ends.
7.8km. Go straight, passing two left forks.
11.8km. Go left. Road #250/242 forks right SW to reach Road #2220 in 3.6km.
12.4km. At signed junction, go left (north) onto Sullivan Mtn Lookout Road #245. It is narrow, rough, overgrown and passable with a rugged, high-clearance vehicle. Follow for 13km (8m).
25.4km. TH (1915m, 6280′) on north side of road on a north-jutting switchback, just below the lookout on Sullivan Mtn (1977m, 6483′).
Trail/Route: Crowell Ridge Trail #515 weaves northeast through open timber before breaking out of the trees at a rocky knob with views. The trail is on the southeast side of the ridge just below the crest.
4.8km (3m). Junction with South Fork Trail #507 forks left, descending north into the Sullivan Creek drainage. Go right on Trail #515 which now undulates gently in a NE direction at or near 2058m (6750′) over open terrain for most of its distance.
11.3km (7m). (1973m, 6470′) The trial heads decidedly downhill to the NE toward Bear Meadow. Most dayhikers will turn around here.
Backpacking route finders using a topo map and compass or GPS, can leave the trail before it descends and follow the ridge north east toward tiny Watch Lake. Hikers should contour to the east of the first knob after leaving the trail, then contour to the west side of the ridge for about 1 mile over the talus until they come to the bowl above Watch Lake. Descend to the saddle south of Gypsy Peak and then down to the lake. Carry plenty of water; no reliable source is available until the end of the hike at Watch lake. This is a fragile camping area, definitely not suitable for groups of more than about 6. The area around the lake can be boggy in July or after heavy rains.