SALMO LOOP – Snowy Top Mt & Little Snowy Top Mt
This 18-mile loop through the Salmo/Priest traverses lush wilderness that narrowly escaped development from all directions. It is the only way to climb these two mountains. Some of the wildest country left in Washington, it is among the last sanctuaries for grizzly bear, mountain caribou and lynx.
Elevation gain: 2,250 ft.
Key elevations: Trailhead 5,910 ft. Salmo River 4,150 ft. High point 6,400, Summit Little Snowy Top 6,829 feet, Snowy Top 7,572 feet
Distance: 18 miles
Time: 2 days minimum
Season: July through October
Map: USGS Salmo Mountain, Continental Mountain.
Drive: Reaching the northern- and westernmost corner of Idaho is no easy task, and involves a drive into Washington State.
From Canada, From Salmo, drive south on Hwy 3/6 to the border crossing at Nelway, BC (open from 8am to midnight). Drive south on WA-31, 16.5km (10.2m) and turn left (east) onto paved Sullivan Lake Road, signed PEND OREILLE COUNTRY ROAD 9345.
From I-90 (either in Spokane or from the ID-41 exit) go north to WA-20 at Newport, Washington, then drive north on WA-20 for 46 miles to its junction with WA-31. Continue north on WA-31 for another 16.8 miles through the town of Metaline Falls, WA. From Metaline Falls, drive north on 31 as it climbs about 3.3kms (2m) to the signed junction to Sullivan Lake from the Pend Oreille River bridge and turn east.
0.0. Go east on Sullivan Lake Road
5.2km. Pass Mill Pond historic site
7km. Go straight on Sullivan Creek Road. Road #2212 forks left.
7.6km. Go left on Road #22 (also numbered #2220) signed for Salmo Mt
21miles and East Sullivan Campground .25mi.
8.3km. Go straight through the campground. Pavement ends.
14.5km. For Shedwell Divide: stay on main road. For Crowell Ridge: turn left (NW) onto Road #250.
17.3km. Cross a bridge and reach a 3-way junction.
For N Shedroof Divide TH: go far left (NE) on Road #2220 toward Salmo
19.8km. Ignore rough road forking left. Goes to Crowell Ridge but access is easier via Road #250 described at the 14.5km point above.
28km. Proceed straight on main road. For Shedroof Cutoff Trail #511, take narrow spur forking right
38km. Bear right on main road through a pass. For summit of Salmo Mtn, take rough road forking left (NW).
38.5km. Spacious parking at TH (1800m, 5900′) Salmo Basin Trail #506 – This is a long, discouraging descent to the S Salmo River via starts just before the parking area. The trail for N Shedroof Divide #535 also starts here.
Parking and toilets available. The one-mile stretch of road that once led to another trailhead has been closed with a gate and has become part of this hike.
0.0 The route begins on Trail #506 at 5,910 feet and immediately starts downhill. The trail switchbacks pleasantly through old growth cedars and hemlocks, moss-carpeted logs and lacey ferns. Be warned that this north-facing slope can still be covered with snow well into July.
3½ miles. South Salmo River at 4,150 ft. Good camping areas can be found on both sides of the river, which holds small cutthroat trout. Some stay overnight here and head out the same way the next day.
To continue the loop, cross the river and bear right at the junction with the unmaintained trail that heads left toward the Canadian border. From this junction, it’s 2⅓ miles to the Salmo Cabin.
6 miles. Salmo Cabin Junction. The cabin is an easy ¼-mile walk down and to the right from the main trail. This side trail was once signed. The cabin is by a stream and a good camping area. The cabin was built in the 1930s and was used as a backcountry station until 1951. The cabin is a dirty, deteriorating mess that would make a poor shelter.
Hikers planning on doing the loop over 2 days should push on at least another 3½ miles to a descent campsite.
9½ miles. Campsite just below Snowy Top Pass. Water is abundant to this point. From here it is ¾ mile uphill to a better but dry campsite right at the pass on the shoulder of 7,572 ft. Snow Top Mountain
10¼ miles. Saddle below Snowy Top.
SNOWY TOP MT 7,572 feet (Class 2)
Snowy Top is a big hulking mountain and the highest point in this northernmost corner of Idaho. The summit is barren, windswept and very enticing.
Elevation gain: 1,760 loss, 3,422 gain top Snowy Top.
Key elevations: Salmo River 4,150,
Distance: 10¼ miles to saddle below Snowy Top
Time: 2 days
Map: USGS Continental Mountain
Route. Scramble up the peak’s south slopes from the saddle between it and Little Snowy Top. Peak baggers should allow two hours to scramble to the summit and back from the pass. Water is not available at the pass and is scarce on the Shedroof Divide, especially in August and September.
Salmo Pass Loop (cont.)
From the pass, continue south on the Shedroof Divide Trail #512 to the junction of the Little Snowy Top Trail.
LITTLE SNOWY TOP 6,829 feet (class 2)
As the name infers, this peak is the little brother of Snow Top. Together they stand guard along the US/Canada border.
Map: USGS Salmo Mountain
Trail/Route: This is an excellent side trip up the Little Snowy Top Trail. It leads 1 mile to the lookout above. From the top, there are great views of the Idaho Selkirks to the east and Gypsy Peak to the west (yet to come on the Shedroof Divide Trail).
Salmo Pass Loop (cont.)
Continue hiking 6 miles from Snowy Top Pass to Shedroof Mountain. There is infrequent water on this whole portion.
A few hundred yards past the Little Snowy Top junction is the junction to the Priest River trail, that switchbacks steeply down 4½ miles east to the river bottom. It is very hard on the knees.
13¼ miles. Leave Shedroof Divide Trail and head northwest on Trail #535 about 4 miles to the old trailhead.
17¼ miles. Old trail head. Walk 1 mile on old road.
18¼ miles. Parking area.