This is an easy hike beginning at a well-developed campground. The trail winds from cool, shaded creek crossings to open scree slopes along the shore of Sullivan Lake.
Elevation gain: 320 ft.
Key elevations: High point 2,920 ft.
Distance: 4 miles one way
Time: 2 hours
Season: April to October
Map: USGS Metaline Falls
Drive: From Metaline Falls, WA, continue north on State Highway 31 as it climbs to the signed junction to Sullivan Lake.
0.0 miles. Turn right and follow this county road to Sullivan Lake Campground.
4 miles. Turn left onto Forest Road #22
4¼ miles. Turn right into the campground and look for the trailhead for Trail #504. A ½ mile nature trail also begins nearby.
Trail/Route: The trail starts with an easy climb to a viewpoint overlooking the north end of Sullivan Lake, then works down and gently rolls its way south along the east shore through timber, open rock slides and dense alders. The trail is well maintained for 4 miles to its southern trailhead at Noisy Creek campground. Hikers should have a car shuttled to this campground via the paved road on the west side of the lake if you are not up to the 4-mile hike back to the starting point.
SULLIVAN LAKE, WASHINGTON
Sullivan Lake, southeast of Metaline Falls, Washington, is one of the most popular destinations for northeastern Washington and northern Idaho recreationalists. For B.C. residents, the main attraction is the warm lake water which makes for excellent swimming.
There are two US Forest Service campgrounds at the north end of the lake and one at the south. On weekends book in advance or arrive early, since these are very popular. There are alternative government campsites at Mill Pond, 3 km. from the lake, and at Edgewater, north of Ione and on the east bank of the Pend Oreille River, 17 km. from the south end of the lake. Unlike the Sullivan Lake campsites, these two are free.
During our stay our family hiked the Sullivan Lake Trail, which runs along the east shore. To find the northern trailhead, drive to the East Sullivan Lake campground boat launching area and look for the signs. The southern entrance to the trail is near the Noisy Creek campground boat launch. We traversed the 4.1 mi. route from south to north, but it might be better done the other way round. The trail rises steeply in the last mile at the north end to several hundred feet above the lake before its final descent. Near the southern end there is an old mine shaft just above the trail and a viewpoint a few minutes’ walk north. At the halfway point of the trail, we found an unserviced campsite on a small beach. At the Noisy Creek campground, we also noticed a signposted trail leading to Hall Mtn., which overlooks the lake’s eastern shore.
To reach Sullivan Lake from the Kootenays, cross the border at Nelway and follow the highway to the signposted turnoff just up the hill from Metaline Falls. A useful map is “Colville National Forest,” which you can get at local ranger stations for $1.00.