The New Northwest Passage

The Okanogan
By Ronald Strickland, Pacific Northwest Trail Founder

Between the Columbia River and the Okanogan River Valley, the PNT crosses some very special backcountry. There is no officially designated wilderness, but there are no crowds. You'll find primo backpacking in the Kettle Range and remote parts of the Okanogan. Look for long views from open summits. Don't expect the jagged peaks and permanent snowfields that characterize the PNT farther east and west. So different from the rest of the PNT, the Okanogan is the scent of sage, the scraggle of creosote bushes, and the lure of cool uplands. You will quickly be captivated by this dry yet welcoming region.

Who to Contact

Tonasket Ranger District
Okanogan National Forest
Tonasket, WA 98855

Recommended Trip

Bonaparte Lake to the summit of Mt. Bonaparte : 8.1 miles

Mt. Bonaparte is the 7257-foot high point of a long, northeast-southwest ridge between the Kettle Range and the Okanogan River. These mountains are the gateway to the arid Okanogan country.

From the USFS campground at Bonaparte Lake, climb the 2.5-mile Pipsissewa Trail to the scenic overlook at Pipsissewa Point. Go left (southwest) 0.4 mile on the Lost Lake Road to the South Side Trail. Ascend this trail 2.5 miles to a junction at 5800 feet with Trail No. 307 (a connector south toward the Roggow, Mill Creek, and Siwash Creek trails that together form a round-the-mountain loop hike). Continue northwest on the South Side Trail 1.2 wooded, level miles to the Bonaparte Lookout Trail junction at 5680 feet. Climb south 1.5 miles on the Bonaparte Lookout Trail through mostly open forest to the summit at 7257 feet. If you want to camp here—the highest point in northeastern Washington—be sure to carry up water from the Lookout Spring (located at a 150-yard spur trail at the beginning of the summit trail).

Getting There

The Okanogan is located seven to eight hours northeast of Seattle. Follow State Highway #20 east of Tonasket. Turn left (north) on County Road #4953 and follow it to Bonaparte Lake.

Permit Information

Backcountry permits not required. Parking passes are not required west of the Okanogan River.

Maps and Guidebooks

The best maps are the 7 1/2' USGS Mt. Bonaparte and Havillah. Also refer to the Pacific Northwest Trail guidebook.


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