Colville National Forest is a diverse 1.1 million-acre forest in northeastern Washington state with a very wide variety of flora and fauna. It encompasses multiple mountain ranges, innumerable rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and several protected wilderness areas. Hiking and biking trails designed for any skill level criss-cross the wilderness, providing breathtaking views and scenic panoramas. Wildlife includes many larger animals, such as elk, bear, and moose, as well as a plethora of smaller woodland creatures like as squirrels and beavers. Anglers have their choice of several different types of fish to seek out, including healthy populations of both salmon and trout. For those who prefer traveling in the winter, there is a delightful family ski area with 20 ski runs, and many of the hiking trails are groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter.
We have highlighted three of the 17 campgrounds that can accommodate RVs and trailers within Colville National Forest. The bear and cougar populations in this forest are quite healthy, so make sure you take the appropriate precautions and store your food in approved containers or locked inside your vehicle and remove all food items and food waste from the area after eating. Pets are welcome to accompany you in Colville National Forest but must be restrained by a six-foot or shorter lead when in developed areas and are restricted from designated swimming areas.
Colville National Forest is situated near the northeastern corner of Washington state, approximately 90 miles north of Spokane. The majority of the main roads and highways that surround Colville National Forest are well-maintained, paved roads with generous shoulders, and there several suitable places to pull over and stretch your legs or just enjoy the view. This area of Washington is known for its extremely scenic drives and you are likely to enjoy the drive more if you take the time to soak in the beautiful surroundings. This is also a mountainous region, so many of the roads have a large number of changes in elevation, twists, and turns to contend with. It is very important to stay aware when driving on these winding roads as this area has an abundant variety of wildlife that may enter your path without any warning. While this may be a challenging drive in a big rig or towing a trailer, it is not unmanageable if you take it easy. Once you leave the main thoroughfares in Colville National Forest, you will encounter several narrower dirt and gravel roads which will lead you to campgrounds and other notable locations within the park. Not all of the campground areas are well-marked from the road, and they may occasionally be difficult to spot while driving.
East Sullivan Lake Campground can be found in the northern portion of the Colville National Forest, just five and a half miles from the tiny town of Metaline Falls, WA. There are 39 sites available for reservation that are suitable for RVs from 25 to 50 feet in length, six of which are double sized campsites. If you have a larger rig, be sure to check your reservation carefully, as the parking pads come in varying sizes. The campsites themselves are rustic, without electrical, water, or sewer hookups. However, they are spacious, well-maintained sites that are equipped with a fire pit and a picnic table. The sites are surrounded by mature evergreens that give each site a sense of solitude and privacy. Generators are allowed during the daytime hours, but should be silenced during the quiet hours from 10 PM to 6 AM. Drinking water and vault toilets are available for campers, and the campgrounds are just a short walk from the north end of Sullivan Lake, which boasts a boat launch, additional picnic tables, and a designated swimming beach.
Gillette Campground is located in the heart of Colville National Forest, approximately 15 miles west of the Pend Orville River. There are 30 sites suitable for trailers up to 40 feet in length that are available for reservations at this campground. The campsites are spacious and well-shaded by the ponderosa pines and douglas fir trees that surround the campgrounds. While the sites do come equipped with picnic tables and sturdy fire rings with grills, they are otherwise primitive. They do not have electrical, water, or sewer hookups, nor is there a sanitary dumpsite. Generators can be utilized during daytime hours but should be silenced during the campground’s quiet hours between 10 PM and 6 AM. Potable drinking water, vault toilets, and bear-proof garbage containers are available for campers. Gillette Lake is around a five-minute walk from the campgrounds and offers visitors a public use boat launch, a dock, and a small recreational beach area.
South Skookum Lake Campground is located in the eastern portion of the Colville National Forest, on the shores of South Skookum Lake, a little over ten miles east of the Pend Orville River. It is comprised of 25 campsites suitable for either tents or RVs and trailers that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The campsites are spacious and sheltered by trees, offering a great deal of privacy. However, not all of them are completely level, so bringing along blocks to level out your camper is advised. These sites are primitive, and do not have access to hookups, but potable water is available from a hand pump on the premises. There are also vault toilets and bear-proof garbage receptacles available for the convenience of visitors to this campground. South Skookum Lake has a boat launch and two fishing docks, one of which is ADA-accessible, but it is fairly small and is only suitable for boats smaller than 20 feet in length.
The Colville National Forest provides a plethora of fishing opportunities, including fast-moving rivers and streams, high-elevation lakes, and small ponds. There are several varieties of fish living in this abundant forest. Along with the natural denizens of the lake, bass, sunfish, ling-cod, salmon, and cutthroat and brook trout, many of the lakes and ponds are stocked with catchable rainbow trout. Those who are visiting this breathtaking national forest should be sure that their rod and reel are packed in their trailer. No matter what type of fishing you prefer, you are sure to find the perfect aquatic environment.
There are nearly 500 miles of hiking trails that meander through this magnificent national forest, with something for every skill level. Novice hikers will enjoy the Frater Lake Trail, a simple 1.8-mile loop near Frater Lake, or Springboard Trail #149, a 2.6-mile loop that features abundant wildflowers in the spring and summer months. Hikers who are looking for a serious challenge may prefer the 5.3-mile Wapaloosie Trail with switchbacks that offer stunning panoramic views. Another adventurous hike is the the Kettle Falls and Jungle Hill Trail, a 12.4-mile trek filled with colorful wildflowers.
If you enjoy taking pictures of wildlife you will want to be sure that your camera is packed in your trailer when you visit Colville National Forest. This forest has abundant resources for a variety of different animal species. Commonly seen wildlife includes elk, moose, bighorn sheep, black bears, and mountain goats. If you are patient and lucky, you may even manage to capture an image of one of the threatened and endangered animals such as grizzly bears, Canada lynx, or grey wolves.
If you enjoy the study of trees, also known as dendrology, you will definitely want to park your RV here for a day or two. Colville National Forest has a great variety of tree types, both evergreen and deciduous. Evergreen trees, including Douglas fir, lodgepole, western white, and ponderosa pines, western red cedar, and western hemlock can be found in the drier areas of the forest. The wetter sites are the perfect environment for deciduous trees like quaking aspen, black cottonwood, Douglas maple, and red alder. Under certain circumstances, you can acquire a permit through one of the four Forest Ranger District Offices in order to cut down a Christmas tree to take home, or to dig up certain small trees or other plants to plant in your own yard.
There is a great deal of history hidden in this lush 1.1 million-acre National Forest. Pioneer Park Heritage Trail #321 is an interpretive trail that has 12 artistic displays which present the history of the Kalispell Tribe. Interpretive trails near Sullivan Lake and Kettle Falls describe the history of logging and mining that once occurred in the Colville National Forest. Signs along the Mill Pond Flume Trail explain the importance of the Mill Pond Flume to the settlers of the area. An educational exhibit is also situated near where the White Mountain Fire of 1988 left several burned-out snags along Washington Highway 20.
If you are visiting Colville National Forest in the winter you will want to bring your skis along in your campervan. Many of the hiking trails, such as the Kettle Crest Trail 13 South, are groomed after the snow falls so that they can be used as cross-country ski trails. There is also a privately-owned comfortable, family ski area, the 49 Degrees North Ski Area, that has a special permit to operate on national forest land and boasts over 20 ski runs.