Sherman Pass Scenic Byway
About this byway
The Sherman Pass Scenic Byway begins in the town of Republic on SR-20 and runs east across Sherman Pass—Washington’s highest maintained pass at 5,575-feet—through Colville National Forest to the town of Kettle Falls on the Columbia River.
A historic route used by Native Americans on their way to fish and by wagon trains, the byway is named for Civil War general William T. Sherman, who passed through in 1883. The path was paved in the 1950s and continues to serve as the area’s primary year-round east-west connector.
From Seattle, it’s a 300-mile trip (about five hours), driving over Stevens Pass and heading north on US-97 then east on SR-20, to the byway’s beginning in Republic.
Downtown Republic is an authentic remnant of the old frontier, filled with nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings. Enjoy a fine walking tour past murals and photographs depicting the area’s rich gold-mining history. It’s not all history, though—there’s still an operational gold mine in Republic.
In Republic you can have the “city slicker” experience at a local dude ranch, or, for a more passive endeavor, watch the resident deer herd graze on the town’s lawns and gardens nearly every evening at sunset.
Stonerose Interpretive Center
A great family stop on this byway is the Stonerose Interpretive Center in downtown Republic, where visitors can participate in a public dig of a fossil bed that dates to the Eocene epoch (making it nearly 50 million years old). An inexpensive admission fee (free for kids under the age of six) provides an opportunity to dig up fossils and take home up to three of them.
Staff will help identify findings and explain how to care for them. Check www.stonerosefossil.org for updated schedule information.
The Republic to Curlew trail
The bed of an abandoned railway line has been transformed into a wonderful 30-mile hiking, biking and horse trail that runs from Republic to Curlew, which is home to the Ansorge Hotel Museum and the Antique Car Museum.
Curlew Lake State Park
Eight miles north of Republic on SR-21, this 123-acre state park is a haven for year-round relaxation and recreation on water and in snow. A memorable camping experience can include opportunities for trout and bass fishing, water- and jet-skiing and birding.
As for wildlife, there’s an excellent view of an active osprey nest, and for further birding watch for eagles, hawks, hummingbirds and turkeys. Mammals in the area include foxes, marmots, deer and elk.
Crossing Sherman Pass
Heading east from Republic toward Kettle Falls on SR-20, you will cross Sherman Pass (5,575 feet). This gorgeous crossing wanders past waterfalls and through Douglas fir and larch stands.
In fall, the indigenous larch trees, which look like evergreens in the summer, turn a radiant gold, and their needles drop to the ground, creating a beautiful golden highway.
The Sherman Pass overlook
Along SR-20 there is a pullout at the White Mountain/Sherman Overlook with an easy quarter-mile paved trail and interpretive signs detailing the devastating fires of 1929 and 1988. Ghostly grey snags still stand, remnants of the massive fires.
There are interpretive trails all along the route, so plan some time to loiter. These areas include an old log-flume site with an easy paved quarter-mile trail, and Camp Growden, where hundreds of young men were sent to work during the Great Depression in FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps.
Colville National Forest
Colville National Forest offers abundant recreational opportunities for hikers on almost 500 miles of trails. Occupying more than a million acres and filled with elk, moose, rattlesnakes, bears, cougars and bobcats, this is truly one of America’s great, untamed wilderness areas.
There are trails for horses, mountain bikes, motorcycles and snowmobiles, boat launches on the lakes, scenic drives to take and rivers to explore. There are also 28 well-maintained campgrounds that offer a multitude of distinct ecosystems to experience firsthand (www.fs.fed.us).
Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area
The creation of the Grand Coulee Dam also created 150-mile-long Lake Roosevelt, with 600 miles of shoreline and 30 species of fish (including trout and salmon). The Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and its dozens of campgrounds are popular for boating, swimming and fishing (www.nps.gov/pwr/laro).
Kettle Falls, a town that moved
The byway ends at Kettle Falls, a recreational haven nestled between the Kettle Mountains and Lake Roosevelt’s blue waters—which submerged the original town when the Grand Coulee Dam was finished. Today, the edge of the former town site is Old Kettle Falls Campground, which has riverfront sites, interpretive signage and a marina and houseboat rental business next door. Houseboats, complete with slides and hot tubs on board, are a popular way to enjoy the waters of Lake Roosevelt.
Worthwhile side trips
For further exploration, there are some rewarding side trips from Kettle Falls. Head south along US-395 to Colville, a bucolic town surrounded by enough streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs to make it a popular fishing spot. Enjoy locally grown fruit and vegetables throughout the growing season from nearby orchards and farms.
Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge
Seven miles east of Colville on SR-20 is the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge. At nearly 41,000 acres, this stunning area is the only mountain forest refuge of mixed conifers in the continental United States. There’s free camping and ample fishing, and wildlife galore. More than 20 bird species—it’s a migratory songbird stopover—and 58 mammal species can be found in this refuge. It’s also a popular spot for hunting grouse, turkey and white-tailed deer.
Gas, food and lodging
Gas, food and lodging are available at both ends of the byway in Republic and Kettle Falls or nearby Colville. Camping is plentiful along this byway.
Driving Distance: 35 miles from Republic to Kettle Falls.
Driving Time: 45 minutes, not including stops or scenic detours.
Actual Time: Plan a half-day including time to stop for short interpretive hikes and sightseeing.
Best Time to Travel: The route is open year-round. Check www.dot.wa.gov for road conditions and seasonal road closures.
Connected or nearby scenic byways