When we decided to explore the far NE corner of the state, little did I expect to find a grove of old growth cedars. They seem more at home in the Olympics than in Eastern Washington, yet the giants in this stand are at least 800 years old and some are in excess of 12 feet in diameter.
This wasn't the only surprise on this hike. Right next to the trailhead is a sweet waterfall that even impressed my jaded teenager. The only thing that wasn't surprising was that we didn't see another soul on this hike.
We day tripped from our campground at Sullivan Lake near Metaline Falls, but it is more easily reached from Idaho and Priest Lake, and in fact lies in Kaniksu National Forest, not Colville National Forest.
The trail starts at the Stagger Inn day use area. The cedar grove was once much larger, but a fire in 1922 wiped out 75% of the stand. The fire crew base camped at this trailhead, which got its name as the firefighters staggered in tired every evening. Fortunately, they were able to save a small grove at the camp and another one, which you can hike to.
Start the hike by following the creek a short distance up to a view of Granite Falls. The water crashes in a diagonal slide that really roars in the springtime. There was a fair bit of water in it on this June day and the spray was cool and refreshing. We then back tracked and took a loop trail in a clockwise direction, which provided another viewpoint of the falls from a higher vantage point.
The trail is an upside down lollypop loop, all in half-mile segments. We reached the other side of the loop after a half mile and followed the trail to the left another half mile to the upper grove. There are directional markers that loop you through the grove of ancient cedars.
Seeing these trees really hit home that this sliver of forest where Washington, Idaho and British Columbia meet is unique. The Selkirk range here is the last remaining inland temperate rainforest in North America. It's not dry and dominated with pines; this place is humid and dominated by firs and cedars. And some of these are very impressive!
When we were done touring the grove, we returned to the main trail and followed it back to the trailhead, taking the opposite side of the loop this time for a round trip of 2.5 miles.