Elk Creek Falls and Mill Pond, Colville National Forest

While it’s true that waterfall hikes are more spectacular in the full flow of early spring, their cooling properties can be better appreciated on a hot summer day. This hike begins by crossing an open hillside with a good view of nearby Hall Mountain, and includes a little over 500 feet of elevation gain. That’s by no means a substantial climb, but it is enough to warm a hiker up. That makes it all more rewarding to arrive at the bridge over Elk Creek, de facto viewing platform for the falls, where even in midsummer it’s usually possible to feel the cooling mist created by the waterfall.

This hike is excellent for families. Bring your favorite wildflower guide, or better yet, insect identification guide, to keep young hikers entertained. There is great diversity in the trees along the route as well, where Douglas fir and ponderosa pine can be seen alongside white pine on the drier portions of the trail, and where cedars thrive along Elk Creek.

The trail continues past the waterfall and descends at a gentle grade, creating a 2-mile loop hike that deposits hikers near Mill Pond. Signs point the way to the trailhead parking area, but if the roundtrip distance is too short, there’s the option to extend the hike on the Mill Pond Historic Site Trail, the location of a problem-ridden log-flume project that was later used as a footpath by local residents and 1930s CCC crews. The trail includes interpretive signage and a historic cabin, but the highlight (or should that be lowlight?) is the former site of the multiperson, open-air outhouse, capable of seating five flume workers simultaneously. Fortunately for modern hikers, the privy at the trailhead only seats one at a time.

This is a fine dayhike that’s easily turned into a fantastic camping weekend. Mill Pond has a small fee campground, nearby Sullivan Lake boasts campgrounds at both its north and south ends, and there are a limited number of free dispersed camping sites along Sullivan Creek. Round-trip distance: up to 3 miles.

Getting There

From Spokane, take U.S. Highway 2 north. Just past the Pend Oreille County line, turn northwest for WA-211 toward Usk. Just before Usk, join Highway 20 north to Tiger, following the Pend Oreille River. Just before Ione, turn east on Sullivan Lake Road, continuing past the lake and ranger station to Mill Pond; turn west. Trailhead parking is located above Mill Pond, and the Elk Creek trail crosses Sullivan Lake Road before climbing to the falls.

Give Back to Our Trails: Join a Washington Trails Association trail work party on August 17 at Mount Spokane State Park. Sign up at wta.org/volunteer/east. //

Holly Weiler is an avid trail runner, backpacker, and hiker. She is the race director for the Foothills Scenic Five fun run every June that supports a scholarship fund and community events.

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