Fall can be a hard time of year for some outdoor enthusiasts. As many summer activities wind down, we begin the great switch over to winter. With colder temperatures and snow in the higher elevations, it can be difficult to find adventurous and accessible trails to explore. I usually end up re-hiking or riding the same local trails over and over to keep in shape for ski season, but this year we heard about the Ferry County Rail Trail in northeast Washington’s Ferry County and had to go.
The rail trail is still under development, with the local community and the all-volunteer Ferry County Rail Trail Partners working hard to improve the trail, which stretches 25 miles from near the town of Republic north toward the Canadian border. It has taken an enormous volunteer effort to get the trail this far with plenty of political and funding ups and downs along the way.
Many improvements have been made so far, and portions of this trail are very suitable for small children and families looking for shorter, smooth sections to hike or bike. And the less-improved portions beg to be ridden by mountain bikes, fat bikes, and horses. There are also several camping options along the trail at either end and towards the middle, as well as lodging options in Republic, making the trail optimal for day trips, including with small kids.
The trail runs mostly near Highway 21 connecting the towns of Republic and Curlew, with the exception of the Curlew Lake portion, which follows the west side of the lake (away from the highway) and boasts a brand new trestle over the water. The other major highlight is a tunnel north of Curlew. The trail is mainly flat as it winds its way through the valley, with views of forested mountains and sagebrush-covered hills. The northern stretch of the trail near Curlew follows the scenic Kettle River.
Though not 100% complete, the trail is free to access, and the open and improved segments are worth a hiking or biking trip (see this article for ideas). The Ferry County Rail Trail is a great recreational asset for the region and the local towns of Republic, Curlew, and Danville. Besides the fact that it will increase tourism, it gives local communities a close outlet for year-round outdoor recreation. Ferrycountyrailtrail.com. // (Jacque Warner)
Jacque is an active hiker, biker, and skier. This is her first article for Out There.
[Feature photo: Foster Fanning]