Tucked deep into the heart of the infrequently-visited Colville National Forest is the North Fork Sullivan Trail. This climbs steadily from its junction with the Halliday and Red Bluff Trails to Crowell Ridge, where you'll enjoy expansive views of the surrounding area.
Whether you arrive via Red Bluff or the Halliday Trail , the North Fork Sullivan Trail provides a much-needed gentler grade after a grueling approach. Head north from the three-way intersection, found 4.2 miles from the Halliday trailhead or 5.2 miles from the Red Bluff trailhead. After the climb up, the meandering up-and-down of this section will be a welcome respite.
Pass through dense pine forest with occasional views opening up across the valley. Look behind you for a peek at the Sullivan Lookout rising high above the valley floor.
About a mile past the three-way junction, arrive at a small creek crossing. Though built to be a rock ford, this trail sees very little maintenance, so it may be a bit more rugged crossing here -- nothing an experienced hiker can't manage. Continue through forest before beginning another climb, past a small wetland area where you may spy moose.
It's another mile to the wilderness boundary from here, where you enter the Salmo-Priest Wilderness. Past this sign, mechanized tools are not allowed, so all maintenance must be done by hand. As a result, and because of the short season where maintenance is possible, the trail may become harder to navigate from here to the junction. Expect downed trees, narrow tread, and a hard-to-follow route in some places that haven't seen maintenance in years.
Past the wilderness boundary, 2.7 miles from the three-way junction and at 4800 feet, arrive at a junction with the now-closed Slate Creek Trail. The North Fork trail continues straight ahead a further three miles, climbing 1800 feet to 6600 feet in that distance. This section gradually becomes increasingly exposed, trading out healthy pines for large stands of dead or fire-scorched trees.
But closer to the ground, it's more vibrant. Alder flourishes, as do huckleberries, and wildflowers here in spring and summer are profuse. Look for huge pink Indian Paintbrush, beargrass as high as your head, lupine close to the ground, and even some yellow columbine towards the top, at Crowell Ridge.
The first mile will likely have lots of trees down, but the last two miles feature fewer logs and more overgrown trail. Finally, the last half mile is a relatively easily navigable route through rockier terrain. Pop out to a stunning view in a saddle, where signs point to Bear Pasture to the north, or Sullivan Mountain via the Crowell Ridge trail.