This 28-mile round trip offers the best of the Columbia Highlands as it passes through old-growth ponderosa pine stands, skirts five significant peaks in the Kettle Range, and showcases the effects of the White Mountain Fire of 1988.
From Sherman Pass on Highway 20, the Kettle Crest South Trail begins across the highway from the trailhead and climbs through a lodgepole pine forest to its first intersection at 0.7 mile. The Sherman Peak Loop Trail is to the west, and the Kettle Crest continues to the east. It doesn't matter which trail you start on, as both form a loop around Sherman Peak; just make sure to take the other trail on the way back so as not to miss the views.
Where the loop trails meet, continue south beneath Snow Peak. The trail reaches the Snow Peak Cabin (available to rent at recreation.gov) at approximately 5 miles. There is a reliable water source along the trail here. Continue south to the intersection with Edds Mountain Trail. More water is available a short distance up the Edds Mountain Trail. Here also begins your opportunity for additional side trips: scramble up Bald Mountain or go tag Edds Mountain (6,550 feet) just a couple of miles west.
Continue south and pass the intersection with the Barnaby Buttes Trail. All that remains of the old fire lookout are the cement steps and some scattered nails; the side trip is an easy mile. Moving on, cross a small stream (often dry by the end of summer), and pass below the summit of White Mountain. Watch for the spur trail that leads to the summit, the most interesting of all the summits in the Kettle Crest—the lower portion is grassy and flower-covered, while the top consists of rocky, fortress-like outcroppings. The remains of an old fire lookout occupy the southern end. Soak in the view of the surrounding peaks and Lake Roosevelt in the valley far below. Good camps can be found in the trees below the summit, but water in the area is scarce.
The trail ends at a trailhead on a forest service road that is different from where it starts, so you will have to arrange a car shuttle or get picked up.
Big Views: The Kettle Crest Trail passes just beneath the summits of Sherman and Snow Peaks, Bald Mountain, Barnaby Buttes and White Mountain. 360-degree views include Lake Roosevelt and the Selkirks to the east, Canada to the north and the Cascades to the west.