When someone tells you that there’s a stellar, flowy trail worth exploring on a mountain you’ve never heard of and near a town you’ve never been to, you might be skeptical. Even more so when the trail in question is in another country and the locals there have never heard of it or ridden it. Looking at a map you can see it’s out of the way and will take a whole day out of your vacation plans – is it really worth going? But when this someone is from Canada’s mountain bike capital of Rossland, BC and makes a point of riding this little-known gem every year, you have to believe he’s on to something.
Tucked away in the very northeastern corner of Washington, Abercrombie Mountain is the second highest peak in this corner of the state at 7,301 ft. On a clear day, the wide open summit lets you see far away mountain ranges circling the horizon, from the Kettle Crest range to peaks in Idaho and the Selkirks, including Red Mountain in Rossland. Old snags from a forest fire long ago add character to the upper peak and if you time it right, wildflowers will carpet the open sunny areas. You’ll also find ruins of an old 1950’s fire lookout in the shale that covers the summit.
Ask a hiker about Abercrombie and they’ll have it on their peak bagging list. Ask a mountain biker and you’ll probably get a blank stare. As we discovered, very few Washington riders know about Abercrombie much less have ridden it. In the three times we’ve been on the mountain, we haven’t seen anyone else. And that’s one good reason to ride Abercrombie – you’ll have the whole mountain to yourself!
There aren’t too many places where can you ride from the summit of a mountain all the way to the valley bottom and on a trail that seems it was purpose-built for mountain bikers (it was, and still is, a hiking and horse trail). From the open rocky ridge through flower infested meadows and stands of ponderosa and aspen, the 12 km of mostly downhill singletrack is fun, blissful flow that begs you to surf the duff at speed. A series of switchbacks closer to the bottom will check your speed and you’ll pick up souvenir brands from the vegetation that grows unchecked over long stretches of trail.
Abercrombie became an instant favourite our first time out. We’ve since convinced others to push up to the summit with us and find out what they’ve been missing. Who better than Glenn Glover, the Executive Director of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance in Washington. He was initially unsure about grunting his way up to the summit with a bike until he realized what was waiting for him on the ride down.
“Abercrombie was an amazing ride – unlike any other I’ve experienced in Washington. From the bald rocky peak with huge vistas to the lush thick vegetation of the lower open areas and all connected by a narrow ribbon of sweet singletrack…it became the absolute highlight of new rides for me in 2014! My only regret was that I’d been up to the Colville so many times in the past and not ridden this mountain.”
So why talk about this gem of a ride now? Abercrombie is not part of some secret trail society; it’s on the public record as welcoming mountain bikers and I hear that information about the ride will soon be posted to the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance (EMBA) Trails page. What you should know is that Abercrombie Mountain happens to sit in a 30,000 acre area of the Okanogan Wenatchee and Colville National Forest that is proposed for wilderness designation through a forest management plan drafted in 2011. Evergreen staff are working closely on the forest planning process to ensure mountain biking is accurately represented as current and future users of this beautiful area of Washington. They’ll mobilize folks to become active when the next step in the Forest Service process is released – keep an eye out!
Put Abercrombie Mountain on your bucket list of Washington rides. It’s an amazingly fun trail surrounded by beautiful forest and panoramic views. You can do it as a day trip or bring your tent and stay the night at the primitive campground at the South Fork Silver Creek trailhead. Ride the mountain as a loop or if you’re allergic to gravel road finishes, shuttle between trailheads (either way involves plenty of climbing). Us Canadians know when we’re on to something good.