Russell Peak

If Burton Peak whet your appetite for Selkirk lookout towers, you’ll be happy to climb to Russell Peak. The tower is gone, but an old cabin adds interest and the views, particularly those into the Selkirk Crest, are fantastic.
  • Selkirk Mountains
3.6 out of 5
Moderate (uphill)
5.4 miles
2:47 hours moving time (Hiking)
Elevation Gain
2,221 feet
High Point
6,830 feet (Russell Peak)
Low Point
4,594 feet (Trout Creek)
  • Mountain
  • Rock Formation
  • Structure
  • Grove
  • Outing Type
  • Daytrip
  • Trail Type
  • Out-and-back
  • Trailbed
    Packed dirt, loose rocks, granite
  • Trout Creek and a small, likely seasonal, brook up to the 1-mile mark
  • Camping
    • Trailhead
    • There is a spot up on the ridge, but it is dry
    • Good; a few logs to climb over
  • Kaniksu National Forest
  • Status
  • Unprotected
  • Maps
  • Pyramid Peak
  • Fees & Permits
  • None required
  • ()
    Open To
  • Hikers
  • Dogs
  • Horses
  • Mountain Bikers
  • ()
  • From U.S. Highway 95 in Bonners Ferry, drive west on Riverside Road (aka Country Road 18A) past the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge to the Refuge’s headquarters. Take West Side Road (blacktopped partway) north for 10 miles to Trout Creek Road #634. Take #634 uphill for 6 miles to the #12 trailhead. It is on your left, shortly after the Fisher Peak trailhead. There is a large parking area and a helipad.
  • Season
    June – October
      July 5, 2021

      From the parking lot, take the old forest road past the helipad to Trout Creek. A wide log ensures dry transit, or, when the water level is low, make use of the stepping stones. The trail no longer follows the route shown on older USGS maps. Past the creek, the trail moves left, not right, to a trail kiosk and a downed sign indicating 2.5 miles to Russell Peak and 2.75 miles to Russell Ridge Trail #92. The trail turns east and heads downhill, the only downhill section at all. It parallels the creek while meandering through a moss-overgrown and boulder-strewn hemlock-and-cedar forest.

      Not even half a mile into the hike, the trail starts to climb into the draw of an unnamed brook, soon switch-backing fiercely and approaching the brook, which carried a trickle of water in early July, around the 1-mile mark. At the 1.5-mile mark, the trail crosses the brook, which at this point was nearly dry. Climbing higher, the trail approaches the bottom end of an extensive talus slope, skirts it and once again enters the draw. That section of the brook is quite shady and if you listen carefully (and are early enough in the season) you may hear the gurgling of the brook. About 1.75 miles into the hike, the trail leaves the draw for the last time and switchbacks uphill, kisses the top edge of aforementioned talus slope, then reaches a saddle below Russell Peak at the 2.25-mile mark.

      Old USGS maps show the Russell Ridge trail heading east from the saddle. There is no vestige of that trail left. Instead, head south into the Ball Creek drainage and you should meet that trail a couple hundred yards downhill, marked #92, a project for another day (trail #12 continues all the way to Ball Creek). Instead, turn sharply right and head west atop the ridge to get to Russell Peak. The Ball side is mostly cleared, either by clear-cut or wildfire, enabling grand views, filtered by numerous snags. The switchbacks are mostly done now, with the trail following the ridge faithfully. It’s not quite half a mile to the top, where a dilapidated log cabin awaits. There was a lookout tower once, too, but it is long gone. Remaining are fabulous views, be it far to the north and Fisher Peak, the Selkirk Crest to the west (including the Myrtle Lake basin) or the Cascade Ridge and Burton Peak to the south (although you won’t be able to see the lookout on that peak).

      Alternate Routes

      • You can also access this trail from the Ball Creek side, roads 432 and 2276

      Things to Consider

        Not so great

          Trout Creek and the fancy conveyance that will get you across dry
          There are large boulders near Trout Creek
          Naughty taking advantage of a tiny spring
          The brook is just a small trickle
          A boulder field halfway up. The trail touches it again at the top
          Burnt trees on Russell Ridge
          View into the Ball Creek drainage
          The old cabin on top of Russell Peak
          Said cabin up close. The lookout tower is gone
          View into the heart of the Selkirk Crest
          Pyramid Peak and Smith Peak in the distance
          Fisher Peak
          Naughty having a blast
          Russell Ridge
          Thank goodness for that tree holding the boulder in place!
          Trout Creek
          Trout Creek again, for those who prefer stepping stones over logs