Hikes in West Kootenays
The best hikes in the West Kootenays take you to some pretty epic scenery, and this pretty region of the B.C. interior is sure to grow in popularity in the coming years. The West Kootenays include places like Nelson, Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park and more great places to hike.
THE TOP WEST KOOTENAY HIKES
The top hikes in the West Kootenays offer great variety, from remote backcountry wilderness to family-friendly routes right from Nelson. The stunning country in the West Kootenays provides a backdrop of forest, flower filled meadows, and stunning peaks, not to mention a large amount of wildlife (particularly bears!)
- Macbeth Glacier/Icefield (13.9 km, 1,343 m, 7-9h): This is the best challenging hike in the West Kootenays. Hike through an enormous variety of terrains until you reach the epic Macbeth Glacier towering above you. Rarely visited by tourists, this is as beautiful a hike as you will find in the West Kootenays.
- Mount Loki (11.1 km, 1,166 m, 6.5-8h): Mount Loki is another exceptional hike in the West Kootenays. Mount Loki is best attempted in the height of summer, when it is snow-free. From the summit it feels like you are on top of the world, with the West Kootenays stretching out below you.
- Jumbo Pass (12.0 km, 942 m, 5-7h): The hike to Jumbo Pass is stunning. This is a pretty famous hike thanks to Patagonia’s Jumbo Valley documentary and the indigenous history of the Northern Purcell Range. Here is one of the last remaining wild mountain ranges in B.C. This hike takes you through a stunning valley full of glaciers, meadows and mountain peaks. It is an extremely beautiful place for a hike.
- Whitewater Canyon (12.0 km, 836 m, 5-6.5h): Another classic West Kootenay hike is situated along the inside of Whitewater Canyon. Here you walk through a deep Selkirk valley, up through the meadows and finally reaching alpine lakes. This is a beautiful hike to do during wildflower season in July, or in fall (mid September).
- Gwillim Lakes (11.3 km, 693 m, 5-6.5h): This is a beautiful West Kootenay alpine hike, and is popular thanks to the backcountry campsite located here. Passing by many impressive lakes cradled by mountain peaks the whole way up, this is one of the most beautiful hikes in the Valhallas.
- Gimli Ridge (7.3 km, 694 m, 4-5.5h): Gimli Peak and Ridge is one of the shorter hikes in the Valhallas and has beautiful views throughout. This hike has stunning views of Mulvey Basin, a chance to explore the old forest, enjoy the view of Gimli Peak and bump into a Mountain Goat (or two!).
- Kokanee Glacier (16.8 km, 614 m, 4.5-6h): Hiking to Kokanee Glacier is another classic hike in the West Kootenays. This hike is a beautiful way to explore the wilderness, not too far from the towns of Nelson or Kaslo. Enjoy a swim in the cool Kokanee Lake, the pretty views down valley and wide open meadows filled with marmots.
- Idaho Peak (3.4 km, 276 m, 2-3h): Idaho Peak is a popular West Kootenay hike to do with kids. Enjoy this relatively easy walk along the ridgeline to an old fire lookout. From the top you are rewarded with exceptional views of Slocan Lake and panoramic mountain ranges – you can see as far as Kokanee Glacier just outside of Nelson.
- Fry Creek Canyon (8.3 km, 414 m, 3-5h): Fry Creek Canyon is a great shoulder season hike in the West Kootenays. This trail goes through the forest, ending where Fry Creek pours into Kootenay Lake. The canyon itself is impressive and can be followed for as long as you like.
- Pulpit Rock and Flagpole (5.4 km, 648 m, 1-3h): Pulpit Rock and Flagpole is an easy hike when staying in Nelson. This is a popular hike for a workout or family trip.
Best Hikes in West Kootenays
McPhee Waterfalls Hike
The McPhee Waterfalls Hike is a 5.6 km out-and-back hiking route near Castlegar, BC, that will take you along the edge of the Kootenay River to reach a stunning, moss-covered waterfall. Along the trail, you can expect to pass through beautiful stretches of forest and experience scenic views that stretch across the valley. Make sure to travel in groups and bring bear spray, as cougars are sometimes seen along the trail.
Brilliant Overlook Hike
The hike to Brilliant Overlook is a 6.0 km out-and-back trail in Castlegar, BC, that works through the forest and climbs uphill to a spectacular viewpoint with views over the city and the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers. Along the trail, hikers will experience a beautiful forest setting, as well as some more exposed sections of rocky terrain on the way to the lookout. Make sure to travel in groups, make lots of noise, and bring bear spray, as cougars are sometimes seen in the area.
The Merry Loop Trail is a 14.0 km circuit hiking route that utilizes a multi-use trail through a beautiful stretch of forest. Along the trail, hikers will experience a charming forest setting and scenic views overlooking the city of Castlegar. As this trail is also used by mountain bike enthusiasts, make sure to keep an eye out for them while on your hike and leave enough space for them to safely pass along the trail.
Merry Creek Trail
The Merry Creek Trail is a 4.5 km lollipop hiking route in Castlegar, BC that passes through a picturesque forest setting and follows closely alongside the rushing waters of Merry Creek. Along the trail, hikers will have some scenic views of the surrounding Selkirk Mountains and experience the natural beauty of the woodland landscape in this area. Made up of shady forested paths and wooden boardwalks, this is a family-friendly trail that can be enjoyed by hikers of all skill levels.
Mount Roberts Trail
The hike up Mount Roberts follows a rugged 7.4 km out-and-back trail that will take you up the mountain for some spectacular sweeping views across the Rossland Mountain Range. The trail climbs uphill through the forest before breaking out into more steep, rocky, and technical terrain on the approach to the summit. Make sure to bring plenty of water in the summer months, as the upper portions of the trail are fairly exposed.
Christina Lake Hike
The Christina Lake Hike is a 22.7 km out-and-back route that sets out from the Texas Creek Campground and travels along the eastern shore of the lake to its northernmost point. Along the trail, you will hike through beautifully scenic forests and experience views that stretch across the picturesque waters of the lake and surrounding mountains. Make sure to bring bear spray and make plenty of noise along the trail, as bears are often spotted in the area.
Thanksgiving Mountain is a quick 3.4 km out-and-back hiking route that will take you up to the summit for some amazing mountain views. A popular destination with locals around the Thanksgiving holiday season, this trail is a relatively easy way to bag a peak and cash in on the beautiful scenery that comes with it. This trail will require some basic route finding skills near the top.
Sphinx Mountain Trail
The Sphinx Mountain Trail is a 9.5 km out-and-back hiking route that climbs steeply uphill to reach the saddle of the mountain, where you will experience amazing views of the surrounding landscape. Along the hike you can expect a gruelling climb that will leave you exhausted but rewarded by the amazing views at the end. Note that this trail ends in the saddle of Sphinx Mountain; however, experienced hikers can continue on to either the east or west summit.
Mill Lake Trail
The Mill Lake Trail is an 8.8 km out-and-back hiking route near Nelson, BC, that takes you through a recovering section of forest that was ravaged by a fire in 2017 to the tranquil shores of a beautiful woodland lake. Along the hike, you will experience a beautiful but slightly eerie sensation as you make your way through the toasted trees that are showing signs of new life. A new access road to the trailhead has made the hike a manageable day trip; however, it is still fairly rough, so you will likely need a high clearance vehicle to make the journey in.
Panther Lake Trail
The Panther Lake Trail is a 6.2 km out-and-back hiking route near Salmo, BC, that will allow you to experience breathtaking scenery and gorgeous forests. The trail climbs uphill through amazing forests of hemlock before breaking into the subalpine for awesome views of the surrounding peaks. Make sure to complete the rugged drive in with a 4x4 vehicle; otherwise, you will need to walk the final 2.0 km.
Emerald Lake Trail
The Emerald Lake Trail is an 8.8 km out-and-back hiking route near Kaslo, BC, that will take you through beautiful forests and over a rugged ridgeline to reach the charming, crystal-clear waters of Emerald Lake. The trail is a beautifully scenic route that also passes by several historic mining sites, making it a fun experience for nature lovers and historians alike. Ensure that you are either confident in your 2WD driving abilities, or make the rough trip in with a 4x4 vehicle to reach the trailhead.
Saddle Mountain Lookout
The Saddle Mountain Lookout trail is an 8.5 km out-and-back hiking route that will take you up to a scenic vantage point with 360° panoramic views. Making your way to the summit looks near impossible from the bottom of the trail; however, the climb is much easier than you think and loops around the backside of the peak to provide amazing views overlooking Upper Arrow Lake and the surrounding mountains. Pair this with an overnight stay atop the mountain for some breathtaking views at sunrise.
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