Story and photos by Stephen Hui
For Vancouverites, the Coast Mountains north of the city are celebrated for rugged trails and wild views. Perhaps lesser known, the North Cascades in B.C. provide plenty of spectacular hiking as well. Some of the best trails are located in E.C. Manning Provincial Park and the Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area, both east of Hope and in the territory of the Nlaka’pamux people. Here are three superb destinations for this summer.
Reminders: Check current conditions, take the 10 essentials, leave a trip plan with a responsible person and remember – leave no trace. Dogs must be leashed on these trails.
Round trip: 16 kilometers (10 miles)
Elevation gain: 479 meters (1,571 feet)
Access: From Trans-Canada Highway 1 in Hope, head east on Crowsnest Highway 3 for 66 kilometers (41 miles). At Manning Park Resort, turn right on Gibson Pass Road. Reach the Strawberry Flats parking lot in 8 kilometers (5 miles).
On foot: Surrounded by woods and meadows, Poland Lake is a lovely destination for a day hike, or an overnighter for beginner backpackers. Find the trailhead on the north side of the road and set off west on the Poland Lake Trail. In several minutes, head right on a gravel road, which goes over a few streams as it rises to enter the ski area at Manning Park Resort.
Forty minutes of hiking earns a big view of Hozomeen Mountain in Washington. Fork right and duck under a chairlift. Where the road curves right (2.5 kilometers from the trailhead), bear left on a path through meadows (horse riders and mountain bikers stick to the road here). Switchback up the ski area and follow a double track to rejoin the bike and horse route after 1 kilometer.
In short order, the road reaches a map and signpost and heads into the woods. The road curves left to peak near the top of Grassy Mountain, about two hours in. From here, a gentle descent reveals a succession of meadows and vantages of mountains. The road rises to traverse the south slopes of Bojo Mountain en route to a hitching post (no bikes or horses beyond this point).
Continue on the path along Poland Creek to arrive at Poland Lake, just over 2.5 hours in. Round the eastern shore and turn left at a signpost to find Poland Lake Camp, three hours up. Backtrack to return to the
Round trip: 10 kilometers (6.2 miles)
Elevation gain: 689 meters (2,260 feet)
Access: On Yellowhead Highway 5, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Hope and past the Great Bear Snow Shed, take poorly marked Exit 217. From the northbound off-ramp, immediately turn right onto a gravel road and right again into the Needle Peak trailhead parking area, below the highway maintenance sheds.
On foot: On a hike of The Flatiron, you’ll tread on 39-million-year-old granite and score 360-degree views.
Locate the trailhead just west of the parking area, across a creek. The Needle Peak Trail threads south into the woods, steepening as it weaves uphill. After 45 minutes, the forest opens up, inviting a look back at Yak Peak. Gain the crest of a spur ridge, extending north from Needle Peak’s west shoulder, 15 minutes farther. The trail levels out before rising gently over bare rock and through heather meadows.
Reach the signed “Needle Peak Saddle” at 3.4 kilometers. Watching for flagging, drop right to the actual Needle-Flatiron saddle. The braided path skirts a cliff on your right, then climbs to a tarn on the east side of The Flatiron. Cross via an island and make a zigzagging ascent, following occasional cairns.
The broad summit plateau comes 1.5 kilometers past the Needle Peak junction and about three hours from the trailhead. Needle Peak dominates to the northeast. Descend the way you came.
Round trip: 9 kilometers (5.6 miles)
Elevation gain: 170 meters (560 feet)
Access: From Trans-Canada Highway 1 in Hope, head east on Crowsnest Highway 3 for 66 kilometers (41 miles). At the Manning Park Resort, turn right on Gibson Pass Road. Reach the Strawberry Flats parking lot in 8 kilometers (5 miles).
On foot: Begin with a stroll through meadows of strawberries and wildflowers on a fire access road. Follow the trail into the steep-sided valley of Nepopekum Creek. With a payoff of three waterfalls, this short outing is perfect for families.
Find the Strawberry Flats trailhead on the south side of the road. An immediate right turn takes you west on a double track into a stand of lodgepole pines broken up by meadows. Meet the Skyline Trail junction in 0.5 kilometers. Stay right to stick with the Strawberry Flats Trail. Often achieving peak bloom in July, the flower show includes cow parsnip, thistle and fireweed. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears and mule deer in the meadow.
After less than 30 minutes, take the right fork for the start of the Three Falls Trail. Pass a T-bar lift, cross a ski run and re-enter the woods. The first waterfall viewpoint comes at 3 kilometers. A log fence keeps visitors back from the edge at Shadow Falls, which seemingly springs forth from the forest. It’d be easy to miss Nepopekum Falls, at 3.2 kilometers, if not for a sign. Across the valley, a tributary dives over a high cliff. Continue downstream and cross a boulder field.
Derek Falls announces itself with a rumble. Stay on the main trail, traversing a large boulder slope to the final viewpoint. Retrace your steps on the uphill return.
Stephen Hui is the author of 105 Hikes In and Around Southwestern British Columbia, a #1 B.C. bestseller. Visit 105hikes.com.