Throwback Thursday: 2015 Hiking Glory Part II

I’m back again with Part II of 2015’s hiking glory.  If you recall from last week, I hiked close to 35 new trails last summer, some yielding fantastic views and experiences and others…well, less so. Here’s the rest of 2015’s stellar hiking season complete with opinions, because I just can’t help myself.

Ford Mountain Lookout (Chilliwack)
Stats: 12 km return, elevation gain unknown
My POV: The trail itself is only 4 km return, but I had to walk the 4 km logging road, creating a longer hike. Sad fact: the views from the logging road were some of the best. The trail itself lacked any big payoff with the lookout being somewhat overgrown with only obstructed views of nearby peaks. Also, you won’t see another soul, which I usually love, but found very unsettling in this case. Maybe it’s the nearby correctional facility…

Frosty Mountain (Manning Park)
Stats: 22 km return (note: the link says 18 but other sources + park signage confirm 22 km), 1150 m elevation gain
My POV: Once you get to larch meadows, this trail is a winner. The final ridges to the summit offer outstanding views. As an added bonus, if you go during larch season you’ll see the magic of the only coniferous tree whose needles change colour in Fall.  It’s a long drive from Vancouver–over three hours each way–but worth the drive, in my opinion.

Now that's a nice looking ridge if I ever saw one.
Now that’s a nice looking ridge if I ever saw one.

Blanca Lake (Central Cascades, Washington)
Stats: 12 km return, 1000 m elevation gain
My POV: It rained. There were low clouds. The lake was still a stunning shade of turquoise. That’s the sign of a solid lake. I recommend this as a quick half-day hike (shorter if you’re super fit). The payoff for effort ratio is high. The trail descriptions talked about steep trail, but I found it moderate most of the way. Note: in the course of linking to this trail I noticed the WTA says the road access has been washed out indefinitely. Sad times.

Imagine what it would look like on a clear day.
Imagine what it would look like on a clear day.

Summerland-Panhandle Gap (Mount Rainier)
Stats: 19 km return, 900 m elevation gain
My POV: It rained. All day. I mean, all day. The trail turned into a river. I’ve seen photos that paint the most epically beautiful of scenes, but I cannot attest to it.  I do plan to return one day to combat my memory of cold, frozen hands and waterlogged shoes.

Burroughs Mountain (Mount Rainier)
Stats: 14 km return, 790 m elevation gain
My POV: I sat in the freezing wind for 30 minutes waiting for a glimpse of Rainier from the 2nd peak and Emmet Glacier from the 3rd peak of Burroughs Mountains. My patience was rewarded with the most awe-inspiringly close view of Mount Rainier that you can possibly imagine. I read that it feels like you could reach out and touch Rainier, which I thought sounded ridiculous, but turned out to be true. Do this hike. It is beyond crowded to the first peak, moderately busy to the second peak, but you likely won’t see a soul on the third peak. I had it all to myself both times I’ve done this trail.

It cleared fully after this, but I find the partial clouds to be utterly magical.
It cleared fully after this, but I find the partial clouds to be utterly magical.

Glacier Basin (Mount Rainier)
Stats: 10 km return, 485 m elevation gain
My POV: I saw no evidence of a glacier so I can’t speak to whether this is a worthwhile hike. It offered me exercise and a chance to warm up after getting rained out on Summerland-Panhandle Gap. For that, I was thankful.

Dege Peak (Mount Rainier)
Stats: 6.5 km return, 180 m elevation gain
My POV: I saw my first clear glimpse of Rainier after three days of rain and low cloud, so this short spur trail holds a special place in my heart. Watching wispy clouds lift and clear was magic.

Little Yoho Valley/Kiwetinok Pass (Yoho National Park)
Stats: 10.7 km one-way to Stanley Mitchell Hut (25 km return to Kiwetinok Pass), elevation gain unknown
My POV: I’m not sure the trail beyond the Iceline trail is worth it, but we didn’t make it all the way to Kiwetinok Pass so it’s not a fair statement. Besides, the valley has a certain charm and continuing even a little bit toward Kiwetinok Pass offers views of a rocky landscape, hidden glaciers and waterfalls. Your warning: you’ll descend to Little Yoho Valley and climbing back up to the Iceline trail will anger your tired legs. As a day hike, it may not be worth it unless you love uphill on your way back to a trailhead.

Okay, okay, maybe it's better than I said.
Okay, okay, maybe it’s better than I said.

Tumbling Pass (Kootenay National Park)
Stats: 26 km return, elevation gain approximately 800 m
My POV: The first 11 km offer nothing in the way of views and everything in the way of holy-shit-I-think-I’m-going-to-get-attacked-by-a-bear-at-any-second terror. I saw almost no one the entire way, despite the Rockwall trail being an incredibly popular multi-day backpack destination. The last couple of kilometers to Tumbling Pass, however, are a stunning mix of lush green, rocky moraines, lazy rivers, craggy peaks and glaciers. My heart loved the end and wished desperately that the rest of the hike weren’t such a wretched experience. Only the most passionate of hikers will appreciate this as a day hike.

Too bad you see 11 km of nothing to get to this.
Too bad you see 11 km of nothing to get to this.

Bow Hut (Bow Lake, Banff National Park)
Stats: 15 km return, 400 m elevation gain
My POV: F’ing river crossings. I was having such a wonderful day and seeing such magical sights until the final crossing. I can’t even talk about it. Let’s just say I walked up and down that final river trying desperately to find a section that looked passable (for me). But if you’re not afraid of jumping from rock to rock, you will love this trail. Love it.

Deception Pass (Lake Louise, Alberta)
Stats: 22 km return, 750 m elevation gain
My POV: I’ve hiked as far as Boulder Pass a number of times but never continued to Deception Pass. Naturally, I would pick a day to do this that was both smokey from forest fires and stormy. As I result we saw little in the way of scenery, and much in the way of pelting hail. It was intolerably cold and windy at the pass so I’d have to return to give this a fair review.  But I will say that during Larch season, even the trail to Boulder Pass would be a fine destination. Your warning here: there’s a pretty uninspiring 4 km service road to hike before you get to real trail.  It’s the price you pay to keep areas more pristine.

Hannegan Peak (Mount Baker)
Stats: 16 km return, 950 m elevation gain
My POV: This trail was stunning. I almost didn’t see it as I misread the directions to the forest service road not once but five times! The trail is pretty easy to the pass, with few lengthy uphill stretches. Even the final push to the peak, though it says it’s tough, is well worth the effort (which, honestly, wasn’t that bad). Bonus points, I got to watch the wall of smoke from Washington State forest fires roll in from the summit. By the time I got back to my car, everything was a total smoke-fest.

If you look closely to the farthest left, you can see the wall of smoke looming.
If you look closely to the farthest left, you can see the wall of smoke looming.

Ptarmigan Ridge (Mount Baker)
Stats: 14.5 km return, 400 m elevation gain
My POV: I didn’t have the best weather day, but this trail still delivered. There’s not a lot of elevation gain, because you’re at a high point (Artist Point), which also means views the entire way.  There had been fresh snowfall the night before so I had the added fun of trying to figure out the route to the final ridge.

And this is less than 500 m into the trail!
And this is less than 500 m into the trail!

Table Mountain (Mount Baker)
Stats: 4 km return, 220 m elevation gain
My POV: This is a short trail with absolutely outstanding views of Shuksan (which I actually love just a little bit more than Baker itself). Don’t get me wrong, you’ll also see Baker, but I was mesmerized by Shuksan.  Because it’s short and so highly accessible there are hordes of people on this trail, but at the top there are enough spur trails to find some solitude.

High Divide (Mount Baker)
Stats: 13 km return, 1000 m elevation gain
My POV: For all the claims about how steep this trail is, I didn’t find it overwhelmingly so. The trail description also speaks to solitude, which you will find. I saw only two people the entire day.  The views at Welcome Pass are nice, but continuing either West or East once at the Pass take you to a number of knolls that offer even better views.  Your warning here: the road is rough. I made it in a tiny car but, at times, was driving maybe 5 miles per hour.

Oh yeah.
Oh yeah.

Skyline I (Manning Park)
Stats: 20.4 km return, 621 m elevation gain
My POV: For a brief window (likely 4 km of the total hike), views are everything you would want. We hiked this in the Fall when foliage was changing into all sorts of brilliant colours, which added to the wow factor. Unfortunately, the remaining 16ish km are pretty torturous and forest bound, particularly the final 6 km during which I wanted to curl in a fetal ball and die (huge caveat to that claim: I hiked this trail with a hangover and on about 3 hours of sleep, which I’m sure didn’t help).  Your warning here: I’d strongly suggest hiking this in the opposite direction.  By doing this, I think you would get the connecting gravel path between trailheads and the worst of the forested trail out of the way, but I haven’t actually done this so that’s just a guess on my part.

I could stare at that all day. I almost did.
I could stare at that all day. I almost did.

Damfino Lakes/Excelsior Peak (Mount Baker)
Stats: 9 km return, 450 m elevation gain
My POV: Like most trails in the area, the road to the trailhead leaves something to be desired (if you drive a tiny car like me). I wish I could say the trail was worth it, but it was pretty a rainy and socked in weather day so the best I can say is that the pictures I’ve seen of this hike online look pretty nice.  I imagine on a clear day views would be great. On a rainy day, however, it simply offers an easy workout and solitude. Your warning here: the trail junctions aren’t super well-marked in all areas. I wandered off towards the High Divide (the two trails are connected) and got myself pretty disoriented, but managed to find my way back to the original trail plagued by only a mild level of panic.

So there you have it, 2015 in a nutshell…or, rather, in a rambling two-part series.  I hope that some of these trail reviews and descriptions inspire others to hit the trails and explore what western Canada and Washington State have to offer. There are some pretty amazing destinations and, as you can see from my reviews, even when weather doesn’t cooperate, there’s still ample beauty to be found.

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