The Kokanee Lake Trail is the main access into beautiful Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. The trail starts in the forest at Gibson Lake and winds up to the sub-alpine realm of meadows, lakes, waterfalls and marmots. Kokanee Glacier Park is great place to spend a weekend, wandering among mountains and meadows.
Trailhead: Kokanee Glacier Road
Distance, One Way: 8.8km (to campground), 9.5km (to cabin)
Max elevation: 2029 m
Min elevation: 1576 m
Total climbing: 620 m
Total descent: -215 m
Established in 1922, Kokanee Glacier is one of BC’s oldest provincial parks. Kokanee is peppered with old mining sites and many of today’s trails trace the routes of mining roads. To read more about the history of the park, check out BC Parks.
Follow Kokanee Glacier Road to the parking lot at Gibson Lake. If you’re staying overnight in the park, you need to porcupine-proof your vehicle. No worries, there is a corral full of chicken wire to play with.
Gibson Lake is encircled by a 2km trail, but the better hiking is onwards and upwards into the alpine! The Kokanee Lake Trail is a great day hike, but once you’re up there, you can overnight at the Kaslo Lake Campground or the Kokanee Glacier Cabin.
Up to Kokanee Lake
Leaving Gibson Lake, the trail crosses several waterfalls then weaves through the bushes in 3 long switchbacks which trace an old mining road. The elevation gain is heavy on this first part of the hike.
After about 2.5kms, the forest starts to break up into sub-alpine meadow and Gibson Lake suddenly re-appears far below:
Now the trail is getting scenic! As it continues to steadily climb, you’ll be able to look back down the valley below into the overlapping blue of distance hills.
At 3.5km, the trail will crest on top of a ridge and the majority of the elevation is done! You’ll start to descend slightly and then walk along a more even route. At 3.8km, you’ll cross a wooden-block bridge with the unmarked turn-off for the Keyhole Trail (strong hikers only).
Continuing along the Kokanee Lake Trail, you’ll cross a rushing stream and several avalanche paths before Kokanee Lake comes into view below.
The trail descends until 4.7km where it touches the edge of Kokanee Lake. There is a scenic bench here along with a pit toilet – it’s the perfect spot for a break! At this point, you’ve done about half the trail. It takes most hikers 1.5-2 hours to reach this point.
Around the lake, Across the meadows
Kokanee Lake is a magnificent elongated jewel, fed by waterfalls. The trail climbs over a scree slope on the west side of the lake. Looking down, you can see the deep blue infinity of glacier waters.
As the trail wraps around Kokanee Lake, it crosses a few boulder fields where the rocks are turned into a flat, uneven path. There are a few sections with steep drops down to the lake, but the trail is wide and well-maintained.
On the far side of Kokanee Lake, the trail winds through a meadow of babbling brooks and peeping marmots. It’s one of the most idyllic sections of the hike!
At the far end of the meadows, the trail begins to climb again towards Kokanee Pass. You can look back for one last view of Kokanee Lake.
Over Kokanee Pass
As you cross Kokanee Pass, you’ll finally see the iconic landscape of Kokanee Glacier Park. Mount John Carter is to your left with Mount Kitchener to your right. Much of the surrounding landscape is rocky hills sparsely dotted with trees.
As the trail gently descends the pass, it winds through more meadows. Between Keen and Garland Lakes, you’ll pass the unnamed junction of Commission Creek route to Sapphire Lakes at 8.3km.
And then at 8.8km, pass the signed turn-off to the Kaslo Lake Campground. The Kokanee Glacier Cabin is another 0.8km beyond.
Kaslo Lake Campground
There are about 10 backcountry campsites at Kaslo Lake with wooden tent pads, a food cache, an outhouse, and a fancy cooking shelter. The campsites are first-come first-served (no reservations) and you do need to pay a camping fee or obtain a backcountry permit ahead of time.
The Kaslo Lake campground is notoriously buggy in late July/early August. Luckily the cooking shelter has glass windows so there is a reprieve from the bugs!
Kokanee Glacier Cabin
The Kokanee Glacier Cabin is backcountry luxury at it’s finest! It has running water (along with flush toilets) and electricity (along with a microwave, popcorn machine, and coffee maker)!
The trick is that it’s hard to book! Reservations can be made through the Alpine Club of Canada, but the cabin books up to a year in advance and it’s hard to get it! The cabin sleeps 20 in the summer with a room of bunks upstairs and has a comfortable kitchen and dining area downstairs.
Hiking within the park
Once you’ve arrived at Kaslo Lake in either the campground or cabin, there are plenty of great day hikes to do within the park. Check out the Kokanee Hikes on this site!