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Kokanee Lake Trail

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)
Elevation: +578m
Season: mid-July to late September
Difficulty:  Moderate

Background & Park Info

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.

Dogs and campfires are not permitted in the park. Kalso Lake campground has 10 first-come-first serve backcountry campsites with a paid permit required. Learn more about camping and buy a permit through the BC Parks website.


Follow Kokanee Glacier Road to the parking lot at Gibson Lake. This road is usually recommended for 4WD vehicles due to steep sections, but skilled 2WD low clearance drivers can make it up most years. 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.

Trailhead at Gibson Lake

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:

High above Gibson Lake on the Kokanee Lake Trail

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.

Fireweed growing along the Kokanee Lake Trail

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.

View of Kokanee Lake

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.

View from the bench on Kokanee Lake

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.

Hiking around Kokanee Lake

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.

Crossing rocks of Kokanee Lake

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!

Crossing a bridge in the meadows
Anemones in the meadows

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.

Looking back at the meadows near 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!

Kaslo Lake Campground Cooking Shelter

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.

Kokanee Glacier Cabin

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!

Hiking back out along Kokanee Lake

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[…] parks like Kokanee Glacier Park have rolls of chicken wire available at the trail head. But if you’re not sure, best bring […]


[…] lakeshore and crossing tributary streams. Most folks will want to venture onwards and upwards into Kokanee Glacier Park, but if you’re looking for an easy hike or something to pair with the Old Growth Trail, then […]


[…] route dips down into the valley between Keen Lake and Garland Lake before connecting with the main Kokanee Lake Trail. We turned left and headed back to the Kaslo Lake campground to spend the night. With some short […]


[…] at the Gibson Lake Trailhead, start following the main Kokanee Lake Trail. This is the main access into Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park and the trail is well-maintained and […]


[…] reach this junction, you must hike into the park via the Kokanee Lake Trail. The hike in takes about 2.5-3 hours so it might be a bit much for anyone day hiking into the park, […]


[…] All in all, this is a neat little spot if you’re spending some time in the area and looking for a family-friendly hike. If you’re looking for more adventure, drive another 10 minutes up Kokanee Glacier Road and you’ll come to the trailhead for the short Gibson Lake Trail as well as the bigger Kokanee Lake Trail. […]

5 years ago

Is the trail open for hiking now?Thank you

Abby Wilson
5 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl

Hi Cheryl, the trail is typically open early June. Two weeks ago a couple of hikers encountered deep snow 8km up Kokanee Creek FSR. The cedar groves at Retallack and Ymir are both accessible right now.


[…] assumes you’ve already backpacked into the heart of Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park via the Kokanee Lake Trail. The starting place is the signed junction that is 0.3km from the Kokanee Glacier Cabin or 0.5km […]

4 years ago

awesome post

3 years ago

Is there anywhere to camp in the park other than at Kaslo Lake?

Abby Wilson
3 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Only Kalso Lake now and it is first come, first served. BC Parks closed other backcountry campgrounds that used to exist in the park.