Lyle Lakes & Mount Brennan

Cradled beneath Mount Brennan’s flanks are three subalpine lakes, glowing mineral-blue and suspended between braided waterfalls. The Lyle Lakes are a beautiful destination! And the trail beyond to Mount Brennan’s 2900m summit offers a challenging hike with staggering views.

Trailhead: Rossiter Creek FSR
Distance, round trip: 10km (Lyle Lakes), 17km (Mt Brennan)
Elevation: +710m (Lyle Lakes), +1574m (Mt Brennan)
Difficulty:  Difficult (Lyle Lakes),  Challenging (Mt Brennan)

New Trailhead

The new trailhead is located 7km up Rossiter Creek FSR. All of the junctions are marked except at 2.4km where you should fork left. The road is in good condition, passable with a 2WD low clearance vehicle, with a few low waterbars that you can mostly drive around.

Trailhead on Rossiter Creek FSR

Why the new trailhead? The old one is tucked away behind kilometres of deteriorating FSR and crosses sections of private land. And the first part of this hike is aimed at the original trailhead. Ah, if only…

Hike to the Old Trailhead

The trail crosses a ditch then ascends to meet another FSR, with a sign directing you left and downhill. After a few minutes of walking down, you cross Lyle Creek and see a mysterious ladder leading off into the dark forest. Is it for you?

Yes, take the ladder! This junction is unsigned, but this is indeed the trail. You’ll start to see blue/orange flagging tape along the route. Keep following it.

Lyle Creek with ladder leading onwards to the trail

After about 15 minutes, the trail ascends to another, older FSR. This junction is marked with a sign, but this time pointing you upwards and to the right. As you proceed, the road becomes rougher and narrower, crowded by overgrown alder bushes.

The original trailhead is at the end of this road, beneath a waterfall descending from Lyle Lakes. We reached this point after 40 minutes of hiking.

Original trailhead, no longer accessible by vehicle

Long Hard Climb

From the original trailhead, it is indeed a long, hard climb to Lyle Lakes. The trail switchbacks thoughtfully, but you will need to ascend 530m to get up to the basin.

Waterfall descending from Lyle Lakes Basin

As you climb, glimpses of Texas and Reco Peaks can be seen across the valley. But mostly you’re stuck on a hot south-facing slope, switchbacking through eternity with distant sounds of the waterfall.

Finally, the trail levels out after almost 3km of switchbacks. You’re almost there!

Trail levelling out into Lyle Lakes Basin

Lyle Lakes

First glimpse of Lyle Lakes

The Lyle Lakes are absolutely stunning. Pale turquoise with glacier flour, the lakes spill into each other in a series of milky rivers and waterfalls.

We reached the lakes after 2 hours of hiking and it was very tempting to stop here, but even if you don’t plan to summit Brennan, it is worth hiking a little further up the trail. Aerial views of the spiralling Lyle Lakes, panoramas of distant Kootenay Lake mountains, and an exploration of old mining sites – all can be yours if you walk onwards and upwards!

Three Lyle Lakes
Waterfalls connecting Lyle Lakes

Hiking Higher

The trail ascends to the left of the lakes, traversing a small rockslide before wrapping up an open ravine.

Trail climbing to Mt Brennan

As you pass a creeklet draining into the lakes, you’ll be able to look up and see the red-brown piles of mining tailings. The trail switchbacks up the slope, past the remains of a wooden structure, to walk you across a string of old mines. Looking back, distant Mount Loki shadows Kootenay Lake and the Lyle Lakes are now far below.

Looking back at Lyle Lakes with Kootenay Lake now in the distance
Old mine beneath Mount Brennan

Higher to Brennan

As you leave behind the subalpine vegetation, the trail disappears into scree slopes dotted with cairns.

Looking ahead, ascent to Mt Brennan’s summit

Mount Brennan is a titan at 2900m, but the hike to the summit is mostly gentle. Sure, there are some sections that cross loose talus. And sure, there’s one part that get a little steep. But mostly, it’s just a long uphill hike on endless rocks.

Not quite the yellow brick road

We kept thinking we were almost there, only to ascend a new ridge and see another hump of mountain in the distance. This went on and on until we hit our ‘turnaround time’ and finally saw the summit – still high and distant!

Almost the Summit

That must be the summit! Still a long way away!

Yes, after 5 hours of hiking and very short breaks, we still hadn’t reached the summit. It was turning to a hot, grumpy slog on the rocks so we called it a day and had our lunch. In the end, we stopped 0.7km before the summit, only 120m elevation to go!

From our lofty ridge, we could see 3/4 of the panorama views – so good enough! Looking east, we spotted at least four massive plumes of wildfire smoke. Looking west, we spotted the Whitewater Canyon Trail far below.

Heading back down

The hike back was incredibly scenic. I’d hoped that by cutting out Mt Brennan’s summit, we’d save ourselves some time to lounge around Lyle Lakes. Not the case! It took almost as much time to go down as it did to go up. We were out for a solid 9 hour day.

Heading home

Download GPS for Lyle Lakes/Mount Brennan



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2 years ago

Cool – you stopped exactly where we did. Damn. We ran out of time too. But we spent over an hour going up and down that one steep scree slope near the top thinking we were going the wrong way. Sigh. We are determined to go back and do the top. Let me know if you want to make another attempt. But given shorter days, maybe next year. LOL

2 years ago
Reply to  goodyniosi

Definitely want to make another attempt, but the days are getting shorter and smokier! Would love to camp up there one year… a day is too short to explore the area!

2 years ago
Reply to  kooteneer

agreed – we were thinking next year of camping above Lyle Lakes – in the little meadow near the creek.

Arthur Terry Turner
Arthur Terry Turner
2 years ago

The old mine dumps above Lyle Lakes have an incredible history dating back to the mid-1890s.

2 years ago

Andre and I went to Lyle Lakes today after I read this post and you mentioned the easy trailhead access. Thank you! Our little Honda Fit had no problem getting up there and the hike was fantastic.

2 years ago
Reply to  stilleok

One of my favourite hikes! Glad you made it up. 🙂

Eric Martens
Eric Martens
2 years ago

Today is the first day I have seen anything from kooteneer and I love it. My wife and I love hiking East and Wet Kootenays and these write-ups are excellent. Thanks for sharing.


[…] 2.4km, reach a junction. The left fork goes to the Lyle Lakes/Mt Brennan trailhead – ascend right for Mt Jardine. At 2.5km, reach another junction and fork right again. Now […]

1 year ago
Trail Rating :

A long day but really beautiful. Couldn’t believe the ridge to the summit kept going but I made it eventually.

(Comment imported from old trail rating system)

Trip Date
1 year ago

We tried to go to mt Brennan summit but only got so far above the lakes because of snow. Is there a better time of year to go?

Trip Date
Abby Wilson
1 year ago
Reply to  Brennan

The snow will be gone mid-July! It’s pretty high alpine and takes a while to melt!

Dave Thompson
Dave Thompson
1 year ago

A lot of trees down across the trail in the upper half (starting about 1600m elevation, i.e. 3.5km from the trailhead at the switchback). Also trail is overgrown to almost invisible and slippery in the transition area above the old road (starting at about 1,400m, or 2.2km in). Be careful about your footing. This was July 11, 2019. Still worth the hike. Trip Date 2019-07-11 Trail Conditions A lot of trees down across the trail in the upper half (starting about 1600m elevation, i.e. 3.5km from the trailhead at the switchback). Also trail is overgrown to almost invisible and slippery… Read more »

Abby Wilson
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Thompson

Great trip report! Thanks for the most recent conditions!

Shannon Carter
Shannon Carter
11 months ago

Thanks for the great info and map! We camped at the lakes and did the summit the next day.

Trip Date
Trail Conditions
Well marked (better than in the past)
Access Road Conditions
Access Road Vehicle
2WD Low Clearance
4 months ago

Anyone have any info for winter access, is there a quicker way in when roads are not plowed or do you have to ski in the entire way on the summer access road?

Abby Wilson
4 months ago
Reply to  brad

Hi Brad, I’m pretty sure you’d have to ski/boot-pack your way up the road. There is a lodge near the trailhead and you could make inquiries about closer access through them:

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