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.
Distance, round trip: 10km (Lyle Lakes), 17km (Mt Brennan)
Elevation: +710m (Lyle Lakes), +1574m (Mt Brennan)
Season: mid-July to late September
Difficulty: Difficult (Lyle Lakes), Challenging (Mt Brennan)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
The trail ascends to the left of the lakes, traversing a small rockslide before wrapping up an open ravine.
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.
Higher to Brennan
As you leave behind the subalpine vegetation, the trail disappears into scree slopes dotted with cairns.
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.
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
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.
Download GPS for Lyle Lakes/Mount Brennan
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
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!
agreed – we were thinking next year of camping above Lyle Lakes – in the little meadow near the creek.
The old mine dumps above Lyle Lakes have an incredible history dating back to the mid-1890s.
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.
One of my favourite hikes! Glad you made it up. 🙂
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 […]
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)
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?
The snow will be gone mid-July! It’s pretty high alpine and takes a while to melt!
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.
Great trip report! Thanks for the most recent conditions!
Thanks for the great info and map! We camped at the lakes and did the summit the next day.
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?
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: http://www.mountbrennan.com/
Is this hike easy to find ? The road/ trail doesn’t come up on Google Maps .
Most of the hikes and access roads in the West Kootenay aren’t shown on Google Maps. You’ll need to bring the driving directions in order to find the trailhead as you drive up a logging road and need to make certain turns.
@Brad, The Whitewater canyon road/trail would probably be your best option for skiing in that area. Check it out on Google Earth.
Besides being a back country banana, I’m also interested in the geology of the places I hike. Going up My. Brennan, one sees evidence of a very active early life of the mountain, with intrusion, fold and upthrust characteristics. But the killer find is the “yellow brick road”. It looks like a well-defined dike intrusion.
For those who understand the geology, am I right in that observation?
Much thanks. Keep the backwoods wierd!