A panoramic landscape of meadows and mountains, waterfalls and wildflowers, larches and lakes! Monica Meadows is an incredibly scenic hike on a high alpine plateau.
Trailhead: Glacier Creek FSR
Distance, round trip: 10km
Max elevation: 2365 m
Min elevation: 1782 m
Total climbing: 672 m
Total descent: -653 m
Trailhead & Driving Directions
Monica Meadows is accessed up Glacier Creek FSR and driving directions can be found on Rec Sites and Trails BC. We camped at Glacier Creek Campground in order to hike Monica Meadows, Jumbo Pass, and Macbeth Icefield all in one long weekend.
Glacier Creek FSR was in good condition, but the final 5km to Monica Meadows was rougher with climbing switchbacks and could be challenging for 2WD low clearance vehicles. The trailhead is high at 1800+m elevation and starts off with quite a view of the surrounding mountains! They don’t call it ‘Glacier Creek’ for nothing!
The trail immediately starts to climb in what the trailhead refers to as “seven switchbacks of formidable trail building”. It’s a 400m elevation gain to the plateau and feels a lot like hiking Pulpit Rock.
Views of Horsehoe Glacier sneak through the trees, but for the most part this ascent is swift and forested. It took us about an hour of climbing before the trail wrapped around the base of a ridge and ascended to the meadows.
Meadow Exploring Options
As you ascend the meadows, the trail starts to fade in places. Before you go leaping off, there are some important rules about meadow-walking in a fragile alpine environment:
- Always walk on the trail if there is one.
- If there isn’t a trail, prioritize walking on rocks and dirt. This will do the least damage.
- If there’s no rocks or dirt, then walk on soft green plants (grasses and flowers). This may do some damage, but these plants are good at recovering.
- Try to avoid walking on woody plants (heathers). Crunching on those does the most damage and these plants are very sensitive.
There are two good options to explore the meadows where there are fragments of trail to walk on: the ridge and the lake.
Follow the main trail as it ascends across a couple marshy patches with wooden walking beams. As the trail wraps into the main meadow, it ascends north with a rolling ridge to the west. At 3.0km, there is a faint junction with the main trail continuing north to the ridge and a fainter path heading east towards the lakes.
Walking the Ridge
Heading north, the trail is well established as it traverses the meadows and slowly bends to climb the final 200m to the top of the ridge.
Attaining the ridge allows you to peer down the valley where you hiked up, looking across to the Horseshoe Glacier, Mount Macbeth, and Mount Lady MacBeth.
The trail traverses along the top of the ridge. To the east, the dark peaks of Amon Ra and Osiris shadow the horizon and a natural arch can be spotted in the high jagged ridge-line near Mt. Isis.
The trail fades as it winds back down the ridge, so pay attention or walk with care. We returned to the junction that was 3.0km from the trailhead and took the faint trail towards the lakes.
Exploring the Lakes
The faint trail dips up and down over ribs of rock until it reaches the lakes, dropping to cross a stream which you must rock-hop across. There were lots of wildflowers in early August at these lakes and we made our way over to a distant waterfall pouring into the far end.
Heading back down
One of the best times to visit Monica Meadows (and Jumbo too!) is September when the larch trees turn gold – we could definitely appreciate how beautiful this was going to be! People also backcountry camp at the meadows, but there are no facilities and the meadows are fragile so you need to take care to minimize your impact if staying longer.
After exploring the lakes, we headed back down to the trailhead. We were out for about 4 hours on the trails.