Alps Alturas

There is something captivating about a hike called Alps Alturas. The very name evokes adventure and wonder, and the trail lives up to it! This hike climbs through forest and meadow, wrapping around shoulders and canyons to bring you up into the height of the mountains.

Summary
Trailhead: Hicks Creek FSR
Distance, round trip: 9.6km
Elevation: +640m
Season: mid-July to late September
Difficulty:  Moderate

Trailhead

The drive up Hicks Creek FSR is long, but it’s definitely not a nail-biter of a trip. Sure, the access road wraps spectacularly around the edge of low mountains, blazing with fireweed and twisting with panoramas. And sure, with the trailhead up at 27.6km, it takes at least a full hour of driving. But the road is relatively smooth, relatively wide, and  doesn’t have too many surprise obstacles (just a smattering of shallow potholes and a large, navigable boulder).

There are a couple of water bars in the last 2km that might challenge a low clearance vehicle, but overall the access road was pleasantly tame. Along the way, we passed the access to the Dennis Creek Trail – another gem!

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Alps Alturas Trailhead

Via Mining Road

The trail begins by following an old mining road for the first 2km. It winds through a cutblock, and then climbs steadily through the forest. And it’s a bit of a ‘top heavy’ hike with the majority of the elevation gain at the beginning. Whew!

We caught glimpses of Dennis Ridge through the trees, but the scenery didn’t really get going until we reached the saddle beneath Mt. Dolly Varden.

Crossing the Saddle

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Trail leading up to the saddle beneath Mt. Dolly Varden

The saddle is a bit of a welcome relief, with the forest falling away to big mountain views and wildflower meadows. Also a relief: the terrain on the saddle takes a break from the constant elevation gain and the trail even descends for a brief respite!

To the left, Mt. Dolly Varden looms above the trail. To the right, panoramas of distant Dennis Ridge, the Valhallas, Kokanee Glacier and more!

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Crossing the saddle

The Sketchy Part

After leaving the saddle, the trail wraps around the base of Mt. Dolly Varden and ascends along a series of steep rockslides over the Marten Creek canyon. Looking down, small cerulean lakes are cradled in the valley floor. Looking ahead, the trail edges along the rock slides with a steep drop!

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Looking down Marten Creek canyon
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The trail, edging precariously along the rockslide

Take your time. The trail gets narrow, the terrain gets loose and slippery, and the drop is unfortunate. As you skirt the canyon edge, wildflowers erupt distractingly among the rocks.

Trail’s End

As you climb the final shoulder at the end of the canyon, the trail slowly fades away. Marten Mountain comes into view with a vast indigo tarn beneath its flanks.

We stopped here for lunch and watched some brave people boot-ski down the distant snow patches, towards the icy-blue of another tarn.

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Tarn beneath Marten Mountain
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Panorama, looking back down the valley

And back again

The journey home isn’t so bad when you get to see all of the spectacular scenery in reverse!

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Heading back down the trail

Download GPS file – Alps Alturas

Alps Alturas

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[…] Dennis Creek Trailhead is located halfway along the access road to Alps Alturas. Driving directions can be found at Sites and Trails […]

Rory
Rory
2 years ago
Trail Rating :
     

The road was pretty good going up, I have a small jeep with good clearance, dusty though. I found the trail very steep, I am so out of shape! But the views are stunning. We only made it to the view of the first lake then turned back, gorgeous wild flowers, hucks were still green up top so not much bear sign, my daughters phone said we walked 14km, but we did not get to the end. We were there the 1st week in August 2018. Stunning views, gorgeous flowers and if I can do it, most can. I think… Read more »

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[…] Dennis Creek Trailhead is located halfway along the access road to Alps Alturas. Driving directions can be found at Sites and Trails […]

Cheryl
Cheryl
1 year ago

We blew one tire on our Subaru Outback (all wheel drive) on the way up, changed it, and then decided to do part of the hike before heading down. We hiked to the saddle with our 12 year old, and found it quite manageable to that point (not scary), although it is a workout. The views are spectacular, and the meadow quite lovely. The road, however, then shredded two more tires on our descent, and we ended up having to walk out 17 km without cell service. The road is littered with a number of small rock slides with very… Read more »

Trip Date
2020-07-22
Trail Conditions
very good
Access Road Conditions
impassable
Access Road Vehicle
4WD High Clearance
Abby Wilson
Admin
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheryl

Thanks for this trip report! I’ve posted on the West Kootenay Hiking Access FB page to warn others. Sorry about all your tires. 🙁

Cheryl
Cheryl
1 year ago
Reply to  Abby Wilson

Thanks, Abby, for helping to get the word out.

Elizabeth King
Elizabeth King
5 months ago
Reply to  Cheryl

That area is notorious for tire eating. I blew two on Wilson FSR in a weekend and vowed never to return, glad you made it out safely!

Rob
Rob
1 year ago
Trail Rating :
     

The drive was slow but very manageable; a bit of clearance is required but no real challenges. The hike up took about 2.5 hours and there were two patches of snow that were a bit precarious to cross but outstanding hike! Did it with three kids; 9, 12 and 14 and packs to stay the night. Great hike.

Trip Date
2020-08-20
Trail Conditions
Good
Access Road Conditions
Good
Access Road Vehicle
4WD High Clearance
Elizabeth King
Elizabeth King
5 months ago
Trail Rating :
     

We went up in mid September 2019, with no idea what to expect. Wound up in the clouds with low visibility and fresh signs of grizzly activity. We made it to “the sketchy part” before deciding that maybe, just maybe it would be smarter to turn around and do the drive back in the day light. 8/10, plan your trip better than us. Still a really great hike.

Trip Date
2019-09-15
Trail Conditions
Good
Access Road Conditions
Good
Access Road Vehicle
4WD High Clearance
Miles Parker
Miles Parker
1 month ago
Trail Rating :
     

Absolutely stunning hike. A few wildflowers too and lots of huckleberries hiding around! There are a couple of spots that feel dicey but are really more low risk / high consequence. There was (literally) no one there when we were from 10am-4pm on a holiday weekend! Maybe all these reports of road issues are keeping people away — we had no real problems. There are a few sections where the road is shaley and there are fist sized very sharp loose death rocks on road that if you hit you would probably lose a tire, but nothing embedded or hidden… Read more »

Trip Date
2021-09-06
Access Road Conditions
Rocky, two tricky sections otherwise would be accesible
Access Road Vehicle
4WD High Clearance
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