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.
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!
The main surprise about the Alps Alturas trailhead was just how busy it was! After an hour of driving, we had to back down away from the packed parking lot and join the line of ‘overflow parking’ along the roadside.
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
And back again
The journey home isn’t so bad when you get to see all of the spectacular scenery in reverse!