The landscape changes dramatically between Christina Lake and Grand Forks. You round a corner on Highway 3 and suddenly forest gives way to grassy slopes, full of dramatic pines and boulders. If you’ve ever gazed longingly at the hills and wondered if there is a hiking trail, well yes! Yes there is!
Trailhead and Driving Directions
The turn-off onto Gilpin Forest Service Road (FSR) from Highway 3 sneaks up and is easy to miss! Coming from Christina Lake and heading West, reset your odometer at the junction of Highway 3 and Highway 395 then drive exactly 10km West.
Cross a cattle gate and drive 0.7km up Gilpin FSR to reach the large parking area on the right with an outhouse and signs. This road is suitable for 2WD low clearance vehicles.
A word of caution: when driving home, it’s a blind turn left on Highway 3 so you’ll need to turn right and find a safer area to turn around.
Begin by walking up Gilpin FSR. Then after 300m, turn right onto the signed “Larry’s Trail” (this is also labelled as the Bundschu Trail on some maps). The trail dips down and follows an old fence full of bird houses, then begins to contour along the hillside.
This is beautiful, open country with prairie grasses and song birds, including meadowlarks! Watch for cactus, rattlesnakes, and stands of poison ivy as you step. In late April, the trail is studded with Yellow Balsamroot and in June, look for Blanketflower.
Big Horned Sheep also frequent Gilpin Grasslands, so it’s best to keep pets leashed and be on the lookout.
Along the Slopes
Cross Gilpin Creek after a kilometre and look down to see the historic settlement of Gilpin, some of the older houses crumbling into the Kettle River below. The trail will temporarily merge with an old road (bypass the cattle gate) as it crosses the slopes. Watch for poison ivy stands after 2km.
Larry’s Trail is an out-and-back trail, so you can follow it all the way to the end at 5.2km or we picked a scenic spot after 4km for lunch. The last kilometer of trail to the edge of the park doesn’t have the same big views as the earlier sections. On the hike back, look for Grand Forks in the distance. All in all, a great shoulder-season hike!