The Mel DeAnna trail is a forested loop around the tranquil Champion Ponds. It’s a great shoulder-season hike with fall colours, Columbia Valley views, and plenty of birdwatching on the ponds.
Trailhead: Highway 3
Distance, round trip: 5.8km
Max elevation: 741 m
Min elevation: 688 m
Total climbing: 157 m
Total descent: -146 m
Trailhead & Driving Directions
Leaving Castlegar, drive a few minutes up Highway 3 towards Salmo. As the highway ascends, watch for the signed rest area on the right.
Park at the rest area, and the follow the trail up past the bathrooms, past the scenic benches, and through a gate in the chain-link fence.
Along the Forest Floor
The first 1.5km of trail quickly leaves the noise of the highway and descends into the forest. The trailhead claims this is a “0m elevation” hiking, but you’ll find there are plenty of small ups and downs to keep you active.
In early November, most of the fall colours had faded, but this trail would be amazing around Thanksgiving time. We walked along a carpet of golden larch needles as we neared the ponds.
Loop Around the Ponds
Once you reach the ponds, the trail breaks into a 2km loop with a handy outhouse at the junction! There are A-frame shelters at either end of the loop and a many interpretive signs along the way.
We headed counter-clockwise around the loop. This led us through the forest with just glimpses of the Columbia River Valley, until a spur of trail dropped down to a scenic bench with a great view:
After this view point, the trail crosses a stream at the far end of the ponds and heads down to the other shelter. Then you’ll climb up again over rocky bluffs above the ponds with good views of the water. Perfect birdwatching!
As you continue along the loop, you’ll pass the foundations of a historic cabin as well as an abandoned mine which tunnels back into the rock.
After a few more minutes through the forest, finish the loop around the ponds and head back on the main trail. Overall, we were out for about 2.5 hours enjoying the trail.