The Mill Lake Trail has seen big changes in recent years. A new access road has shortened the trail into a reasonable day hike, but much of the forest burnt in a 2017 wildfire. The trail now cuts through open slopes recovering with fireweed.
Distance, round trip: 8.8km
Season: late June to late September
Trailhead and Driving Directions
After crossing the Harrop Proctor Ferry, drive 2.3km on the main Harrop Proctor Road. Just past the nursery, turn right onto signed East Harrop Main Line road and reset your odometer. The road climbs over a series of switchbacks with small waterbars. It is suitable for an experienced and confident 2WD low clearance vehicle, otherwise 4WD high clearance is recommended.
At 4.3km, fork right and follow the main road along the side of the valley, with Mill Creek far below. Stay on the main road and avoid the left spurs. At 9.4km, reach the trailhead clearing. Take the left fork to a wide parking area with the Mill Lake Trail signed.
Across Burnt Slopes
A few minutes of hiking and the trail dips down a steep bank to cross a tributary creek on a bridge. Then it rises back up through the open forest with huckleberries, thimbleberries, and fireweed growing along the trail. Call out for bears!
At 1.7km, cross Mill Creek on logs. Then the trail steepens as it climbs away from the creek to cross open slopes and charred trees. You can really appreciate the scale of the wildfire – look across the valley to see more burnt forest above and beyond.
There are several marshy sections with sucking black mud along the trail. Tread carefully or risk losing a boot.
At 3.5km, near Mill Creek again as it runs down a gulley. The trail steepens for a final climb before levelling out to a plateau of wetland by the lake.
Find Mill Lake 4.4km from the trailhead. It’s a small subalpine lake surrounded by toasted trees. Recent work is being done to restore the outhouse and shelter.
You can follow a faint trail around the lake to admire the flowers in the wetlands. Listen for splashing fish across the lake.
Retrace your steps to head home. The final subalpine lake might be a worthy destination for fishing, but hikers should look to other West Kootenay trails for a more exciting day.
Great photos, Abby! You bring out the strange beauty of a burnt forest.