Mount Loki

In Norse mythology, Loki is a deceptive trickster, causing trouble and strife among the realms of the gods. And Mount Loki is no different. With false summits, an intimidating profile, and a fierce ascent, Mount Loki challenges hikers to make it to the summit. The reward is top-of-the-world views of the Purcell Mountains and distant Kootenay Lake.

September 2019 – hiking access to Mount Loki is temporarily closed due to a nearby wildfire.

Summary
Trailhead: Portman Creek FSR
Distance, round trip: 11.6km
Elevation: +1137m
Difficulty:  Challenging 

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Trailhead & Driving Directions

The trailhead is accessed 9.2km up Portman Creek FSR on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake. As of 2019, there are dozens of new waterbars on the road – they are starting to soften, but at 4WD is recommended to drive up.

Mt. Loki is a popular spot with locals and camping in nearby Garland Bay makes for a nice weekend outing.

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Trailhead with trail leading up into the forest
Safety
Exposure – there is some exposure in the final section of this hike as you scramble to Mount Loki’s summit. Be cautious of cliffy edges on the north side of the route.

Rockfall – there is a risk of falling rock on the final ascent to Mount Loki’s summit, especially if other hikers are on the route. Sections of the route cross talus slopes where loose rock may slide.

Up to Portman’s Notch

The first section of the trail climbs through an old cutblock and into the higher forest.

Sections are steep, but it’s mostly a gentle climb up towards the ridge line. The forest breaks away to meadows of fireweed with plenty of huckleberry bushes.

Portman’s Notch is the low point in the massive ridge line defending Loki. As the trail approaches the notch, it steepens into a series of switchbacks with loose dirt.

Ridgeline to Loki’s Base

After about one hour of hiking, you ascend to the top of the Portman’s Notch and Mount Loki comes into view, overpowering the horizon:

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Mt Loki as seen from Portman’s Notch

As you hike the ridge line, the trail evens out to easy, level walking. On either side of the ridge, the Purcell Mountains reach into the sky. Looking back, Kootenay Lake can be seen far below, although for us it was shrouded in a heavy layer of wildfire smoke.

Loki is extremely intimidating when viewed from a distance. It pierces the sky, as sharp and serrated as a shark’s tooth. But don’t let that stop you – as you near the base, Loki unfolds to reveal its false summit and the slopes begin to angle into an approachable ascent.

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Approaching Mount Loki

Hiking and Scrambling Up

The trail continues up the sides of Loki, marked with cairns and paths stomped into the crumbling talus. It can be hard to follow, but stay to the right side of the ridges where the exposure is minimal and you’ll keep picking up the trail.

We were anticipating the false summit which we saw earlier on the ridge line, but Loki is tricky and there is a second false summit along the ascent.

The path dissolves among the rocks when scrambling becomes necessary, then reappears among slippery talus slopes. It was very steep and our progress was very slow.

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Almost there! Following a talus path to the summit

The Summit

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The summit cairn was a welcome sight! We reached the summit after about 4 hours of hiking and were so grateful for the cool breeze blowing at high elevation!

The Purcell Mountains surrounded us in hazy panoramas and we spent a long time admiring the view.

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Cairn overlooking Kootenay Lake and Kokanee Glacier

The wildfire smoke was thick over Kootenay Lake, but the rest of the landscape was floating above the haze. We could see Kokanee Glacier as well as Mount Brennan to the west.

Hiking back down

The trail was much easier to follow coming down from the summit. But it was still steep and poles were much appreciated on the talus.

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Hiking down Loki’s slopes

We took our time descending. There were still sections that required handholds. It wasn’t until we got back down to the ridge line that we were able to start moving along again at a decent pace.

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[…] on the hike down – only 2 hours! Lost Mountain has similar distance and elevation to the Mount Loki trail, but I kept marvelling at how much easier it is. The trail crew did an excellent job at managing the […]

Mike Piva
Guest
Mike Piva

Hi, your new site is really nice! In regards to Loki’s ridge, are there any parts that are scary or dangerous?

Thanks!

Abby Wilson
Admin

Hi Mike, Mt Loki does have a bit of exposure once you start climbing to the summit. You need to say away from the left (northern) edge where it drops down into cliffs. Luckily the trail and cairns keep you safely to the right so as long as you can keep following them, you should be okay. The ascent is steep, but the grade always felt manageable to me without any places where a loose foot would have huge consequences. I did appreciate having hiking poles for balance though as a there is quite a bit of loose talus heading… Read more »

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[…] Added yellow safety boxes highlighting significant hazards on hikes and routes (example Mt Loki). […]

David Hartman
Guest
David Hartman

Unfortunately you may need to update the section this hike is in. Just read a report on West Kootenay Hiking Access saying there are now 100+ water bars along Portman Rd

Pascal
Guest
Pascal
Trail Rating :
     

Headed up Loki on June 16. Some snow in patches but overall pretty manageable.

The waterboard are a bit of a mix. Some are shallow, some are set far enough to the side of the road that detouring is possible, and a few are trenches. It looks like the traffic so far is starting to soften them up a bit, but still a ways to go before I would risk a trip up in a low clearance vehicle.

Trip Date
2019-06-16
Trail Conditions
Where not covered in snow or vanished among rocks the trail is good. When in the rocks it's tough to follow, but generally heading uphill one can't go too far astray. It's easier to pick up on the way down, for sure.
Access Road Conditions
Good except for many waterbars. It seems a touch excessive, to be honest.
Access Road Vehicle
2WD High Clearance
Abby Wilson
Admin

Thanks for this update! I’ve removed the ‘2WD Low Clearance’ category for Loki as it’s now got a tough access road!

Jesse Scharf
Guest
Jesse Scharf

Hey it’s definitely doable with low accessible AWD! The water bars were pretty softened by mid July 2019, could easily sneak around the majority of the dip and make it through slowly, no issues

Pascal
Guest
Pascal

Good to hear Jesse. When I drove up I had a suspicion they’d mellow out fairly quickly.

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[…] – be it Kokanee Glacier, an Old Gowth Cedar Forest or the challenging Mt. Loki […]