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.
Distance, round trip: 11.6km
Season: mid-July to late September
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.
Bring lots of water – there is none along the trail once the snow is gone.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[…] 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 […]
Hi, your new site is really nice! In regards to Loki’s ridge, are there any parts that are scary or dangerous?
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 »
[…] Added yellow safety boxes highlighting significant hazards on hikes and routes (example Mt Loki). […]
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
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.
Thanks for this update! I’ve removed the ‘2WD Low Clearance’ category for Loki as it’s now got a tough access road!
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
Good to hear Jesse. When I drove up I had a suspicion they’d mellow out fairly quickly.
[…] – be it Kokanee Glacier, an Old Gowth Cedar Forest or the challenging Mt. Loki […]
[…] secluded areas are also a starting point to many outstanding vista hikes, including, Mt. Loki, Monique Meadows, MacBeth Glacier,Jumbo Pass and the Earl Grey […]
[…] – Mt. Loki (near […]
[…] – Mt. Loki (near […]
Hi everyone! Do you think this trail would be doable in late may? I have a high clearance 4WD so not too worried about the road. Any advice is appreciated!
I don’t think so – Loki is high elevation so it will be snow-covered until mid-July. Also, parts of the lower trail cross avalanche paths so it would be very risky even with snowshoes. Check out the shoulder season hikes to see what is recommended for this time of year: https://westkootenayhiking.ca/category/trail-review/shoulder-season-hike/
Couldn’t make it past first creek crossing
What a beast – this hike is no joke! It was epic, and just the right amount of gnarly… the uphill just never ends. Portman crescent FSR is the one, look for the tiny handwritten “LOKI” signs along the way. 9.2kms is pretty bang on where the trailhead starts, there was blue ribbon tape to highlight it at the side of the road. Parking right out front of trailhead on side of road. Started out pretty easeful through the bush. Larches galore!! False summits, one after another. It was worth the top, soo worth the top. The views simply can’t… Read more »