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.
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.
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.