The trail up Mount Sentinel is a scenic choice for strong hikers. Edging between rock bluffs, ponderosa pine, and wildflowers, the steep trail leads to a series of stunning viewpoints over the Columbia River Valley.

Summary
Trailhead: Terrance Road
Distance, round trip: 9.3km
Elevation: +863m
Difficulty: Difficult
Total distance: 9326 m
Max elevation: 1302 m
Min elevation: 459 m
Total climbing: 922 m
Total descent: -908 m
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Trailhead & Driving Directions

The start of the trail is unmarked and a bit tricky to find.

Get onto Robson Road outside of Castlegar and turn onto Terrace Road (follow the signs for Verigin’s Tomb). Drive 0.3km up Terrace Road, and then park in a pullout on the right side.

Cross the road and pick up a trail winding up the slope. You need to do a short hike across a network of paths, dirt roads, and ATV trails to reach the start of the trail.

Watch for the gas line which is is marked by white and yellow posts. Follow the gas line road north-east and look for a pile of rocks and a faint path to the side of the road. That is the official start of the trail! You’ll reach it after about 10 minutes of leaving the car.

Safety
Exposure – there is exposure along this trail with steep drops and narrow footing.
Rockfall – there is a risk of falling rock if other hikers are on the route.

Below the Sentinel Bluffs

The trail winding below the big Mount Sentinel Bluffs

The scenery starts as soon as you pick up the trail, and it never really stops! The first part of the hike rises along a series of meadows and boulders, with soft footing and wildflowers. There are many tempting picnic locations, but you’ve barely started.

Viewpoint along the trail, looking West up Arrow Lake

Look up and admire the tall rocky bluffs above you. The trail will eventually lead to the top of these and even higher! Note that the objective of this hike isn’t actually the summit of Mount Sentinel (which is a long way off and unworthy of the effort), but the viewpoints along the way. You can go as far up as you choose.

After about 1km from the car, you’ll ascend to the top of a small rocky lookout with a nice view up the Lower Arrow Lake towards Syringa Provincial Park.

Steep and sketchy

And now the steep part! The next 1km of trail ascends 350m. It’s a bitterly steep ascent, with some narrow footing and scrambly sections. Not for new hikers!

The trail climbs, crossing a rockslide and then winding through a stand of Ponderosa Pines with slippery needles along the path. Then it gets even steeper with a series of wires installed as a handrail. Switchback through open grassy slopes and step carefully as the path narrows along areas with exposure.

Steep narrow trail, high above the Columbia River

Reach the top of the big Sentinel bluffs after 2.3km from the car. There are many nice open spots for a break with a view!

Higher along the Ridge

It’s worth hiking higher along the trail as it ascends the ridge line. The grade lessens for easier walking, and the views open up even more!

In the spring, this area is covered in Yellow Glacier Lily and white Spring Beauty. There is a series of meadows and mossy plateaus. You’ll also see mighty big Ponderosa Pines along the way, some of them are gnarled with wind and some of them dotted with lichen.

Following the trail through a gateway of Ponderose Pines
Even higher- a viewpoint over the Lower Arrow Lake

If you continue higher, the trail will go into a dense forest and is hard to follow in the spring when snow covers the route. Stay with it for a few minutes and then reach an old road at 4.1km.

Lunch near the road

If you turn left on the road, you’ll come out of the forest to some open views and rocky bluffs. This is where we stopped to have lunch, after about 3 hours of ascent.

If you do want to go further, you can head back down the road a bit and then bush-whack your way to the location of an old fire station. It wasn’t clear if there was any kind of trail for this route, as much of the road was covered in snow. And you’d need to have a lot more time and energy to continue on! You can find a bit of a description of this route on the Trails in Time site.

Back down

Walking along a scenic stretch of trail

Turn around and re-trace your steps to head back down! The steep and scrambly sections can be more challenging heading downhill, especially when you’re tired. So take your time! Hiking poles are also nice to have on the descent.

Heading down, the trail is covered in Glacier Lillies, downtown Castlegar below

This is a gorgeous spring hike, with plenty of greenery and flowers. In the summer, it might be too hot to hike enjoyably as the trail climbs up the south-facing slope and gets lots of heat and sun. There isn’t much shade and there is no water.

Return to the car and remember to check for ticks!

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Goody Niosi
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Excellent report – accurate!

Chris Cowan
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Chris Cowan

Good job Abby… Well worth mentioning the exposure. it’s not for those without a good head for heights and a bit of hiking experience.