If you’re staying in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, Smuggler’s Ridge is a short day hike that wanders high above the park to look down on the glacier and surrounding landmarks.
Trailhead: Kokanee Glacier FSR
Distance, round trip: 6.46km
Max elevation: 2509 m
Min elevation: 1973 m
Total climbing: 610 m
Total descent: -608 m
This route starts at the junction to the Slocan Chief Cabin in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.
To reach this junction, you must hike into the park via the Kokanee Lake Trail. The hike in takes about 2.5-3 hours so it might be a bit much for anyone day hiking into the park, but it’s a great option for folks staying at the Kokanee Glacier Cabin or Kaslo Lake Campground overnight.
Up to the Slocan Chief Cabin
Following the trail to Slocan Chief Cabin takes you on a steady climb over the edge of Smuggler’s Ridge. It’s 1.2km from the junction to the cabin with scenic meadows and small lakes along the way. Looking ahead, you’ll see Smuggler’s Ridge reaching up into the sky with tall Mt. Kitchener on the far right, the smaller Pyramid in the middle, and the arching Battleship to the left. Kokanee Glacier is nestled between these landmarks.
The Slocan Chief Cabin is worth a visit! Built in early 1896 as a miner’s hut, the cabin was used by backcountry enthusiasts for many years until the new Kokanee Glacier Cabin was put up. Today the cabin is an interpretive centre with historic pictures and artifacts.
Behind the cabin, two trails branch off. One goes down to the Helen Deane Lakes, and the other is marked for Smuggler’s Ridge and Mt Kitchener.
Up to Smuggler’s Ridge
The trail winds up through the forest and then approaches the moraine beneath Kokanee Glacier. In the distance, a waterfall churns down to the Helen Deane Lakes.
About half-way up the ridge, the trail will split in a junction with the left arm heading over to the Battleship (traversing the edge of the moraine) and the right continuing up to Smuggler’s Ridge. As the the trail climbs higher, it begins to disappear among the rocks and you must watch for cairns marking the way.
The cairns lead to the crest of Smuggler’s Ridge and then start following the ridge line. Patches of trail appear and fade so pay attention as you climb. On the way up, we ended up following a cairn route that dropped lower than the ridge and had to do some extra hiking to get back up.
The Pyramid is an obvious rock formation when approaching Smuggler’s Ridge from the Slocan Chief Cabin, but from the ridge-top it is simply the high-point below Mt. Kitchener. As we made our way over to the Pyramid, we picked up another chain of cairns – there are many routes along the top of the ridge! This set led us to some old tailing piles where the old Smuggler Mine used to be with wooden remnants from the old stables.
Ascending the Pyramid
We route-picked the simplest path to the top of the Pyramid, sticking to the western side where the ridge slopes up in an approachable ascent without any exposure. There are steep cliffs on the east side of the Pyramid so you need to be careful along the top.
From the top of the Pyramid, Kokanee Glacier pours down the mountain in blue-grey folds. The stark ridge of the Battleship is just beyond.
Looking down, Kokanee Glacier Park opens up like a map: the familiar peaks and lakes can be seen in the distance, with the roofs of Kokanee Glacier Cabin and the campground cooking shelter far below.
It was tempting to traverse Smuggler’s Ridge all the way back down to the campground and cut off some distance by avoiding Slocan Chief Cabin, but we stuck to the trail on the way back.