One of the oldest and most beloved of mountain wilderness areas in the provincial park system is Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. Established in 1922, the park’s high alpine bowls, cirques and peaks have drawn hikers ever since.
Centered around its namesake glacier, the mountain ridges rise from Kootenay Lake on one side, and Slocan Lake on the other. Six major drainages have their headwaters in the park, which is host to countless streams, and many picture-perfect alpine lakes. These include pristine Kokanee Lake, rimmed by precipitous cliffs, rock-slides and avalanche paths, as well as other glacier-tinted gems including Gibson, Kaslo and Tanal.
Adding to the park’s splendor are meadows bursting with alpine flowers, stands of fragrant sub-alpine spruce, open slide paths, cirques, snowfields and other glaciers. At over 32,000 hectares, the park is served with 85 kilometers of established trails. Many of the trails were first established by miners exploring the area’s rich mineral wealth and hikers today can still see old mine sites and long-abandoned cabins.
The principle recreation in the park is backcountry exploration. Hikers can expect to see grouse, ptarmigan, marten, marmot, and, soaring across high ridges, even golden eagles. Fishing for cutthroat or rainbow trout in one of many lakes is productive, and depending on the season, mule deer, mountain goats and black bear will be drawn to the park’s high elevations. Grizzly bear populations receive extra protection from human influence in the Coffee Creek drainage.
As much of the park is above 1800 meters, weather patterns can be severe. Snow will not clear from much of the park until July, and even in summer, rain, sleet and even snowfall are not uncommon. Hikers should also be mindful of thunderstorms when planning their trip. Winter brings abundant, dry snow, and attracts numerous backcountry skiers and boarders.
There are 30 wilderness campsites (with no facilities) in the park, as well as the Kokanee Glacier, Woodbury and Silver Spray cabins. Cabins are provided through the management of the Alpine Club of Canada, who should be contacted for reservations in summer or winter.
Location and access:
Access is from one of five roads (generally not suited to low-clearance vehicles):
From Hwy 3A, 19 km northeast of Nelson, drive up Kokanee Creek for 16 km to Gibson Lake.
From Hwy 31, 10 km north of Ainsworth, drive up Woodbury Creek for 13 km to the trailhead.
From Hwy 31A, 6 km northwest of Kaslo, drive up Keen Creek for 16.5 km to the trailhead at Desmond Creek.
From Hwy 6, 14.4 km north of Slocan City, drive up Enterprise Creek for 13 km to the trailhead.
From Hwy 6, 8 km south of Slocan, drive up Lemon Creek for 16 km to the trailhead.