Dayhikes into BC's mighty Purcell Range
The Purcells are quickly becoming one of my favourite mountain ranges in BC. They are a vast and untracked wilderness of granite spires, glacier-draped peaks, and thickly forested valleys, with only a handful of maintained trails. Bounded by the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers, the Purcells divide the Kootenays into two distinct climatic regions, casting a vast rain shadow that allows inland temperate rainforests of lush hemlock and cedar groves in the West and drier pine forests and rangeland in the East. There is a lot to see and explore, and few trails have become as storied as the stunning Jumbo Pass.
This month we teamed up with Coleman Canada on their "Get Outside Day" initiative to get out and spend a couple days exploring the area. Camping on the shores of Kootenay Lake, we accessed Jumbo from the west up the Glacier Creek FSR, and combined it with another nearby trail into Monica Meadows.
Accessing Jumbo from the west requires a long drive out, first on winding lakeside highways then on dusty bumpy backroads, so we wanted to camp for a few days, explore the area, and make the most of it. We set up camp on the shores of beautiful Kootenay Lake, where we could hang out by the water, go for morning swims, and lounge around in comfort.
Our first hike was up to the Monica Meadows. A relatively gentle hike, you quickly ascend to a broad alpine meadow dotted with larch trees, blankets of wildflowers, and a couple little lakes. With great views of the Macbeth Icefield, the Cauldron, and the towering triple threat of Amen-Ra, Isis, and Osiris, there is plenty to look at as you explore.
Our second hike was to the Jumbo Pass. One of the last areas of vast intact wilderness in BC's Southern Interior, Jumbo has been in the news a bunch the past couple decades due to a proposed and controversial ski resort. Home to one of North America's most important grizzly bear populations, many locals are opposed to the development, raising awareness about the necessity of keeping truly wild spaces. It's a beautiful area, and we were excited to head out and see it for ourselves.
On the border between the East and West Kootenays, Jumbo is accessible from two trailheads. We took the slightly more difficult (but closer) West Kootenay approach. A bit longer and steeper than the Monica Meadows trail, most of the hike was is through forests, with views only once you near the top of the pass and beyond. But once you're up the views are magnificent.
Jumbo is a popular trail, and its no wonder why. There's a little 8-person cabin available if you book ahead, a bunch of ridges and summits to explore if you have the time, and some world-class powder and ski touring come winter. Just there for the day, we clambered up the trail behind the cabin and out onto the ridge for a couple hours, gazing out over the sprawling Jumbo and Glacier Creek valleys.
Sometimes it just seems crazy that places like this exist, only a day trip away.
Big thanks to Coleman Canada's National Outside Day initiative for helping make this trip possible