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Daytripping into BC's mighty Purcell Mountains

words by Emanuel Smedbøl

Hiking above Jumbo Pass in BC's Purcell Mountains

One of our favourite things to do is set up a cozy camp somewhere nice, then set out and explore the area for a few days. When you're on the road the default is to pitch tent every evening and decamp every morning, but if you find a place with a bunch of things to do it's great to create a more comfortable camp and unwind for a few days. That way you can just roll out in the morning, then come home in the evening and relax. It's kinda like moving the comforts of your home somewhere new for a few days. It's great.

This month we teamed up with Coleman Canada's "Get Outside Masters Program" to do exactly that. Camping on the shores of Kootenay Lake, we took a couple day trips into the Glacier Creek area, hiking two of the Purcell's most stunning trails — Monica Meadows and Jumbo Pass.

Swimming in the cool ountain waters of Kootenay Lake, BC Clouds rolling over the Purcell Mountains, Kootenay Lake, BC A clear moonlit night, Camping in the Kootenays Packing for a hike, camping on Kootenay Lake


The Purcells are a pretty old mountain range, much older than the upstart Rockies just to the east. Bounded by the Columbia River, the Purcells cast a vast rain shadow over the Kootenays, so you'll find inland temperate rainforests of hemlock and cedar in the West Kootenays and drier pine forests in the East. They are a mighty range, filled with glaciers and granite spires, and much of the area is rugged untracked wilderness.

But it's a long drive out, 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, 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.

Exploring the mountain backroads of BC Driving up to the glaciers at the Monica Meadows parking lot Trailside views on the hike up to Monica Meadows, Purcell Mountains, BC Beautiful views in the larch-fringed alpine meadows of the Purcell Mountains High above the glaciers and blue mountains at Monica Meadows Taking a nap in the mountains of British Columbia The high rugged peaks of the Purcell Mountains, BC Exploring open views of Monica Meadows Hiking the trails in Monica Meadows in BC's Purcell Range Cool clear alpine lake surrounded by mountains in BC Beautiful mountain views in the Purcell Mountains Swimming in alpine lakes, Monica Meadows, BC BC's best alpine trails, Purcell Mountains Scenic mountain views from the Monica Meadows trail Trail through the mountains of Monica Meadows Little bit of bedtime reading while camping in the Kootenays


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.

The Jumbo Pass trail in the Purcell Mountains, BC Surrounded by glacier views, hiking the Jumbo Pass trail Hiking the mountain trail to a little alpine lake in Jumbo Pass Hiking above the Jumbo Pass cabin Little rocky viewpoint in the Glacier Creek Wilderness Alpine meadows high above Jumbo Pass, Purcell Mountains Hiking the ridge trail in the Purcell Mountains High above the mountains of Jumbo Pass in BC's Kootenays Hiking the mountain trails Entering our names in the mountain guestbook Beautiful mountain views from Jumbo Pass, Kootenay wilderness The Jumbo Pass Cabin Last light while driving in the BC mountain wilderness Cooling off in Duncan Lake, BC's Kootenays

This post was created as part of Coleman Canada's 'Get Outside Masters' program, where we're contributing a series of blog posts all about camping. Head over to Get Outside Canada to read our tips on setting up a nice comfortable basecamp, and more.

Coleman Canada Get Outside Day