Home Backpacking Trip Report: Heather Trail

Trip Report: Heather Trail

by Lisa

I had only been home from the PCT for about a week before I started thinking about what we could do for Labour Day weekend. A lot of it was dependent on how my recovery went from my shin splint pain. My Physio seemed pretty positive about me being able to hike by labour day, but how far would I be able to go, and how much weight could I manage?

I got the all clear on the Monday before Labour Day. My Physio no longer wanted to see me. I still wanted to play it safe though. So where could we go, last minute, on one of the busiest camping weekends of the year?

I landed on the Heather Trail, in the north end of E.C. Manning Provincial Park. We could drive up to about 6000 feet and start the trail in the subalpine meadows. We also had the luxury of both having Friday off, meaning we could beat the crowds out to the park.

Some trailhead signs

Hike Name: Heather Trail
Date: Friday September 1 – Sunday September 3
Location: E.C. Manning Provincial Park, Hope, BC
Approx. drive time: 2.5 hours
Distance: 28 mi. / 45 km
Max. elevation: 6990 ft / 2130 m
Nights on trail: 2

We left home around 8 am on Friday morning. We were at the Ranger station just before 10:30. Getting a permit wasn’t a problem, though she warned us that there might not be much water available at the camp.

We drove up and up and up to the upper Subalpine Meadow parking lot, and we were on trail just after 11.

The first mile of trail travels through the alpine meadows and the next mile drops down to a forest ramble. We stopped for a lunch break at Buckhorn Camp. We were just discussing how much water to pull from the small creeklet when a couple came up the trail from the other direction. They had spent the last couple nights where we were bound for and were able to tell us that there was plenty of water to be had. We were very grateful to have run into them!

The next mile of trail was a steady uphill climb to gain the rounded summit of Bonnevier Ridge. A junction with the First Brother trail marked the fourth mile and our halfway point.

Looking across the subalpine to the Brothers Range

One of the Brothers Mountains

The next few miles ambled along the rounded ridge below the Brothers range. The meadows had definitely moved into their fall stage but were still beautiful in their own right.

Our last mile was a descent of about 400 feet into a bowl. We crossed a couple creeklets and then arrived at Kicking Horse Camp. The 8 miles of trail had taken us about 4 hours, including a couple decent breaks.

There were only a couple other campers in the 8-site camp, giving us a bit of choice for site. I marveled at the luxurious nature of the campground – every site has a wooden platform for the tent, which doubles as a cooking platform and a picnic seat. The outhouse is also fully contained, not just a throne in the woods. Glamorous!

All in all it was a quiet evening and we tucked in early.

Sunset at Kicking Horse Camp

The next morning we were up with the sun (7ish…) Our plan was to day hike the 6 miles to Nicomen Lake, relax there for a couple hours and come back to Kicking Horse Camp.

It was a fantastic trail, high up in the meadows. At certain points we had views more northward and could really tell that we were at the end of the Cascade mountains. North of us were the rolling hills of the high plateau, no peaks to be seen. We passed by a few dried up tarns and one still filled in with some water.

Looking south to the North Cascades

Wildflowers going to seed beside a tarn

We reached Nicomen Ridge, our high point for the day, after a couple hours of hiking. The trail briefly followed the knife-edge of the ridge before dropping 800 feet to Nicomen Lake.

We stopped briefly at the north end of the lake, but decided to continue the half mile to the established campground. We found a site with a bit of shade and set up a hammock to relax in. Dan considered going for a swim. He made it partway in, but the lake was still a bit chilly for him.

Nicomen Lake with the North Cascades in the distance

Hammocking beside Nicomen Lake

We enjoyed a couple of hours of lakeside relaxation before packing up and heading back up to the ridge, through the tarns and meadows, and back to Kicking Horse Camp. Not including our break at the lake, the roundtrip hiking took us a little over 5 hours.

The campground was a lot busier. Even though there were only 8 official tent pads, there were about 20 tents set up in the area. We were pretty worn out from our day and were grateful that the other campers tucked in early enough too.

The next morning we packed up our gear and headed back along the ridges to the trailhead. It was a surprisingly quick trip back. We accomplished the 8 miles in about three and a half hours.

I was really really glad to have made it back to the backcountry before the end of the summer. My shins weren’t 100% healed, but they certainly weren’t inflamed like they’d been while on the PCT. Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in a few more trails before winter arrives in the mountains!


Kathie September 7, 2017 - 5:59 am

Looks like a great place for a late summer backpack!

sheila marples September 8, 2017 - 8:34 am

glad you had such a good hike


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