Just one of many views from the Three Island Lake area of the Thor Lake trail that will take your breath away. ~ Photo by Alex Cooper

View: Off the beaten track

A guide to three lesser-known hiking trails in the Revelstoke area

  • Aug. 3, 2017 1:30 p.m.

From the Columbia River to the mountains, there are hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of trails around Revelstoke. Recent work revealed more than 500 in the immediate vicinity of town. They include the well-maintained trails in Mount Revelstoke National Park, the singletrack network at Mount Macpherson, the trails around the Illecillewaet Greenbelt and many more that have developed over the years. Many are on the map, but many more aren’t. Here’s three of our favourite lesser-known trails in the region.

Detailed Information on all of them can be found at the invaluable site, RevelstokeTrails.com, which is why we don’t feel too bad writing about them.

~ Words and photos by Alex Cooper



There may not be a better view in town with such easy access as the Big Eddy Bluff — well, aside from the viewpoints along the Meadows in the Sky Parkway in Mount Revelstoke National Park.

On a Friday evening after work, I coaxed three friends to come with me to check out this new trail that I’d seen so many tantalizing pictures of on Instagram, and wanted to see it for myself.

The Big Eddy Bluff trail starts off Westside Road, just before you reach the Jordan River bridge. Park at the pull out, cross the road and look for the footprints heading into the brush near the river.

The trail was built by local mountain guide David Sproule, one of several he’s built in this area. The first section requires some fancy footwork to scamper over logs through the muddy sections and to cross a narrow cliff edge. Fortunately, Sproule was thoughtful enough to put a couple of ropes here to hold on to.

From there, the trail switchbacks through the forest. Follow the trail, and if the trail fades, look for the pink flagging tape. At one point the trail splits – go left – and you’ll reap the rewards in only 20 minutes.

There was a consensus in our group this was one of the best views in town. It’s perched over the eponymous Big Eddy and gives views of the dam, the town, the Columbia River, the ski hill, Mount Begbie and more.

We drank a beer and discussed how lucky we were to have views like this within minutes of our house.


macpherson climb

There are two ways up Mount Macpherson. There’s the route from the west, which climbs steeply through the forest and up boulder fields before emerging into Macpherson’s alpine plateau.

And then there’s the way up the front side up on a trail that was put in by local Travis Hunt over the past few years. Access is from the Nordic Lodge, via the Main Loop cross-country ski trail.

The trail starts on the mountain climb, an old double-track that’s used by skiers in winter to access the mountain’s backcountry skiing routes.

Come summer, it’s a steady if monotonous ascent across the mountain from north to south. I recommend biking this section to make life easier and more exciting — especially going back down.

The mountain climb ends after about three kilometres, where a short trail leads to a lookout with the classic views of the Columbia River and Selkirk Mountains. From here, you can follow Hunt’s trail up Macpherson to a small sub-alpine lake below the summit. The trail is flagged and brushed the whole way. From there, it’s up to you to find a route to the summit.

I hiked this trail last summer, riding my bike up the climb trail, then switching shoes at the start of the hiking trail. The trail skirts along rocky ledges and through impressive old growth forest before ascending through a boulder field. This is where I stopped and enjoyed the views of town and the Illecillewaet River valley beyond.

The trail is well marked but it feels rugged and wild despite being so close to town. While it’s well flagged and brushed, it’s not like the manicured trails you’ll find in the national parks.

It’s about eight kilometres and 900 metres of elevation gain to the lake; from there you can blaze your own path to the summit another 800 metres higher.



The scene was as idyllic as you could get — twin waterfalls, cascading down into a glistening pool of water, surrounded by wildflowers. It was grey and gloomy — one of those days where the threat of rain is constant, yet it never quite came. The mountains were obscured in clouds, occasionally teasing us and tempting us to return. Still, it was awesome, in the original sense.

The trail to the rock garden was not easy. We left early in the morning with the plan on running it but quickly realized it would be a fast hike at best, and our trail runners weren’t the best tools for the job. The trail was rough and was little more than a flagged route at points. To get to the Rock Garden we had to cross wet marshlands that saturated our feet, bushwack our way through the forests and skirt the edges of flowing streams.

Along the way we spotted a sign pointing upwards to Three Island Lake. “What lays above?” we wondered. A few weeks later, I returned to find out.

The route to Three Island Lake was even wilder than the one through the valley. Starting at the intersection, the “trail” climbed straight up through alder that wanted to do nothing more than overtake us. Eventually, we emerged into sub-alpine meadows, where giant boulders begged to be climbed. We followed the flagging up and over scree slopes into some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen. Streams trickled around wildflower meadows, and waterfalls abounded. Every time we turned a corner, we were greeted by more incredibly views, including the massive Thor Glacier across the valley.

It’s definitely on my return list.


Need to know: According to Craig Lewis, the Thor Lake trail was established in the 1980s by Leon Brumner as a way of accessing the peaks in the area. Lewis is now the trails caretaker, organizing work parties to brush it when he can.

To get to the trail head, drive down Highway 23 South towards Shelter Bay. Just before you reach the ferry, turn right onto Shelter Bay Road. Take another right onto Dry Creek Road, then a left onto Killeen Road and a right on Thor Road, just past the bridge over Pingston Creek. Thor Road is a little rough and the brush will scrape your car. Park at the end of the road and start walking. Be prepared to do some route finding and bring some flagging tape in case you lose the existing route and need to find your own way.

There’s no facilities out here, and no cell service, so be prepared.

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