Sunday, 26 August 2012

Manning Park - Heather Trail

The Heather Trail is a trail through the alpine meadows of Manning Park.  It is one of the most popular trails in the park, offering a chance to see the amazing alpine wildflowers, as well as the jagged Cascade Mountains.  I've done day hikes on this trail (going up First Brother Mountain is a really great day hike), and I've also done an overnight trip to Nicomen Lake.  If all you have time for is a day hike, it is very scenic, but I would highly recommend taking the time to go to Nicomen Lake.

The road that goes up to the alpine meadows has a nice viewing area where you can see some of the main features of the park.

Lightning Lake and the Skyline Ridge from the Cascade Lookout

Frosty Mountain
The first 4 km of the Heather Trail are very easy as the trail descends to Buckhorn Campsite.  The grade is reasonably gradual, and the trail is pretty wide at times.  This is a really high traffic area, as it offers some nice views of the alpine flora.

From Buckhorn Campsite, one of the harder parts of the trail begins, as the trail climbs up Bonnevier Ridge.  I take lots of pictures of flowers on the way up, since it's an excuse to take a break.

I'm always incredibly relieved when I reach the top of the ridge.  The views are very nice, and it is a while before there is any more strenuous hiking.

On Bonnevier Ridge

At this point, you start getting some great views of First Brother Mountain.  As it gets closer and closer the climb might seem more and more daunting, but it is worth exerting the effort required to get to the top.

As the trail approaches the base of First Brother Mountain, there are some interesting seasonal ponds scattered around if you pay attention.  On one of the more recent hikes I did on this trail, I found a very bizarre looking pond with some semi-melted snow floating in it (and this was in August).

It doesn't take to long to get to the junction where the side trail that goes up the mountain splits off.  It is reasonably short at just 1 km, and is probably the most scenic area in the Heather Trail area.  There are lots of places where you can leave your pack, and if you are backpacking, I would recommend not carrying your pack up the mountain.

The climb up the mountain

Once the trail is on the ridge of the mountain, it follows the ridge to the high point.  This part would be very scary if you had a fear of heights, but you do get a payoff of spectacular views in the end.

The summit of First Brother Mountain isn't as buggy as some of the other mountains in the park (it might be the wind), and the area is large enough to accommodate the high numbers of people that hike the trail.

Back at the base of the mountain the Heather Trail continues to Kicking Horse campsite.  When I went backpacking on this trail, I spent two nights at that campsite.  Since my pack was incredibly heavy (around 40 lbs), I emptied most of it and used it like a day pack, hiking to Nicomen Lake and back (I didn't appreciate putting the full pack on the next day).  The hike from Kicking Horse to Nicomen Lake isn't particularly strenuous, though the descent to the lake is a little exhausting.  I don't have many quality pictures of this section of the hike since all I had was a disposable camera, but I can say that it has some very picturesque scenery.

The only real downside I've found to the Heather Trail is that it gets incredibly busy, but it is still one of my favourite hikes.

You can read more about the hike here.

Nicomen Lake

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