Located in the Purcell Mountains of southeast British Columbia, Bugaboo Park draws climbers from around the world to its airy, glacier-sculpted granite spires. With many peaks over 3,000m, the Bugaboos offer awe-inspiring mountain and glacier terrain.
The Conrad Kain Hut is maintained by BC Parks and the Alpine Club of Canada. This basecamp for climbers operates to reduce visitor impacts on the fragile timberline area below Snowpatch Spire.
Road access to the park is via straightforward route-finding along rough resource roads (high clearance is recommended). This park is suitable only for experienced, well-equipped climbers and hikers.
Mountain biking, drones, fires, and domestic animals are prohibited in Bugaboo Park.
Backcountry campgrounds are provided at Boulder Camp below the Conrad Kain Hut and on the bare rock slabs of Applebee Dome, one kilometre above the Conrad Kain Hut.
To stay at the backcountry campgrounds, you must register for a backcountry permit. For more information, see the backcountry permit registration page.
You can purchase your permit in advance through the BC Parks reservation service. This does not reserve a campsite, but it does allow you to pre-pay for your permit, so that you do not have to carry cash on your trip. If possible, please register in advance.
In case you are unable to register in advance, a self-registration station is located inside the Conrad Kain Hut. Backcountry permit fee collection is provided by the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC).
Keep the permit with you throughout your visit. You may be asked to present it to an ACC custodian during a routine campground check.
|Adult (16+)||$10 per person per night|
|Youth (6-15)||$5 per person per night|
To prevent contamination of the water supply and damage to the sensitive alpine environment, camping in the park is not permitted elsewhere in the vicinity of the main spires (Bugaboo, Snowpatch, Crescent, Pigeon, and Howsers) or the Cobalt Lake area. Bivouacking is not permitted unless circumstances dictate its necessity.
Wilderness camping is allowed in other, more remote areas of the park, such as the Vowell Group. For more information, see the ‘wilderness camping’ section, below.
The Conrad Kain Hut is available for overnight bookings through the Alpine Club of Canada (403-678-3200) during the operational season (end of June to end of September), when hut systems are operational, and a custodian is present. Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) advanced booking policies do not apply to the Conrad Kain Hut. All visitors can make bookings for this facility up to one year in advance.
Any unreserved spaces are allocated on a first come, first served basis. During the peak climbing months of July and August, the hut is often full, so reservations are highly recommended.
The Conrad Kain Hut is available for overnight accommodation for a maximum of 35 people.
A nightly, per-person fee is levied during the period from June 1 to September 30. Occupancy is limited to seven consecutive days. Fees are payable to the ACC.
The ACC charges the following fees for use of the cabin:
From November 16 to April 30, the hut is closed to all overnight use due to avalanche hazard.
During the shoulder season (May 1 to end of June, end of September to November 15), a custodian is not present, all bottom floor windows are covered with protective winterizing shutters, and all hut systems (water, propane, hydro, grey water) are winterized and non-functional.
While use of the hut is possible during this time of the year, it is not recommended.
If you do choose to visit the Conrad Kain Hut in the shoulder seasons, please be prepared for the following:
These special regulations are in effect for the Conrad Kain Hut, so that every visitor may enjoy their stay, and to minimize fire hazards:
Wilderness camping is allowed in remote areas of Bugaboo Park, such as the Vowell Group. Leave No Trace wilderness ethics should be followed.
To prevent contamination of the water supply and damage to the sensitive alpine environment, camping in the park is not allowed elsewhere in the vicinity of the main spires (Bugaboo, Snowpatch, Crescent, Pigeon, and Howsers) or the Cobalt Lake area. Bivouacking is not permitted unless circumstances dictate its necessity.
See the ‘backcountry camping’ section, above, for information on camping at Boulder Camp below the Conrad Kain Hut and on the bare rock slabs of Applebee Dome.
Bugaboo Park has a day-use and picnicking area at the Conrad Kain Hut.
There is a pit toilet in the parking lot at the Bugaboo Park trailhead.
The toilet facilities provided in alpine areas are all barrel system toilets. A urine-only toilet is located at the Conrad Kain Hut. Two barrel toilets are near the Conrad Kain Hut, one is at the Boulder Campground, and two are at the Applebee Dome Campground. Barrel toilets are also provided for mountaineers at the Snowpatch col, the base of Pigeon Spires west ridge, and the East Creek camp.
A RESTOP bag system is also provided to reduce human waste impacts within the Spires climbing area. Please use these bags everywhere in Bugaboo Park that a conventional toilet cannot be accessed. A $2 donation is encouraged to help with future RESTOP purchases.
Where there is adequate soil (at least six inches) but no toilets, bury human waste and burn toilet paper. Otherwise collect and deposit human waste in toilets.
There are hot and cold taps in the Kain Hut. To ensure drinking water is safe, it must be boiled for at least five minutes.
Some trails in the park do not require technical mountaineering skills. Others, like the trails to Conrad Kain Hut and Cobalt Lake, offer superb scenic adventures to experienced, physically fit, and well-equipped hikers.
For your own safety and the preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Taking shortcuts destroys plant life and soil structure.
For detailed trail information, download the trail conditions report [PDF]. This document is updated regularly between May and August, as the snow melts. The most recent report is from August 8, 2022.
This trail, which begins in the parking lot, follows the northern lateral moraine of Bugaboo Glacier. The trail is very steep and strenuous, with exposure to steep drop-offs as it climbs through granite bluffs. Extreme caution should be exercised along its route. Strong, reliable footwear is essential.
This trail, which begins along the park access road across from the CMH Lodge, begins by climbing a series of steep switchbacks up an old skid road, followed by a trail through a forest of alpine larch trees. It eventually leads to an open alpine ridge with good views to Cobalt Lake and the Bugaboo Spires.
To reach the lake, descend off the ridge to an alpine pass and contour under Northpost Spire to below the waterfalls draining Cobalt Lake. Bypass the waterfalls on the left to reach the meadows surrounding the lake. Note that the last two kilometres of trail to the lake requires route-finding skills as it is infrequently marked.
The un-marked alpine traverse route between Cobalt Lake and the Conrad Kain Hut crosses talus slopes, snowfields, and a small-but-crevassed glacier. It should only be attempted by those with appropriate skills and experience.
This demanding mountaineering excursion begins at the Conrad Kain Hut (which is the starting point for many routes that lead to climbing destinations) and terminates at the Malloy Igloo, a small shelter with no amenities located near Osprey Peak. Only roped parties should attempt this route because several glaciers have to be crossed.
Alternatively, access to the Malloy Igloo via Malloy Creek is possible. For groups of mixed experience, it poses several obstacles. It is recommended that you stay on the east side of the creek due to two formidable stream crossings, and gain access via a small, steep gully from which the crest of the moraine can be reached. The final headwall is easier in early summer (there is lots of snow), but may require roped climbing later in the season.
Bugaboo Park is significant climbing destination. The spectacular Bugaboo Spires attract all levels of well-equipped climbers. There are a few easy to moderate routes, but most routes involve crossing the glaciers and negotiating difficult traverses. Crampons, ice-axe, and ropes are essential.
For information the history of climbing at Bugaboo Park, see the learn more about this park section, below.
For climbing safety tips, see the safety info section, above.
Hunting is permitted in Bugaboo Park subject to the following conditions:
Bugaboo Park offers world-class backcountry skiing opportunities.
The park was the birthplace of helicopter skiing in North America. In 1965, Hans Gmoser hosted a small group of skiers at a logging camp just outside the present-day park boundary and explored the nearby mountains using a small three-seat helicopter. In 1968, one year before the establishment of the park, the Bugaboo Lodge was constructed on the site of the logging camp and since then it has earned a reputation as one of the premier helicopter skiing destinations worldwide.
The park is also renowned as a fantastic destination for self-propelled ski mountaineers. There are many classic ski tours that can be completed for parties based at the Kain Hut basin. The park is the starting point for the Bugaboos to Rogers Pass high-level ski traverse.
Anyone considering visiting the park in the winter should be aware that the terrain is predominantly high alpine and very complex, with few safe options when avalanche danger is elevated.
Because the Conrad Kain Hut can be threatened by avalanches, it is closed from November 16 to April 30 each year. Ski touring parties wishing to base camp in the vicinity of the main Bugaboo Spires (Bugaboo, Snowpatch, Pigeon and so forth) are required to stay at Applebee Dome campground.
Bugaboo Park is in southeastern B.C., between Golden and Radium Hot Springs, west of Highway 95. Access is via about 50km of gravel road from Highway 95. This gravel road, which is open late spring through late fall, begins at Brisco, 27km north of Radium Hot Springs and 76km south of Golden on Highway 95.
You can access to the northern portions of the park via the Vowell and Malloy Creek drainages by leaving Highway 95 at Spillimacheen, north of Brisco, then crossing the Columbia River and turning left on the West Side Road. After travelling 0.8km, turn right onto Bobbie Burns Creek drainage and drive past the lodge of the same name. Logging roads up Vowell Creek and Malloy Creek lead to semi-open terrain, which can be hiked into the park. The status of bridges in inactive logging areas may vary in upper drainages.
A four-wheel-drive vehicle is not required, but decent ground clearance is recommended. The last three-kilometre section of the gravel road is rough. Low-riding compact vehicles should go slow.
If you plan to visit the park in the winter, you will need to either ski the long access road, use a snowmobile as far as the summer parking lot, or arrive by helicopter. Any independent party (non-helicopter skiing clients) requires a letter of permission to fly into the park by helicopter. You can get more information on winter access by calling 250-489-8540.
Access roads are not maintained in winter. Snowmobiles are not permitted in the park and must be left at the summer parking lot.
In 1969, Bugaboo Glacier Park and the Bugaboo Alpine Recreation Area were set aside to preserve and protect this outstanding area of the Purcells. In 1972, the Alpine Club of Canada erected a three story quonset building for climbers. The Conrad Kain Hut was named after renowned alpinist who made many first ascents in the Purcell and Rocky Mountains during the early 1900s. In 1995, the park and part of the surrounding recreation area were combined to create the Bugaboo Park.
Over time, the erosive forces of mountain weather and glacial ice removed much of the weaker overlying rock, revealing granite masses and sculpting them into the spectacular spires that characterize the Bugaboo region. The heavy snowfall of the Columbia Wet Belt continues to create the vast glaciers that dominate and shape the rugged Purcell Mountains.
The steep, V-shaped valleys of the Purcells challenged early explorers, miners, loggers, and climbers from Europe and North America. News of the spectacular spires of the Bugaboos was a magnet for some of North America’s most renowned mountaineers. Harmon, Longstaff, A.O. Wheeler, and the legendary guide Conrad Kain visited the Bugaboo region in 1910.
Kain returned with the MacCarthys in 1916 and climbed the North Howser Tower and the south ridge of Bugaboo Spire, which he considered his most difficult Canadian ascent. Thorington mapped the area and then climbed with Kain in 1933 on Crescent Spire. In 1938 and 1939, the Northpost, Eastpost, and Brenta Spires were ascended by easy routes.
Snowpatch, beyond the techniques used in Kain’s era, was climbed by its southeast ridge in 1940 by Arnold and Bedayn. By the 1950s, climbers such as Fred Beckey, Ed Cooper, and Layton Kor put up the first ‘face’ routes on Snowpatch, Bugaboo, and Pigeon Spires. Chouinard traversed the Howsers in 1965 and Chris Jones pioneered on their 600m ascent of West Face in 1970.
Today, those early routes, first done with many pitons and bolts, are often repeated by free climbers who use only the less damaging aluminium chocks for protection against falls. Free-climbing techniques enable faster ascents, resulting in reduced exposure to the frequent lightning storms. Modern climbers have continually opened new lines of ascent in an area where the elements of glaciers, firm rock, significant altitude and violent weather all combine to create world-class mountaineering challenges.
Alpine ecosystems are particularly fragile, and all users are requested to practice Leave No Trace camping and climbing techniques.
BC Parks honours Indigenous Peoples’ connection to the land and respects the importance of their diverse teachings, traditions, and practices within these territories. This park webpage may not adequately represent the full history of this park and the connection of Indigenous Peoples to this land. We are working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to update our websites so that they better reflect the history and cultures of these special places.