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Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park
About This Park
Located north of Nelson, ruggedly beautiful Kokanee Glacier Park offers excellent backcountry adventure for the whole family. Sitting mostly above 1,800 metres in elevation, the park has two glaciers – Kokanee and Woodbury – which feed over 30 lakes and are the headwaters of many creeks.
Kokanee Lake is 1,200 metres in length and 400 metres wide; surrounded by precipitous cliffs and rock slides, it is an alpine jewel. Other scenic lakes in the park include the gem-coloured Sapphire Lakes, milky Joker Lakes and popular Gibson, Kaslo and Tanal Lakes, which offer good fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout. With 85 km of well-marked trails, this park is appropriate for campers, hikers and climbers with all levels of outdoor experience.
Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, set aside in 1922, is one of the oldest major parks in the provincial system. It has a long history of well established recreational use and is perhaps the best known alpine park in the Kootenay area of British Columbia. Its boundaries encompass 32,035 hectares of some of the most scenic mountain country found in the Selkirk Mountains of southern British Columbia, comprising a picturesque mosaic of high peaks, snowfields, cirques and colourful lake basins.
As the dominant feature and roughly in the park’s centre, Kokanee Glacier forms the culmination of mountain ridges and valleys leading in from Kootenay and Slocan Lake. Slowly regenerating burns, old growth spruce stands, open slide paths and meadowlands lend contrast and heighten the beauty of the Park’s mountain landscape.
Access to the park was developed from old mining and forestry roads. Leading from these various road ends, trails dating to the early mining developments offer a variety of hiking opportunities ranging from short day trips to challenging cross-country routes; for the status of the main access routes please Check the most recent trail report [PDF]. Historical cabins and interesting old mine sites combine with many natural features including peaks, lakes and alpine basins to form a rich and diverse environment for back-country recreation.
The park straddles the crest of mountain ridges between Slocan Lake and Kootenay Lake. Located 30 kilometres to the northeast, the peaks of Kokanee Glacier are visible from the city of Nelson, and stand out as dominant skyline features from many points on Kootenay Lake.
Weather patterns in the park are typical of the Southern Interior Mountains, With the whole Park area over 1,500 metres, elevation strongly influences weather conditions and while warm spells occur in July and August, Park visitors should be aware of the highly changeable nature of mountain weather. Snow and sleet are not uncommon in summer, and rainy weather, many times in the form of thunderstorms, can be expected in the spring, summer and autumn months.
The heavy snowfall accumulations in the Park can be counted upon to ensure excellent ski conditions from late autumn to early spring. Snow can occur in October at all levels in the Park and the higher elevations are not likely to be snow-free until July. Avalanches are prevalent on the open alpine slope, limiting ski touring possibilities to certain routes and to low risk periods.
Date Established: February 6, 1922
Park Size: 32,035 hectares
Know Before You Go
Persons visiting Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park are reminded that this park is a wilderness area without supplies or equipment of any kind. Visitors must equip themselves with strong hiking boots, suitable clothing, a warm sleeping bag, a tent with a waterproof fly, and a Primus-type stove for cooking.
Hikers planning to venture off established trails should have
good route-finding abilities that include map reading and compass skills.
Only experienced mountaineers with ropes, ice axes, and crampons should
attempt traverse routes or venture onto glaciers and snowfields. In the
event of an emergency, contact the RCMP. Everyone entering wilderness
areas should inform a responsible person of their intentions, including
an estimated time of return.
- Trail Conditions Report [PDF] (June 24, 2022)
- Park visitors should be aware that this is a high elevation park and that severe weather events can happen throughout all the seasons. This is particularly the case in late spring and fall.
- Dogs are not permitted anywhere in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.
- The Alpine Club of Canada is now the custodian of the Kokanee Glacier Cabin at Kaslo Lake.
- User fees pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the facilities. For more information on our user fees, here is our fees page.
Please note: Families are two adults and up to three children, 16 and under living in the same house. Children are those 16 and under. For Kokanee Glacier Cabin, there are summer and winter rates (based on per person per night basis).
For Woodbury and Silver Spray Cabins, summer only rates (based on per person per night basis) and, a reservation system is in place, as walk-ins are not guaranteed space. Both cabins are closed during winter. This is due to the hut location(s) itself being associated with avalanche hazard (ie. hut location is within an avalanche path).
For the winter season, from November 1 through to May 31, the occupancy of the Kokanee Glacier Cabin is limited to 12 and availability is offered through a lottery system managed by the Alpine Club of Canada - there is no availability for walk-ins, reservations are required.
The Kokanee Glacier Cabin accommodates up to 20 from June 1 through to October 31; this is the summer operating season. For the summer season, it is recommended that you make reservations if you want to be assured of a bed to sleep in. If the public chooses to walk-in and there are beds available, you can register at that time.
For details about the Woodbury and Silver Spray Cabins, please see the Alpine Club of Canada website.
- From Hwy 3A, 19 km northeast of Nelson, drive up Kokanee Creek for 16 km to Gibson Lake.
- From Hwy 31, 10 km north of Ainsworth, drive up Woodbury Creek for 13 km to the trailhead.
- From Hwy 6, 8 km south of Slocan, drive up Lemon Creek for 16 km to the trailhead.
Maps and Brochures
Nature and Culture
- History: Established in 1922, this is one of the oldest parks in the province. Geologically, this area is composed of an immense system of granite rock known as the Nelson batholith. During the earth’s cooling process, slower-cooling mineralized solutions was subjected to great pressure that caused them to be pushed into holes and cracks in this granite mass. These became the deposits and finger-like veins, rich in gold and silver ore that caused the local mining boom at the end of the 19th century. Several mines paid quite well but most were worked for only a few years. Many of the park’s trails were originally built for miners hauling ore and supplies. Today we can only marvel at the tenacity of those prospectors, who clung to steep rock faces throughout the park while trying to scratch a living from their mining claims.
- Conservation: The park’s primary roles are to:
- Represent sub-alpine, alpine landscapes and associated ecological resources of the Selkirk Mountain ranges.
- Conserve grizzly bear and mountain goat habitat.
- Maintain the characteristics and qualities of the natural environment and associated features, and
- Conserve cultural heritage of the early alpine mining history of the West Kootenays.
- Vegetation: Vegetation is typical of this elevation, with exposed bedrock and gravel moraine near the peaks where only lichens and a few other hardy plants survive. Stunted Engelmann spruce and white-bark pine are common at the timberline, with beautiful sub-alpine flower meadows in the wetter areas. The numerous steep slopes and avalanche paths support slide alder and huckleberry. The lower, more protected slopes are forested with Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, hemlock and western red cedar. The few pure stands of subalpine larch are particularly stunning in October when their needles turn golden-yellow in the fading sun.
- Wildlife: Bird species such as the blue grouse and Franklin grouse inhabit the forests, and ptarmigan are often seen in the open areas. Golden eagles are occasionally seen soaring majestically overhead. Small animals such as the hoary marmot, pika, ground squirrels, and marten are common, while larger species such as the mountain goat, mule deer and black bear are present in lesser numbers. The park contains most of the range for several grizzly bears, and further protection of significant grizzly bear habitat was the main reason for the expansion of the park in 1995. Separation of people and grizzlies is an important management objective - for the protection of both parties. To protect these endangered bears, areas such as the Coffee Creek drainage have no development and use is discouraged. Other trails are carefully designed to avoid bear habitat or closed at certain times of the year when bears are known to be feeding on ripe berries nearby.
Activities Available at this Park
- Trail Conditions Report [PDF] (June 24, 2022)
Facilities Available at this Park
Cabins / Huts
Kokanee Glacier, Woodbury and Silver Spray Cabins are maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada. For the winter season, the Kokanee Glacier Cabin offers availability through a lottery system – there is no availability for walk-ins. For the summer season, it is recommended that you make reservations for all cabins if you want to be assured of a bed to sleep in. If the public chooses to walk-in and there are beds available, you can register at that time.
Information has also been posted in the park and on the cabin. Questions regarding summer cabin rates, winter cabin rates and booking policies may be directed to the Alpine Club of Canada website. User fees are payable to the Alpine Club of Canada.
Pit or Flush Toilets
BC Parks Backcountry Registration System allows you to pre-pay your overnight fees for backcountry and/or marine site usage, where designated. This is an alternate (on-line) way to pre-pay for your backcountry permit and is NOT a reservation, the registration fee allows for overnight camping in back country areas but does not guarantee that a campsite in a specific area will be available.
If you require information regarding winter camping, please contact the Alpine Club of Canada to reserve a cabin in the park. Kokanee Glacier, Woodbury and Silver Spray cabins are maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada. The park is open year-round. Please note there are also summer and winter cabin fees; please contact the Alpine Club of Canada for information.