Located north of Nelson, beautiful Kokanee Glacier Park offers an excellent backcountry adventure. The park has two glaciers named Kokanee and Woodbury, reaching above 1,800 metres high. The glaciers feed over 30 lakes and are the headwaters of many creeks.
Kokanee Lake is 1,200 metres long and 400 metres wide, surrounded by precipitous cliffs and rock slides. Other lakes in the park include Sapphire, Joker, Gibson, Kaslo and Tanal Lakes. They offer good fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout. With 85km of well marked trails, this park is appropriate for campers, hikers and climbers with all levels of outdoor experience. Its boundaries encompass 32,035 hectares of some of the most scenic mountain country of southern British Columbia.
Visitors should be aware of the highly changeable nature of mountain weather. Snow and sleet are not uncommon in summer. Rainy weather, occasionally thunderstorms, can be expected in the spring through autumn.
Count upon heavy snowfall accumulations 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.
Kokanee Glacier, Woodbury, and Silver Spray cabins are maintained and reserved through the Alpine Club of Canada.
Please see the Alpine Club of Canada website for more information and to make reservations.
There are 30 backcountry hike-in campsites in the park, but no facilities are provided.
Backcountry permits are required for this park.
The BC Parks backcountry permit registration service allows you to pay for your backcountry permit online but is NOT a reservation. The registration fee allows for overnight camping in backcountry areas but does not guarantee that a campsite in a specific area will be available.
Kokanee Glacier, Woodbury and Silver Spray cabins are maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada.
For Kokanee Glacier cabin, availability is through a lottery system during the winter season. There is no availability for walk-in use in the winter. For the summer season, it is recommended that you make reservations. They are taken on a first come, first served basis.
The Woodbury and Silver Spray cabins, are available only during the summer season (see Dates of operation section above). A reservation system is in place, as walk-ins are not guaranteed space. Both cabins are closed during winter due to the hut locations being associated with avalanche hazard.
More information on cabin rates, booking policies and reservations can be found on the Alpine Club of Canada website. User fees are payable to the Alpine Club of Canada and pay for the maintenance of the facilities.
There is a boat launch at Gibson Lake. Please be aware that only non-motorized boats are allowed on Gibson Lake.
This park has a day-use and picnic area.
This park only has pit toilets, no flush toilets.
Kokanee Glacier Park has 85km of hiking trails.
Access to the park was developed from old mining and forestry roads. The trails leading off of these roads 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] .
For your own safety and the preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting trails destroys plant life and soil structure. During the winter season, all trails are under snow.
Fishing and angling are popular at Gibson, Kokanee, Kaslo and Tanal Lakes. An an appropriate licence is required.
Ski mountaineering is available. Snowmobiling is prohibited in Kokanee Glacier Park.
Users are responsible for their snow stability evaluation (avalanche hazard) route finding, self rescue and first-aid. Visit the page on Staying safe in winter weather for more information. There is Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) mapping available for a portion of Kokanee Glacier Park on the Avalanche Canada webpage. Please refer to Avalanche.ca to assist in winter trip planning.
Kokanee Glacier Park is located in the Selkirk Mountains, between Slocan and Kootenay Lakes. For an update on the access roads into the park check the most recent trail report [PDF] . These roads may not be suitable for vehicles with low clearance:
National Topographic Series Maps 82F/11 and 82F/14, at a scale of 1:50,000, cover the Kokanee Glacier Park area. These maps are available from most map retailers in British Columbia.
Established in 1922, it 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, mineralized solutions were subjected to great pressure that caused them to be pushed into holes and cracks in this granite mass. These became the deposits rich in gold and silver that caused the local mining boom 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.
The park’s primary roles are to:
Lichens and a few other hardy plants survive in the exposed bedrock and gravel moraine near the peaks. Stunted Engelmann spruce and white-bark pine are common at the timberline, with subalpine 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, western red cedar as well as a few subalpine larch.
Bird species such as the blue grouse and Franklin grouse inhabit the forests. Ptarmigan and golden eagles are often seen in the open areas. 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. Protection of significant grizzly bear habitat was the main reason for the expansion of the park in 1995. Areas such as the Coffee Creek drainage have no development and use is discouraged. Other trails are carefully designed to avoid bear habitat or close at certain times of the year when bears are known to be nearby. Separation of people and grizzlies is an important management objective. For more information visit the wildlife safety page.
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.