Guest Writer and Photographer: Doug Smith
Kamloops lies at the junction of two river valleys and in every direction, the hills rise up to the Interior Plateau. The drier climate in the City and in the surrounding valleys supports grasslands and open forest slopes. Above those slopes, forest covers the higher elevations of the Interior Plateau. Hikers can pick from dozens of trails that explore the grasslands hills, mountainous slopes, or upland forests. Some of the Kamloops’ best hikes are featured here.
- Battle Bluff
The Battle Bluff Trail starts in the Dewdrop Range, a protected grasslands area west of Kamloops overlooking Kamloops Lake. The trail climbs over some low hills, then drops to a lower open bench before climbing a rocky bluff to a viewpoint over the lake. The moderate-level trail is a 5 km return hike. The viewpoint on top of Battle Bluff is the featured spot of the route, but while hiking the trail, watch for bighorn sheep, deer, coyotes, hawks, and eagles.
- Dewdrop Trail
The lava cliffs of Red Plateau rise 2000 feet above the Dewdrop Range. From the trailhead, the route approaches the bottom of the cliffs then winds up a gully and onto a ridge which brings hikers to the rim of the escarpment. The trail continues west along the tops of the cliffs with open views to the east, south, and west. There are several good viewpoints on the way up, but if the goal is to have lunch on the top, the hike is 4 km up. Since the trail continues west for a few more kilometers you can pick your turn-around point, retracing your steps down the slopes to the start.
- Mara Canyon
Right on the edge of town, Mara Mountain stands over the floodplain of the Thompson River on Tranquille Road. The mountaintop stands 700 m above, but we can start hiking right next to the road. This is an informal (but popular) trail inside the Lac du Bois Protected area. Although some hikers park on the side of Tranquille Road and cross the CN Tracks, it is much safer to use the level road crossing at Ord Road, taking the left turn, parking at the end of the road. From there, a single track trail winds up through the sagebrush and splits into two. Take the left fork as it climbs a hill next to the canyon. Follow the track for 0.5 km and watch for a turn down to the canyon floor. The route continues up the dry stream course for 1km where the terrain opens up. A trail goes to the right to the top of the ridge (a good place to have lunch). Turn there and follow the ridge south to complete a loop route of about 4 km. The canyon features hoodoos, ragged erosion features, colorful cliffs, and fine views from the ridge. This rugged trail requires good hiking shoes/boots and trekking poles are recommended.
- Sunset – Mesa Trails
Kenna Cartwright Park is the largest city park (800 hectares) in British Columbia. There are over 36 designated trails ranging from easy to difficult. Hikers can combine trails to their own interests (Kenna Cartwright Park map). One of the best trails on the slopes of Mount Dufferin is a series of single and double tracks on the west end of the park. There are several official trailheads to choose from, but the one on Hillside Drive will be the best choice. Follow the Ponderosa Trail over to Sunset Trail to go to the viewpoint to enjoy the view out to Kamloops Lake, then follow the Mesa Trail as it winds its way through gullies, over ridges, up to viewpoints, working its way back Ponderosa again to return to the parking area, a 8km route on open slopes with many views.
- Grasslands Community Trail
North of Kamloops is the Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area, 15 712 hectares of grasslands, dry forests, hills, ponds, mountains, and a wide variety of habitats and terrain, all in close proximity to each other, but also close to Kamloops. One trail traverses multiple ecological zones from its high point in the McQueen Lake- Isobel Lake area down to the end of the trail near Deep Lake.
This trail is best done using a two vehicle system. Leave a vehicle lower down on Ida Lane (or at Westsyde Shopping Center) and start the hike at the trailhead in the forest at 990m elevation. Follow the signed trail through the forest on the east side of Griffin Lake staying outside the McQueen Lake Environmental Education Center over to meadows east of Clay Lake. The trail then winds through the forest and down through the gully of McQueen Creek before emerging into the open upper grasslands. The final section of the 14 km trail climbs over hills before dropping down to the lower grasslands near Deep Lake, then out to Ida Lane.
There are hundreds of trails to explore in the Kamloops area. Hikers and snowshoers take to the trails in all 4 seasons. We will see you on the trails.