Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.
McCrae Mountain near Revelstoke, a hiking trail into the wild
The only directions we had were on a brochure one of my hiking partner picked up at the visitor’s centre in Revelstoke on his way through town a week earlier. Looking at the shiny brochure, we guessed that this trip would be an easy one. Especially for us seasoned wilderness folks – it ended up to be a very long day!
I met my hiking buddies at Monashee Guest Accommodation in the Mabel Lake area of Lumby BC at 9:00 am on Wednesday. That’s where my Swedish friends stay each year when they come to the North Okanagan. Mikael offered to drive, no 4×4 on his rental car, but the roads to the McCrae trailhead are supposed to be in good condition.
A drive into the wild
I was looking forward to the backcountry drive, on Mabel Lake Forest Service Road (FSR) towards the Three Valley Gap. This is British Columbia Wilderness close to home, which I haven’t seen yet. Driving past Mabel Lake Provincial Park, we hit gravel road a few km later. At 27.5 km on the Mabel Lake FSR, we arrived at the Cottonwood Bay campground turn-off, a place well used by locals. That’s as far as I’ve ever been on this stretch of road.
There were many special places to stop at and to explore on the way, but with the destination McCrae Mountain, there was no time for that. You can read more about the Mabel Lake treasures in my Mabel Lake Valley Blog Post.
The gravel road was quite smooth apart from a few potholes. A large RV came from the other side and passed. We met a few road workers, but there was hardly any traffic.
Finally, Wap Lake appeared and I noticed the wilderness campsite. It’s a small timbered site with a boat launch, tables and toilets and apparently good fishing at the lake. This is definitely a hidden gem for campers who like to go into the wild country!
The road got wider and continued underneath power lines. We passed the turnoff to Noisy Creek about 80 km before we reached the Trans-Canada highway.
The only paved road we drove on this trip was in Revelstoke. We followed Airport Way south past the airport and continued past the end of the pavement to get to Akolkolex Forest Service Road where we turned left.
From the start of the Akolkolex FSR, we travelled 7.2 km and came to a Y in the road. There we took the right road. Once we crossed the Akolkolex River bridge we stayed left, and from there the road was fairly well signposted.
From the end of the pavement, it was about 33 km of dusty dirt road to the McCrae Lake Trailhead.
With more than 50 wildfires burning across British Columbia there was lots of haze across the mountains.
A hike into the wild
It seemed to be a difficult start on the trail. The three-hour drive to get to the trailhead was exhausting.
Horseflies! The attack started right at the beginning of the hike and the little beast followed us all the way to the top. My Anti Brum didn’t seem to keep them from attacking. Carol’s repellent from their last trip to Australia was a bit more effective. Still, we didn’t let this little annoyance spoil our day.
We decided not to take the turnoff to McCreae lake after 2 km on the trail. Instead, we headed for the summit, a 4.5 km hike. The terrain got tougher quickly, but we were rewarded with sweeping mountain views. No wonder the scenery makes this trek one of the most popular trails in the Revelstoke area.
We kept to the northwest ridge all the way to the top and had the whole route to ourselves. We didn’t meet any other hikers all day.
Revelstoke’s mountains are unique and rugged. With the Monashee mountains to the west, and the Selkirk Mountains to the east, both compete with the Rocky Mountains in grandeur, but they are also different.
It always amazes me that visitors to Canada don’t realize that we have other magnificent mountain ranges here in Canada, apart from the Rockies. It takes more motivation and more planning to hike in those mountains.
This wild area is an adventure hikers paradise. I don’t think you have to worry about an invasion of weekend hikers from the city here. No tourists pulling to the trailhead in a tour bus; the bus most probably would never make it up the gravel road. Only people who want to go into the wild nature will go through the trouble to come here.
A feeling of lightness and peace, and surrounded by mountain tops. (I don’t like these sunglasses, I need a new pair).
We decided to detour down to the rock basin to the unnamed lake below the glacier.
This picture should have a border around it, the white area in front is snow. A creek runs underneath the snow turning into a waterfall over the ridge. Far down we got a view of McCrea Lake, a sparkling blue-green lake that is surrounded by towering mountains.
We passed the turn-off to the lake on the way up. Actually, it would have been only a 2 km trail to the lake. but we will leave this for next we venture into the wild Revelstoke mountains.
There was no wildlife on the trail, but we heard some noises in the bushes. After a glance back we automatically started to speed up a bit.
We made it back to the trailhead after four in the Columbia Mountains.
Driving home took us another 3 hours. Again, driving dirt roads back to Revelstoke and on the Tran-Canada Highway back to the Wap Creek forest service road turn off, west of Three Valley Gap.
This might have been my fastest ride ever as a passenger travelling on gravel road. We were all tired and it was getting late, and our driver was in a hurry!
Thank you, my Swedish friends, it was a great adventure into the wild!
For map information:
- mount-mccrae-trail-overview-map-pdf (distances are in foot)