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.
Mirror Lake – Monashee Mountains
Dirt paths often lead to amazing places. Mountains and Hiking are something I love. It’s distracting, you’re in nature and your mind is rejuvenating.
Mountains have always been part of my life. What a flat, dull place the world would be without mountains! They were the picturesque backdrop of the home where I grew up, close to the Swiss Alps.
It’s one thing to ride in the mountains on a horseback. It’s a totally other experience to hike with my own two feet. This is more strenuous but can be absolutely rewarding.
Planning a day in the mountains
A few days before the hike to Mirror Lake we studied the Kootenay Backcountry Map. Tsuius Mountain caught our interest. Not located far from Mabel Lake according to the map, but no official way to get to it from this side. We decided to take the normal route via Sugar Lake.
Although Tsuius Mountain could be done as a day trip, I recommend making two days out of it and camping at Mirror Lake. This time, an overnight trip was not possible for us and we chose Mirror Lake for our destination.
Gravel road to the trailhead for Mirror Lake
We drove up the long, dusty Sugar Lake Road for approximately 49 km from highway 6 in Cherryville. At the junction with the Tsuius FSR, we turned left up the hill. The gravel road climbed fairly steep with road switchbacks for about 9.3 km. It was an easy climb as there were no water bars. We didn’t have a 4wd, but with our experienced gravel road driver Mikael, that was not a problem.
And there it was, the Monashee Powder Snowcats lodge, situated between an amazing mountain world. You just have to see that to believe it. We parked at the lodge parking lot and went to talk to the caretaker of the lodge. He was very friendly and explained to us where to find the trail. He warned us, that the trails would be very steep and grown in, but mentioned, that he had never been to the lake himself.
On the trail
The trail starts behind the large fuel tanks (which hold the diesel fuel for the cat ski operations for a whole winter). The narrow path soon turns into a narrow ATV path, with grass growing in the centre. Watch out for the turnoff where the foot trail branches off to the right; it’s easy to miss. If you miss it you end up at the water intake of the lodge. That’s exactly what happened to us. So, back we went and this time noticed the ribbons marking the way.
The trail climbs steeply first but is easy to follow with lots of ribbons and a fairly beaten path. It takes you along small streams and stunning, colourful carpets of beautiful wildflowers and views of the mountains. We soon came to the junction between Mirror Lake and the Sunrise Lake branch. From there you notice a waterfall tumbling down from a fair distance, coming from Sunrise Lake.
Stay left, cross the small creek and then hiked across the large rock slide.
The wildflowers were just spectacular when we were there. Old whitebark pine were dotting the landscape just before we reached the treeline. Something we were less happy about where the clouds of nasty mosquitoes attacking us all the way. I’m sure glad I was wearing long pants.
Far in the distance, in the middle of nowhere, we saw the Lodge where we parked the car, a piece carved out into the wilderness.
Walking across these rocks was when I started to doubt my hiking abilities. Something just wasn’t quite right. In all my hiking years I never remember that something like this could have scared me. My nice hiking friends waited for me and helped me along. I suddenly realize that my new prescription eyeglasses were the problem. Without wearing them on the way back, the boulders and rocks were easy to conquer.
The trail was somewhat less obvious once we passed the rock field. Before getting to the lake, we had some magnificent views of the Monashee Mountains.
We passed a small pond before Mirror Lake came into our view.
Mirror Lake is so different from what I expected to find but so unique. A crystal clear lake surrounded by rocks and boulders. Tsuius Mountain was now fully visible and we could see the route up to the summit swinging northwest along a level bench to a pass.
Tsiuius Mountain was standing all by itself, covered with snow patches. Looking up to the right we could guess where Sunrise Lake had to be. The sun disappeared for a while which gave the landscape a grey look in the picture.
We explored the area around the lake and had our well-deserved lunch. The bugs didn’t leave us alone for a second.
It would have been too late in the day to hike up to Tsuius Mountain. Knowing that my Swedish hiking friends will be back in Canada next summer, maybe we will return and hike to the Tsuius summit, and maybe hike out north to Joss Mountain, or South and explore from there.
On the hike down along white flowered azalea bushes, we stopped a few times to capture some pictures. The bugs didn’t leave us alone for a second until we escaped in our vehicle for the long drive home.
Detour to Greenbush Lake
I have never been to Greenbush lake before, but I knew that it was only another few km further along Sugar Lake Road. Seeing it from a long distance away driving town from the lodge, Mikael decided to drive to it. Greenbush lake is a beautiful green coloured small lake surrounded by forest. Greenbush Lake Protected Area was established to protect important grizzly bears and mountain caribou habitats.
We walked through the old-growth forest down to the lake and marvelled at the old cedar, hemlock, spruce and sub-alpine fir.
The area offers recreation opportunities including fishing, backcountry skiing, and heliskiing. It’s also a great place to just appreciate nature and marvel at its beauty.
We came across Curwin Road sign on the way home. This would be a shortcut back to the Mabel Lake Valley area, according to the backcountry map.
It was too late in the day to explore it. It’s on the To-Do list for next year when we head out to the mountains again.
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