Manning Park should be more popular than it is. It’s only 3 hours from the Lower Mainland, and considering this it offers some of the best BC trails around, totally accessible on an easy overnight on any given weekend.
I’ve written about Lightning Lake snowshoeing in the winter months, but reflecting on some of my favourite PNW adventures of 2015, the shoulder season hike to Frosty Mountain ranks high on the list.
The Frosty Mountain trail starts at Lighting Lake and then goes up, up, up (1150 meters elevation gain to the summit.)
While it starts flat around the lake, the switchbacks that careen up the mountain over the first 6 km go through forest that, while pretty, lacks some of the big vistas that can more easily motivate one up a mountain.
An hour into the hike, you’ll start to see and appreciate the views back towards the lake. Another hour after that, and you’ll come across the Frosty Creek cabin and campsite. There’s a creek from which you can fill up (and then filter!) your water, and an outhouse for people nervous about letting go in the great outdoors.
From Frosty Creek, you’re close to the sight that makes Frosty Mountain so worthwhile in fall – larch meadows. This field and forest grove would be beautiful any time of year, and are apparently rife with colour during the summer wildflower months, but in fall (safe bets: late September to Thanksgiving) the larch trees in the grove turn a spectacular gold. It feels like being in a Tolkien scene, and photos of the grove against the mountainous peaks looming behind are incredible.
10 km from the start of the trail, the larch grove ends and the Frosty Mountain peaks appear. Lots of people will turn around here, or further back in the meadows, but it’s well worth scrambling up the rocks to continue to the peak.
It’s a fairly steep scree slope but a thankfully brief (1.5 km) series of switchbacks will take you up the slope and to the ridge.
The last time we were there, it was a stormy Thanksgiving weekend, and while the cloud bank made for some very atmospheric photos, it also made the upcoming ridge walk a bit nerve-wracking. It also felt longer than the 0.6 km to the summit.
From the summit, the views are said to be incredible – but prepare yourselves that if you hike in fall for the golden larches, you may miss out on the clear skies to get the views. It’s still totally worth it.
Time: 7 hours round-trip
Distance: 22 KM
Elevation gain: 1150 M
Driving time from Vancouver: 2.5 hours
Worth-It Factor: 9/10