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The Heather Trail

One of BC's most scenic trails is worth the hype!

Hiking Difficult

46 km
1.8 km
1.8 km
1 day +
Low Point
1.8 km
High Point
2.3 km
The Heather Trail Map

In any list of the best hikes in BC the Heather Trail will be mentioned, and with good reason - it combines huge views across the North Cascades with some of the most spectacular wildflower meadows in Canada. The fact that the trail is superbly maintained and lined with a series of fabulous "wild" campgrounds only sweetens the deal!


It's possible to thru-hike the Heather Trail by doing a vehicle shuttle and leaving one car at Cayuse Flats (where the Skaist River meets Highway 3) and using another to drive up to the start point of the hike at Blackwall Peak, but the majority of hikers go to Nicomen Lake and return by the same route. The trail has completely different views when you hike it in 2 directions, so doing an out-and-back isn't a chore at all. Those with supreme levels of fitness might consider going from Blackwall Peak to Nicomen Lake and back in one day, but most mere mortals opt to camp at least once on the trip, and the lovely campgrounds make this a pleasure. One of the most popular strategies is to hike into Kicking Horse campground on day 1, do a day hike to Nicomen Lake on day 2 and then return to Kicking Horse for a second night before hiking back to the parking lot on day 3. This is such a logical route that Kicking Horse campground is full many nights of the summer, so get there early if possible and avoid weekends!

The Heather Trail is completely obvious all the way from Blackwall Peak to Nicomen Lake, and any minor optional detours are clearly signposted. The most popular of the detours is the easy scramble up Three Brothers Mountain, and it's a trip that is well worth making for the incredible views from the summit. The scramble is easy but still much technically tougher than anything on the main Heather Trail, so only attempt it if you are comfortable with a little exposure. If you're carrying an overnight bag then leave it just off the main Heather Trail and do the Three Brothers trip unencumbered, but remember to hang your bag off the ground to avoid any rodents "exploring" it in the hunt for food!

One of the real highlights of the Heather Trail is the pleasure of camping at the designated campgrounds en route. Each one features wooden tent pads, a water source (bring a water filer - the water isn't guaranteed to be potable), a long drop toilet and a bear cache to store food in, and all of them are wonderfully peaceful spots at which to spend a night or 2. Buckhorn campground (the closest one to the start of the trail) must be reserved via the BC Parks website - https://bcparks.ca/reservations/backcountry-camping/ec-manning-buckhorn-campground/ - but Kicking Horse and Nicomen Lake campgrounds are first come, first served. Please respect the rules and don't camp anywhere but at the campgrounds, and carry out everything you carried in.

The end point of the trail - Nicomen Lake - is utterly spectacular and, in the height of summer, not toooo cold for a swim! It seems a shame to go all that way and not take a dip, but for most hikers it's a pretty brief dip!

Whether you run it in a day or spend 3 or 4 nights savouring its delights, the Heather Trail is one of the best hikes in BC.



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

between June and September


  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly