Heather Meadows trail – E.C. Manning Park

Manning is an overlooked gem in the BC Parks crown and Heather Meadows is a beautiful trail with perhaps some of the easiest access in the province.

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Nicomen Lake campsite.

Manning’s 700km² encompasses most of the Hozameen Range and its diverse terrain ranges from wet coastal rain forests, to jagged snow-capped peaks, alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, lakes and broad river beds along the valley floors. It combines with Skagit Valley Park and the Cascades Recreation area in Canada, and North Cascade Park (2050kms²) in the US to create a huge swath of wilderness only 3 hours from Vancouver.

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Looking south to the peaks of the North Cascades.

Heather Meadows is perhaps best known for the wild flower exposition that blooms in July of each year.  But even without the flowers, it is stunning.  And beauty aside, it is easily one of the best hikes in BC for several reasons.  One, you can drive to almost 2000m and start your hike in the alpine.  Two, you can access both the park and the trail head by a well-maintained road in a 2WD car.  Three, with some planning, you can create a loop trail. Four, the whole trail is well-marked, well kept and just a pleasure to walk.

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Looking north. First Brother peak on the left (2,272m).

The hike is 37 kms long and it divides up nicely into 3 days:
Day 1 – Blackwall parking lot to Kicking Horse campsite (13kms).  You could add a side trip to the First and Second Brother peaks.
Day 2 – Kicking Horse campsite to Nicomen Lake/campsite (9kms).
Day 3 – Nicomen Lake out to Cayuse Flats/Hwy 3 (15kms).
Going from Blackwall parking lot east to Cayuse Flats creates a more downhill route, with a steep descent from the ridge to Nicomen Lake.  And then a continuous descent on the last day from the lake to the road.

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The well-marked trail climbing out of Kicking Horse campsite.

There are pit toilets, bear box/food caches, water sources and tent pads at each of the designated campsites.

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Nicomen Lake at sunset.

Access:
Hwy 3 (Crowsnest) bisects Manning.  Follow Hwy 3 67 km east of Hope to the intersection with a flashing amber light just past the Manning Park Lodge. Turn left onto the road, following signs for the “Cascade Lookout”. The road travels 8 km on pavement to the Cascade Lookout and an additional 8 km on gravel to the sub-alpine meadows area. The start of the Heather Trail is located at the Blackwall Peak parking area.  If you want to do a loop, you’ll need two cars.  Park the second car on the road outside the Cayuse Flats parking lot.

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Manning Park at dusk from the Cascade Lookout.

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