Placeholder Routes & Places


Backpack - Gwillim Lakes Basin

Photo-oriented backpack to one of BC's most beautiful back country areas in Selkirk Mountains. Spectacular scenery amid dozens of lakes and tarns, towering granite peaks, meadows with abundant colorful wildflowers, and small to large wildlife viewing.

  • Moderate/Strenuous
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 15.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 3,180 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 8,480 ft
  • Pace: 1-1.5

Slocan, BC Lv 7:00-7:15am, or arrive Gwillim Lakes TH 8:00-815am

All vehicles parked overnight at/near Gwillim Lakes trailhead are required to have chicken wire wrap (see route/place link for details), and recommended for most other Selkirk/Purcell backpacks.

Updated 7/12:

Park trails snowfree.  Park is not impacted by current wildfires/smoky air quality in distant areas in western Canada.

Read all leader notes and route/place link, before submitting request for leader permission. 

Explore and photograph Valhalla's Gwillim Lake Basin and surrounding area, perhaps the most beautiful and enchanting back country area in the West Kootenay's Selkirk Mountains.  As you ascend the trail toward Gwillim Lakes, you'll pass through colorful wildflower meadows, lovely lakes (Wicca, Drinnon) and scenic Drinnon Pass before entering the idyllic Gwillim Lakes Basin reflecting surrounding spectacular scenery and some with curving offshore lush greenery.  Beyond the main Gwillim Lakes Basin, we will explore the upper Gwillim Lakes and an offtrail route toward Lucifer Pass for ever expansive views of Valhalla's many lakes and peaks.

Note:  Leader will get update on road condition of last 2.4km (~1.5 mi) before TH, which may need to be walked if too rough for most vehicles (even 4x4 high clearance).  Will get info on alternate parking within approx 1.5 mi of TH.

Members only:  minimum 3 persons.  Leader permission required: with priority through *July 12* for photographers with multiple recent multi-night backpacks with 2000-2500' gain). 

Leader permission forms will include complete responses with following information:  examples of your recent (last 12-24 mo) Mountaineers and private 3+day moderate to strenuous backpacks (incl location, mileage, elev gain), primary interest(s) (photography, backpacking, other) in this particular trip, comfort/experience with travel over early summer snow fields, comfort/experience with back country travel/camping in grizzly habitat, interest in Gwillim Lakes backpack only or both Gwillim Lakes and Glory Basin/Kaslo backpacks,  transportation plans (drive or need ride, carpool interest), and have current passport for border crossing.

Leisurely to moderate pace, to accommodate photo opportunities near camp and stops along trails/routes.   Trails are snow free, per 7/7 park trail conditions report.

Daily itinerary: 

Day 1:  TH via Wicca, Drinnon Lake and Pass to main Gwillim Lakes Basin and campsites.  Explore Gwillim Lakes Basin and afternoon/evening photography, swim, relaxing.  Approx 5 miles, 2300' gain and 480' loss.

Day 2:  Sunrise/early AM photos in main lakes basin.  Partial day hike, trail and route, to upper Gwillim Lakes Basin and toward Lucifer Pass.  Approx 3 miles, 1400' gain and loss.

Day 3:  Return to TH mid-afternoon or earlier.  Approx 5 miles, 480' gain and 2300' loss.  Enjoy time at main lake basin for photos, swim, relaxing.

Back country camps at Gwillim Lakes (also Drinnon Lake & Drinnon Pass.  No back country camp fees.

Grizzly safe travel and camping practices required.  Bear spray required. 

Links to trail description/photos:

 Snowfree trails. Conditions report:

Be aware of 7.5-8 hours approx drive time from Seattle to Slocan or Nelson, BC area.  High clearance vehicles (and at least 1 full spare tire) recommended for travel on gravel/dirt forest roads accessing trailheads in Kootenay region.

Arrive July 28 afternoon/evening for front country accommodations in/near Slocan:  Slocan's Springer Creek CG & RV Park, forest service campground (between Slocan & TH), motel.  The small community of Sloan has groceries, cafes, gas, etc.  Slocan area accommodations are recommended for evening of July 31, especially if planning to join the Mountaineers' backpack in Kokanee Glacier PP (Glory Basin & Kaslo Lk).  For travel planning to Aug 1-3 backpack, drive time to Nelson and the Glory Basin/Kaslo Lake TH (Kokanee Glacier PP) is approx 1.5 hours,  with very limited accommodations (most filled) available in Nelson area.  Leader will be camping 7/28 & 7/31 in Slocan's CG/RV park.

Consider extending  your back country explorations in the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains with one or more trips preceding or following Gwillim Lakes:  July 26-27:  Abbott Ridge & Asulkan Valley (or Hermit trail) day hikes in Glacier NP (BC), August 1-3: Glory Basin and Kaslo Lake in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.


Gwillim Lakes Basin

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent with footprint/ground tarp; no open tarp/tent shelters
  • Stove and fuel
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter
  • Bear canister, Ursack or extra stuff sack with cord designated for hanging food.  Bearproof food storage may be available.
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and shovel or blue bag to deal with waste
  • Trekking poles recommended
  • Bear spray required
Trip Reports