Brewer Creek Tarns and Brewer/Mineral Pass

Explore wonderfully scenic moderate to strenuous backpack or long hike 9.5 miles RT and 2,200 feet gain through subalpine forest to open meadows, three Brewer tarns amid subalpine larch, Brewer/Mineral Pass views and among towering mountains in BC’s northern Purcell Range. Explore beyond Brewer/Mineral pass to more magnificent Brewer Basin backcountry for sweeping ridge views, Mount Brewer and Ben Abel Lake. See abundant colorful summer wildflowers and premier displays of autumn's glorious golden larches among stunning scenery.

Topo maps (1:50,000):  Toby Creek  82K/8, Fairmont Hot Springs 82J/5.

Directions from Invermere BC  (via hwy 93/95):   From main street in Invermere, turn right at CIBC onto 13th St and follow to end.  Left onto 13th Ave/Westside Rd.  Follow for 18km, then right turn onto Hawke Road.  At junction (2,810 ft) of Westside Road and Hawke Road (reset odometer to 0), drive west on gravel Hawke Road.  At 7.1 miles (11.5 km marker), take left fork signed with Brewer Creek vertical trail-post left arrow (avoid Brewer Ridge Road).  Stay on main road.  Take next two right forks (may be signed), about 400 m past 8.7 and 9.3 miles respectively.  At 10.6 miles, take left fork (unsigned), 500 m past 17 km marker (do not go up steep road to right).  Brewer Creek road gradually ascends and follows main Brewer Creek valley heading west.  Road deteriorates to rough single lane, where high clearance AWD recommended.  At 14.7 miles, cross Brewer Creek bridge (5,550 ft).  Over next 1.3 miles, road is steep, rocky.  At 16 miles, road ends in large parking area (6,110 ft).

Approx 1-1.5 hour drive on rough gravel roads,  short narrow, rocky, a few deep rolling dips near high spots, moderately steep sections.  High clearance 4WD best for final 1.3-2 miles to TH.  If AWD has difficulty, consider parking close to TH, within 1-2 miles at wide pull out/closed road near bridge and walk to TH.

Recommended guidebooks:  Mountain Footsteps: Hikes in the East Kootenay of Southeastern British Columbia, 4th ed (Strong).  Hikes Around the Columbia Valley (Mclellan & Strauss), and Hikes Around Invermere and the Columbia River Valley (Cameron & Gunn) for routes to Mount Brewer (moderate scramble) and Ben Abel Lake.

Bear/cougar safe travel and camping practices are a must.  Bears are occasionally seen or encountered soon after trailhead, in slide paths and elsewhere.   Cougars sighted in Brewer Lakes basin and elsewhere.

Chicken wire vehicle wraps (secured with sticks and stones) recommended for overnight parking at trailhead to porcupine-proof  to avoid chewing damage on brake lines, hoses, wiring, undercoating or tires.  See online chicken wire wrap tips on West Kootenay Hiking or other websites.

Nearby front country camping:   Redstreak CG (Radium Hot Springs, Kootenay NP) and Dry Gulch Provincial Park (S of Radium HS).

Leave no trace backcountry practices are a must in this area of sensitive, easily damaged fragile meadows and subalpine forests.  Day hiking and minimal to no overnight camping  recommended to minimize impact.  The is popular during peak summer wildflower blooms (approx mid-July through early-August) and during early autumn's spectacular subalpine larch gold (prime color approx September week 3-4 to early October).   

Trail description:   Trail begins at footbridge across Brewer Creek, and steadily ascends near Brewer Creek much of the way through forests including old-growth fir and spruce, moss-carpeted forest floor, subalpine meadows, along flower-lined creeks trickling through mossy slopes.  Take a right fork at .7 miles.  Look for orange diamonds on trees as trail markers.  Grand views emerge as you gain more elevation.  At about 1.3 miles, trail meanders southwest through lush scenic meadows with many creeks and soft, mossy wetlands, and a quickly flowing stream with mountain view.  At approx 1.8 miles, the trail leaves the meadow and heads into partly open subalpine forest with trickling creeks, then follows tributary creek up the gully.  At about 3 miles (7,440 feet), trail makes sharp right turn and gully opens to large wet meadow.  Head uphill far to right  across meadow towards an orange trail marker on a tree, and hike uphill northwest in forest to Central and Northern Tarns.  The three large tarns are surrounded by alpine larch, and connected by picturesque .6 mile long alpine trail.  The Central Tarn 7,630 feet) is deep and scenic.   Northern Tarn (7,600 feet) is deepest and largest of three  tarns.  From Northern Tarn, hike a good trail to Central Tarn with tarn's alpine views and follow trail .7 mile south to Southern Tarn and Brewer/Mineral Pass.   Some routefinding will help with travel through middle basins up to Southern Tarn and pass.  Most of hike through forest and tarn basin is on trail, but frequently becomes indistinct in wet meadows and muddy sections.  Enjoy exploring the delightful terrain surrounding the tarns.

Southern Tarn and Brewer/Mineral Pass (8,140 feet) are highlights of the hike.  Southern Tarn is surrounded by  inviting alpine meadows  and larch.  Hike about .3 miles on a defined, rocky trail from Southern Tarn 350 feet up to Brewer/Mineral Pass.  Walk along ridge for views in all directions, including view down into Mineral Creek to west and back toward lovely Brewer Basin.  The pass or ridge is a good objective for a fine day hike.  Mount Brewer rises 1.2 miles north of pass.

Limited locations (no facilities, toilets, or food storage poles/cabinets) for tenting sites near Northern Tarn in trees before outlet, or near Central Tarn.

Options for exploration: 

Ben Abel Lake (7.700 feet) from Brewer/Mineral Pass:  a highline backpack to remote Ben Abel Lake (in Purcell Wilderness Conservancy) about 5 miles one-way from Brewer tarns area on faint trail most of the way, including good routefinding skills and some bushwhacking.  This is a scenic, moderate route through subalpine and alpine terrain, through flower filled meadows, and stands of larches enroute to the lake.  The route involves no major creek crossings.   Several campsites with no facilities are at north and east ends of  lake.  Allow 1-2 nights for time to explore lake basin.  See detailed info in Cameron and Gunn or  Mclellan and Strauss guidebook.  Avoid access via Mineral Creek horse trail with difficult stream fords and challenging routefinding.

Mount Brewer (9,200 feet) from Northern Tarn:  This is an easy to moderate scramble 1,400 feet gain to the summit, rising above northwest side of Northern Tarn.  Ascend a steep ramp of  alpine larch and tundra with gradually increasing steepness.  Follow trail north from Northern Tarn for about .6 mile.  Leave trail where it starts to descend toward small pond, then turn uphill and go west up northern flank.  Last section of summit hike has exposure and requires scrambling.  Scramble on  Mount Brewer  only as far as your skills allow.  Look for mountain goats on Brewer.

Radium Hot Springs visitor centre, 7556 Main St E, 250-347-9331 - excellent resource for East Kootenay trails and Kootenay NP trail recommendations, guidebooks, etc.  Guidebooks also available at Invermere bookstores. 

See more trail details and photo links at:

trip report:

  • Suitable Activities: Backpacking, Day Hiking
  • Seasons: June, July, August, September, October
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
  • Length: 10.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 2,200 ft
  • 8,030 ft
  • Land Manager: British Columbia Recreation
  • Parking Permit Required: see Land Manager
  • Recommended Party Size: 6
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
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