Gwillim Lakes Basin

Enjoy a premier scenic day hike or backpack in heart of Gwillim Lake Basin's lake-studded mountainous amphiteater setting in the idyllic high country of Valhalla Provincial Park in British Columbia's Selkirk Mountains. Enjoy seasonal colors of abundant wildflowers and occasional wildlife sightings. Explore rewarding challenges, scenery, and relaxation in beautiful alpine setting.

Getting There

from New Denver via Slocan

Drive south on Highway 6 along east shore of Slocan Lake 20.2 miles to Slocan. Turn right (west) onto Gravel Pit Road and set the odometer to 0. Drive west on Gravel Pit Road, proceeding straight and cross bridge over Slocan River. At 0.5 mile, stay left on Slocan West Forest Road and cross bridge over Gwillim Creek at 0.7 mile.  At 1.4 mile, turn right on Little Slocan Forest road. At 8.1 mile, reach a junction and bear left (southwest) onto the main road for Gwillim Lakes. At 12.6 miles, reach a junction and turn right onto Hoder Creek Forest Road for Gwillim Lakes. Reset the odometer to 0. At 4 miles bear right and bar right again at 6.4 miles. At 6.6 miles, bear right and descend. At 11.5 miles, take the left fork, at 11.7 miles, take the right fork and at 13.2 miles, reach the road end and Gwillim Lakes Trailhead (5,300 ft).   

from Nelson or Castlegar

Drive Highway 3A to the Playmor Junction midway between Nelson and Castlegar, and then drive Highway 6 north 9.5 miles. Across from power station, turn left onto Passmore Upper Road, and set the odometer to 0. Travel northwest on Passmore Upper Road and cross bridge over Slocan River at 0.2 miles. Turn left and follow Little Slocan River along its north bank which gently curves north.At 2 miles, pavement ends.  Bear left at 2.3 miles onto Little Slocan Forest Road. At 3.3 miles, bear right, at 4.7 miles, continue straight on the main road, and again continue straight at 5.6 miles. At 8.2 miles,  10 miles, and 14.3 miles, continue straight. At 15.5 miles, continue straight for Gwillim Lakes, and then turn right and descend to Little Slocan Lakes Campground in 220 yards. At 15.6 miles reach a junction and turn left onto Hoder Creek Forest Road. Reset odometer to 0. At 4 miles and 6.4 miles, bear right. At 6.6 miles, bear right and descend. At 11.5 miles, take the left fork left, and at 11.7 miles, the fork right. At 13.2 miles, reach the road end and Gwillim Lakes Trailhead (5,300 ft).


High clearance vehicle recommended. As the road could become rough and deteriorates before the trailhead, consider parking vehicles in a pullout or wide area along roadside. For overnight parking at or near trailhead, be sure to do precautionary chicken wire wrap including anchoring with sticks, lumber, and rocks around  the vehicle's base (ground to lower exterior coverage) to prevent damage to hoses, tires, brake linings, and the under carriage from gnawing of small mammals. 

On the Trail

Hike 8 miles with 2,300 feet of elevation gain to Gwillim Lakes Basin (7,120 feet). The trail winds through forest, along Drinnon Lake, and ascends Drinnon Pass, with ever expansive views until it emerges at treeline revealing the wonderland of Gwillim Lakes' boulder-strewn alpine meadow basin. There are campsites at Gwillim Lakes (13 sites), Wicca Lake (6 sites) and Drinnon Lake (4 sites). They all have  tent sites,  an outhouse, communal cooking area, and metal food cache. These backcountry camps are first-come, first-served with the  nightly fee paid at trailhead kiosk.

Consider a side trip to Lucifer Pass (8,480 feet). It's 2+ miles round trip with 1,360 feet of elevation gain from Gwillim Lakes Basin. The trail ascends 440 feet to two lakes in the upper basin on route to Lucifer Pass. At the pass, view Rocky Lakes Basin to the north and one of the Hird Lakes farther north. There are many challenging scrambling and mountaineering options beyond Lucifer Pass: Rocky Lakes, Hird Lakes, and Evans Lake, the largest in Valhalla Provincal Park, with views of Mount Bor and Urd Peak.


  • Bear safe travel and camping precautions are necessary while visiting amid the park's backcountry populated with grizzly bears during summer and early fall hiking andbackpacking season, especially during mid-late summer berry season. Bear spray is recommended.
  • Guidebook: Don't Waste Your Time in the West Kootenays: An Opinionated Hiking Guide by Kathy and Craig Copeland (Wilderness Press, 2000)
  • Guidebook: Where Locals Hike in the West Kootenay - the Premier Trails in Southeast B.C. near Kaslo and Nelson, 2nd ed. by Kathy and Craig Copeland (, 2005, updated  2007)
  • The nearest towns with services and supplies are Slocan and New Denver. 
  • Suitable Activities: Backpacking, Day Hiking, Scrambling
  • Seasons: July, August, September, October
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
  • Length: 15.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 3,180 ft
  • Land Manager: Valhalla Provincial Park
  • Parking Permit Required: None
  • Recommended Party Size: 6
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
  • CNTS Burton 82F/13
  • A Visitor's Guide to Valhalla Provincial Park including Kokanee Glacier PP
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