Earl Grey Pass Trail

Earl Grey Pass Trail near Invermere, BC


This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars
61 kms
1 day11hours
difficult
Hiking
Fall, Summer
Invermere, BC
User ChrisO

The Earl Grey Pass trail is a 37 mile (61 km) 5 day hike through two valleys of the Purcell Mountains south west of Invermere, BC. The trail takes you west up Toby Creek to Earl Grey Pass, then drops you down along Hamill Creek to Argenta near the north eastern end of Kootenay Lake. The Earl Gray Pass Trail crosses the Purcell Mountains from the East to the West Kootenays, passing through old growth forests of Spruce, Hemlock and Cedar. Native wildlife includes deer and elk, mountain goat, beaver, coyote and wolf, black and grizzly bear, and at least 90 bird species.

The trail can be done in either direction, as a return trip, or with a car-drop or pre-arranged pick-up at one end.

This route was historically followed by First Nations people, and then by miners in the late 1800's. Earl Grey, the Governor General of Canada in the early 1900's, built a cabin near the start of the trail on Toby Creek in 1909.

From the eastern trail head, hike along the northern banks of Toby Creek to the top of Earl Grey Pass. On the way, explore the remains of Earl Grey's family Cabin and the now abandoned Mineral King Mine. From the pass you can scramble the ridge north of the pass to a shale peak (8841ft) for spectacular views.

West of the pass it's mostly downhill. Drop down past a small spring to North Forks camp at the base of Blockhead Mountain, then follow Hamill Creek on a trail that has many blow downs, 5 cable car creek crossings and numerous creek crossings.

Available wilderness camping sites (measured from the eastern trail head) include Earl Grey Cabin (1.5 km), Tepee Camp (8.5 km), Toby Falls (14.5 km), Earl Grey Pass (16.5 km), Rock Creek (30.5 km), Boy Scout Camp (39 km), Big Bar (42.5 km), and Garnet Beach (46.5 km).

Expect all the dangers of wilderness camping in BC, including bears, fast changing mountain weather, slippery and muddy trails, log crossing, river crossings by cable car (bring gloves), other water crossings, game trails, slippery bridges, avalanche paths, blow-downs and creek crossings. This is not a trail for the inexperienced, and will require map reading and route finding skills, experience camping in bear country, and careful judgement on where and how to cross the many rivers on the trail.

Depending on the spring melt and resulting river volumes, this trail is normally attempted in August and early September.

More information and trail maps can be found here at the BC Parks web page for the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy.

Maps: 1:50,000 scale topographic maps 82K/2, 82K/7, and 82K/8. A larger scale back road map for the area would also be a good idea. Eastern Trail Map , Western Trail Map

Directions:

To get to the Toby Creek trail head (eastern trail head) follow a secondary road north of Invermere 18 kms towards Panorama Resort, then go 20km down the the gravel road beside Toby Creek to the old Mineral King mine. Just past the abandoned mine site, cross Jumbo Creek. Keep left and continue past a horse corral for about 1km. Take the right fork and follow it up hill to a parking area. It is a 200m walk to the Park Boundary and trail head.

The western trail head is accessed from the town of Argenta, north east of Lardeau off Hwy 31. Take the Argenta Rd south through Argenta to Wolfe Rd. Follow this north then take the right Forest Service Road (FSR) to the trail head at the head of Carter Creek. This is the standard finish to the hike. Drop a car there at the trails western trail head. Drive around to eastern end of the trail on the Toby Creek FSR.

This trail can be done in the opposite direction, in which case the car drop will be on the Toby Creek FSR.




Please check the bottom of the Description (above left; click) for the author's written directions.

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By janecPosted By: janec  - Thu Aug 23 00:16:42 EDT 2012 Not Rated Upside Pristine wilderness, the very best of the East and West Kootenays. Incredible views. Gorgeous old growth cedar forest. Huge "wow" moments everywhere. Downside A really tough slog through avalanche paths, stinging nettle and bear's claw over six feet high, a real bush bash, lots of places where the trail is lost, almost impassable, route finding required. Comment We set out from the East side planning on five days. We did it, and maybe could have done it in four. But given the total lack of info on the trail this year and the general trend indicating deteriorating conditions in the few reports we could find, we played it safe. There had been speculation that the third cable car was out and we weren't sure if we would have to turn back. The Toby Creek side to Earl Grey Pass and up to Slate Peak is awesome, pretty clear, just a few big blow downs to get over, and maybe feeling the loss of the trail just below the camp ground in Toby flats a bit, but all pretty good. As of three days ago anyway, we (party of four) were the first to sign in at the cairn on Slate peak this year. I suspect the lack of reliable trail info is a barrier to anyone thinking about this hike. The west side is a whole other story. The avalanche paths and blow down between the pass and the fifth cable car are pretty severe. Expect to lose what little trail there is, and lose it often, making your way through stinging nettle and devil's claw over six feet high. Very hard, intensely physical, full out bush whacking. Much of the trail here is little more than an animal run, down sloping and disappearing, especially in the avalanche paths. Guestinmate at 150-200 blowdown trees crossing the path, and those were just the ones that took some extra effort (or major effort) to get over. The Comb slide, typically a pretty difficult part, is full of debris, rocks, trees etc, still full of ice underneath it all with a huge hollow tunnel beneath that. Sketchy. But this really paled in comparison to some of the other blowdown this year. One section in particular of blown down spruce a few km from the pass is memorably tough. My own feeling is that without huge experience hiking in this type of terrain, or without PWC going in and doing some trail clearing/management, this trail between the pass and the fifth cable car is likely to be impassable within a year or three. Go now, while you can still find it, and be ready to do a lot of hard work. From the fifth cable car down to the third, there is still more blowdown. Some trail maintenance seems to have taken place almost to the second cable car. The first cable car has been replaced with a super-heavy behemoth. Fancy and new, but you will have to be pretty strong to do it on your own. We didn't meet any other hiking parties until the fifth cable car, where there were two groups of two making their way across. Good to hear from them that the west side was passable, and this took some of our time stress off. We let day four be shorter and stopped mid afternoon at garnet beach. Day five we finished around noon, again, at a very relaxed pace, all the better to enjoy this place. This is the East and West Koots at their very best, pristine wilderness, un-roaded and gorgeous. Although we did not see any animals (these were very hot days), evidence of grizzly, moose, wolves, etc, was everywhere. There are incredible old growth cedar forests, with trees easily 700 years old. Camp grounds are in good condition (but take note, Rock Creek is much further away from the pass then the PWC map indicates and of all the camp grounds, this seemed the least appealing anyway.) This trail is definitely worth the effort.
By jaydon.mccarthyPosted By: jaydon.mccarthy  - Sun Sep 18 20:55:24 EDT 2011 This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars Upside great hike, did it in 4 days from argenta to panorama could have done it in 3 had we got a good start on the 1st day and timed going over the pass properly Downside last 3 cable cars were getting pretty worn out, seemed to be constructed poorly where the cable was riding on the metal instead of the pulley on the last 2 cable cars, nothing dangerous about them but extremely hard to pull across the river, lots of blowdown large trees from about moose meadows campsite all the way till the earl grey pass, so prepare for loosing alot of time going under and over huge downed trees, also with the blowdown, very easy to loose the trail in multiple spots, had to backtrack to refind about 4 times which set us back pretty bad, also ther is alot of old trails that fork off the path which were probably old routes that haven't been blocked off or marked but you realize very quickly it isn't the right way, also easy to loose trails on the avalanche slide crossings with big rock slide areas, we were very lucky to find the trail again once we crossed the slide area at times, one path forks...i dont remember where but the right goes to the river and u can see a small trail/landing and old cable, so we crossed with great difficulty just to find a dead(old trail) so we hiked back and found the fork that went left and continued on the proper route, we went mid september so no difficult river crossings for us, all creaks we crossed had logs or deadfalls or bridgees that made it easier, hint....if you do loose the trail, look for saw cut logs, parks has done a pretty good job of cutting trees of the trail but its prob hard to keep up, so when u start getting lost in the deadfall area just look for the saw cut stumps...really help us navigate Comment went with my dad who was freakishly paranoid of bears so he was blowing his whistle at every avalanche crossing and berry growth area so we didnt see any wildlife except for a martin/fisher before dark by our campsite one night and squirrels and birds.....lots of bear poop and bear tracks, wolf tracks(unmistakably) and the usually ton of deer/elk tracks, make sure you have good waterproof gear because walking thru some of the avalanche slide growth...u may as well be trudging through a river for how wet you get from,
By SteveThomasPosted By: SteveThomas  - Fri Jul 22 13:16:04 EDT 2011 Not Rated Upside The first part of this trail from Toby Creek trailhead to Earl Gray's cabin was an easy hike through lush forest an then into a beautiful alpine pasture. Great for an afternoon hike or picnic. Downside Recent logging activity has stolen the beauty of this area. Although the trail head has now moved on a couple of km due to logging roads. But road can be Very difficult to traverse, impossible withou 4x4, with recent rain. Comment Couldn't find the route up to Earl Gray's cabin. Abandoned picnic. Very disappointed.
By cloudPosted By: cloud  - Sat Nov 22 23:20:26 EST 2008 Not Rated Question Has the trail been repaired? If not are their plans to do so and will there be any volunteer work parties? Thanks

ANSWERS are in this forum:  Earl Grey Trail
By glpmPosted By: glpm  - Sat Jul 26 13:53:11 EDT 2008 Not Rated Question is the trail still colsed due to the fire damage. I see as of Nov 2007 it is closed, i was thinking about doing the trail on the aug lond weekend, is it possible?

ANSWERS are in this forum:  Earl Grey Pass Trail
By ChrisOPosted By: ChrisO  - Wed Apr 30 21:36:40 EDT 2008 Not Rated Comment Important Notice:

As of November 7, 2007:

* A forest fire that burned an extensive area in lower Hamill Creek during the summer of 2007 has damaged several structures on the Earl Grey trail and destroyed the first cable car. For public safety reasons, the Earl Grey Trail and Hamill Creek Drainage of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy are closed until further notice. The Toby Creek access is only open from Toby Creek Trailhead to the Earl Grey Pass summit.
* The bridge over Westley Creek has been washed out and is unusable. Those wishing to venture to Dewar hot springs will have to ford Westley Creek and do so at their own risk. Travel to Dewar hot springs is not recommended at this time.
By ChrisOPosted By: ChrisO  - Wed Apr 30 21:36:40 EDT 2008 Not Rated Comment Important Notice:

As of November 7, 2007:

* A forest fire that burned an extensive area in lower Hamill Creek during the summer of 2007 has damaged several structures on the Earl Grey trail and destroyed the first cable car. For public safety reasons, the Earl Grey Trail and Hamill Creek Drainage of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy are closed until further notice. The Toby Creek access is only open from Toby Creek Trailhead to the Earl Grey Pass summit.
* The bridge over Westley Creek has been washed out and is unusable. Those wishing to venture to Dewar hot springs will have to ford Westley Creek and do so at their own risk. Travel to Dewar hot springs is not recommended at this time.


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