Revelstoke is one of our favorite places to visit in British Columbia. It is a part of several mountain national parks running through BC and Alberta. Many people think Revelstoke is in Alberta since it is closer to Calgary than Vancouver, but it is in fact, in British Columbia.
And Revelstoke National Park is not located in the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies are 100 km away, but it certainly feels as if you are in the Canadian Rockies. Mount Revelstoke is located within the Columbia Mountains and the town of Revelstoke is located just outside of Mount Revelstoke National Park. It makes for the perfect outdoor escape in both summer and winter.
Mount Revelstoke is located in the Selkirk Mountain Range of British Columbia, immediately northeast of the city of Revelstoke and in the park that bears its name, Mount Revelstoke National Park. There is some debate on whether Mount Revelstoke is part of the Clachnacudainn Range (a subrange of the Selkirks), which shares a nearly identical boundary with the national park. Located near the confluence of the Columbia and Illecillewaet rivers, the mountain provides wonderful views of the Monashee Range to the west and the Selkirk Range to the east. The City of Revelstoke broke a trail to the summit of the mountain in 1908.
Whether Mount Revelstoke needs a Summitpost page of its own is open to debate. The mountain itself isn’t particularly distinctive, it does not reach above the treeline, and (if one chooses) you can drive almost to the summit of it. Despite this, I chose to make the page for it for several reasons. It is the namesake of one of Canada’s mountain national parks. The summit of the mountain is just the beginning of the exploration and trails that lead from there take one into an incredibly beautiful park and landscape. And lastly, Mount Revelstoke and the trails which lead through subalpine meadows from its summit are widely regarded as having some of the most impressive displays of wildflower growth anywhere in the mountains. Paintbrush, lupines, sitka valerian, monkeyflowers, arnica, and daisies proliferate everywhere in the late summer.
Mount Revelstoke National Park is 260 square kilometers in size and was founded in 1914 after much advocacy from local residents for the building of a road to the summit and the formation of a park. The park was set aside in recognition of its mountain scenery and snow-capped peaks, its blooms of wildflower meadows, and for its potential for recreational activity. Furthermore, the park is home to the Clachnacudainn Icefield, old growth forests containing 800 year old red cedars, wetlands, and amazingly diverse, but sometimes threatened, wildlife. The park is primarily made up of the Clachnacudainn (pronounced CLAK-na-KOO-din) subrange of the Selkirk Mountains, which, in turn, is a subrange of the the greater Columbia Mountain Range. The Meadows in the Sky Parkway, which takes people to the summit, was built between 1911 and 1927.
The firetower which crowns the summit of Mount Revelstoke was built in 1927 and continued to be used for its purpose of spotting forest fires in the area until 1987, when satellite technology had replaced the functional usefulness of this and most other firetowers in the mountains.
One of the most striking features of Mount Revelstoke National Park and the Columbia Mountain Range is that it is home to the world’s only inland temperate rainforest. Moisture laden Pacific air coming in from the west rises up and over the Columbia Mountains. It is the first mountain range these air currents have encountered since the Coast Mountains and it serves to wring an incredible amount of precipitation out of them. The mountains surrounding Revelstoke can receive between 15-24 meters (50-80 feet) of snowfall in a single winter. At the lower elevations of the park, most of the annual precipitation comes in the form of rain. It is this abundant precipitation that enables highly productive old growth forests to grow in this region. The forest resembles those found on the coasts of the Pacific Northwest with the growth of western red cedar, western hemlock, western white pine, devil’s club, Pacific yew, and mountain box. A wide variety of ferns and mosses carpet the forest floor. These interior temperate rainforests were once widespread and are now sadly a forest type which is rapidly declining outside of protected areas.
In addition to its fascinating plant life, the area around Mount Revelstoke National Park has an equally interesting display of fauna as well. The park is home to those animals normally found in mountainous terrain – black bear, grizzly bear, wolverine, mountain goat, moose, pine marten, coyote, columbian ground squirrels, and over 180 species of birds. However, it is also home to many creatures not found as readily elsewhere. The old growth forests of the Columbia Mountains supports more than 50 species of cavity nesting birds and denning small animals. The Coeur D’Alene Salamander can be found in the park. There is also a geographically isolated population of banana slugs, which marks their eastern geographic boundary of distribution in North America. Although rare, northern alligator lizards also inhabit the park on the south facing slopes of Mount Revelstoke. This marks the northern extension of their range in British Columbia. Shrews, voles, and several species of bat also make their home here.
Notably, the park and area also serves as a refuge for a small herd of the threatened mountain caribou. All of the world’s 2500 mountain caribou are found in southeastern British Columbia and these animals are dependent on on the lichens that grow on old growth trees found here. These lichens are the caribou’s sole winter food source.
In addition to the trails which lead you to Mount Revelstoke’s summit (discussed in the “Routes” section), there are many other things to do and see on the mountain. Inspiration Woods Trail (a 3 km loop) and the Nels Nelson Historic Ski Jump Area are both short walks on the mountain accessible from the Meadows in the Sky Parkway. There are also several small hikes around the area of the summit. All of the trails in the park are normally very well maintained and signed. The true beauty of the park however is discovered when you begin to hike in to the park from the summit of Mount Revelstoke. All trails leading into the park from the summit take you to the various lakes which are situated within dayhiking distance from the summit. All of the lakes accessed from the trails are stunningly beautiful. Miller Lake is a 5.5 km (3.4 mile) hike (one way) with minimal elevation gain from the summit. Eva Lake is a 6 km (3.7 mile) hike (one way) with minimal elevation gain once again. Upper Jade Lake is 9 km (5.6 miles) away with an elevation gain of 240m (785 feet) experienced along the way. Many people choose to stop at Jade Pass rather than continue on down to the Upper Jade Lake. Jade Pass is an incredible vista at an elevation of 2160m (7085 feet). The views in every direction are amazing. Below you lies Upper Jade Lake. Mount Williamson and the Inverness Peaks fill in some of the panorama around you. The small, unnamed peaks on either side of you from the pass can be easily scrambled up for some added enjoyment of the day. Again, while on the trail, the signage makes it quite clear which way should be taken for each lake. Keep in mind that the park shuts the gate on the Meadows in the Sky Parkway at 8:30 PM. You will need to return before then to prevent your vehicle from being stranded in the park for the night.
Cycling is allowed on the Trans-Canada Highway and the Meadows in the Sky Parkway, as well as on 2-km and 5-km trails at the foot of Mount Revelstoke. It is not allowed on any other trails in the park. In the winter, the Meadows in the Sky Parkway is left unploughed, but is track set up to the Monashee Picnic Area (8 km up the road) for cross-country skiers. Carrying on past this point (up the road or on the Summit Trail) provides further possibilities for skiers and those snowshoeing. Overnighting at the Caribou Cabin (discussed in the “Camping & Lodging” section) is another option for winter activities. Revelstoke is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream with countless other hikes, scrambles, climbs, and winter pursuits in its area.
Mount Revelstoke was home to one of Canada’s first ski hills and also the largest natural ski jump ever created in Canada. This area can be seen at the Nels Nelsen Historic Area at the base of Mount Revelstoke and is accessed from the Meadows in the Sky Parkway. The ski jump became known internationally and annual ski jumping competitions were held there from 1915 until the late 1960’s. The last competition held there took place in 1971. The length and grade of the hill made it a place where world records were able to be broken. Some of these records included:
1921, Henry Hall – 69.8m (229 feet)
1925, Nels Nelsen – 73 meters (240 feet)
1932, Bob Lymburne – 82 meters (269 feet)
Mount Revelstoke was given its name in 1910 in the 9th Report of the Geographic Board of Canada. The mountain, the park, and the city of Revelstoke inherited their name from Edward Charles Baring, 1st Baron Revelstoke. This Lord Revelstoke was honoured with the naming of a community after him for his role in securing the financing which enabled the Canadian Pacific Railway to reach its completion. Lord Revelstoke was head of Baring Brothers & Co., one of two banks that bought up the unsold bonds of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. By doing so, the railway remained solvent and was able to be completed.
Getting to Mount Revelstoke
Mount Revelstoke is accessed by turning off the #1 (Trans-Canada) Highway into the national park in the immediate vicinity of the city of Revelstoke. Large signs in both the eastbound and westbound lanes mark the exits which then become part of the Meadows in the Sky Parkway.
Routes to Mount Revelstoke
For those hiking, an enjoyable loop is to park at the Monashee Lookout and hike up the parkway to where the Summit Trail intersects with the road. From here, take the Summit Trail to the top and at the end of the day hike the Lindmark Trail down. This will take you directly to where your vehicle is waiting for you at the Monashee Lookout. By doing this, you take about 2 km off the hiking distance on the Summit Trail. The round trip loop is about 16 km (not including the distance of carrying on to the summit from Balsam Lake). If you continue on to the summit, your day will be 20 km.
There are essentially 3 different ways to the summit of Mount Revelstoke – the Summit Trail, the Lindmark Trail, and the Meadows in the Sky Parkway. This leaves a person with virtually all options of getting there – hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, biking (only on the parkway), or driving.
The Meadows in the Sky Parkway is only open during the snow free season. Upon the arrival of spring, the road is progressively opened further up as the snow retreats. Sections become accessible when the next safe turnaround area is exposed. Typically, the lower parkway is open from late May until October and the entire road up to Balsam Lake is usually open from mid-July to late September. At Balsam Lake, you are still about 2 km from the summit. This leaves 3 options again for the remainder of the way. You may walk up the shuttle road, hike the Upper Summit Trail, or take the Parks Canada shuttle bus to the summit area. For those walking, I found the road to actually be the preferable way to best enjoy the views of the area. During the snow free season, the Parks Canada shuttle bus runs between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:20 PM daily. Trailers, buses, and motorcoaches are not allowed on the parkway.
The Meadows in the Sky Parkway is 26 km (16 miles) long. For those biking up it, the grade never exceeds 6%. As mentioned previously, the gate to the park is locked each evening at 8:30 PM
In the winter, the Meadows in the Sky Parkway is left unploughed, but is track set up to the Monashee Picnic Area (8 km up the road) for skiers. Carrying on past this point up the road or on the Summit Trail provides further possibilities for backcountry skiers and those snowshoein.
The Summit Trail on Mount Revelstoke is 10 km (6.2 miles) long (one way) and involves 1230m (4035 feet) of elevation gain. The trailhead is found at the Nels Nelson Historic Area/trailer parking area. Watch for signs for this turnoff at the start of the Meadows in the Sky Parkway.
The trail crosses the parkway repeatedly and goes through 3 ecozones – rainforest, snowforest, and eventually in to the subalpine. The end of the trail spits you out into the parking lot at Balsam Lake with its abundance of camper RV’s. From here, you can carry on to the summit either by taking the Upper Summit Trail or walking up the shuttle road. Bikes are not allowed on the Summit Trail. Inquire into if there have been any bear sightings recently and take all normal precautions for hiking in bear country.
In the winter, the Nels Nelson Historic Ski Area is susceptible to avalanches. This historic site is not part of the Summit Trail and can be bypassed.
The Lindmark Trail on Mount Revelstoke is 8 km (5 miles) long (one way) and involves 955m (3130 feet) of elevation gain. Park your vehicle at the Monashee Lookout/picnic area. The trailhead is just across the road from the parking area.
The trail goes through 3 ecozones – rainforest, snowforest, and eventually in to the subalpine. Unlike the Summit Trail, the Lindmark Trail does not cross the parkway at any point. The end of the trail is at Balsam Lake. From here, you can carry on to the summit either by taking the Upper Summit Trail or walking up the shuttle road. Bikes are not allowed on the Lindmark Trail. Inquire into if there have been any bear sightings recently and take all normal precautions for hiking in bear country.
Visiting Mount Revelstoke requires having a National Park Pass. Daily passes are available, however, if you plan on multiple visits to national parks within Canada in a year, an annual pass may become an economical alternative. Annual passes allow access into 27 of Canada’s 39 national parks. Anyone planning on camping overnight at Eva or Jade Lakes is required to buy a backcountry pass. There is no camping at Miller Lake. Click here for a full list of fees for Mount Revelstoke National Park. Backcountry camping passes can be purchased at the Welcome Station Kiosk on the Meadows in the Sky Parkway or in the City of Revelstoke (301 3rd Street).
Open fires are not permitted anywhere in the park, except in the fireplace provided at the Monashee Lookout.
Buses, trailers, and motorcoaches are not allowed on the Meadows in the Sky Parkway.
When to Hike Mount Revelstoke
Typically, the season for hiking to the summit of Mount Revelstoke is mid-July through September. However, it possible year round.
At the expense of repeating myself: In the winter, the Nels Nelson Historic Ski Area is susceptible to avalanches. Aside from the ski area, the avalanche risks are virtually nil when making a typical approach from the SW. The historic site is not part of any trail to the summit and can be bypassed.
Camping at Mount Revelstoke
Two locations exist for camping within Mount Revelstoke National Park and both are in breathtaking surroundings. Neither are road accessible. 4 sites are at Eva Lake and 3 sites are found at the Jade Lakes. Both campgrounds have metal cabinet lockers for food storage as well as an outhouse. Fires are not permitted at either campground. There is no camping facilities at Miller Lake.
Other camping options exist in two provincial parks that are within 20 minutes of Revelstoke:
Martha Creek Provincial Park
Blanket Creek Provincial Park
As an option in the winter only, the Caribou Cabin is available to rent out from the park. The Caribou Cabin sleeps six and is equipped with foam mattresses, a wood stove for heat, a two burner propane cook-top and propane lights. The fees are $14.70 per person per night to stay there.
Be prepared for weather conditions which can change quickly in the mountains. This area is known for heavy precipitation. In most years, there is over 15m (50 feet) of annual snowfall.