Columbia Valley (Golden Area)
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 6.6 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 290 m
How To Get There: In Golden, follow the signs for the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and the Golden Golf Club. 7th Street turns into Kicking Horse Drive and eventually crosses the Columbia River on a single lane bridge. Drive 700 meters past the bridge and turn right on Golf Course Drive. Just past the first bridge turn left onto the gravel road. At 3.5 km stay left at the Y. Keep following the main road, ignoring the various turn offs. At around 10 kilometers, the road starts to get quite rough. A high-rise 4x4 vehicle is recommended but I was able to make it in my Nissan Versa. At 12.3 km curve left instead of staying straight. Once you cross a bridge, you drive for another 5 kilometers or so and then park at the wooden foot bridge. This is where the trail begins.
If you think of a Nissan Versa, you don’t think “off-road” vehicle. But that's exactly what I used my vehicle for when Kim and I learned that Gorman Lake was 17 km along a forestry road. A bumpy, rock-filled forestry road. It was definitely an interesting ride the entire way up! But we ended up making it safe and sound, parking among all of the other vehicles (right beside a giant boulder pile up off the side of a mountain) and then heading out across the foot bridge that leads across the creek.
A few meters up the trail there is a small bridge that turns off to a fairly decent outhouse.
Then you continue up a gradual ascending trail that is made mostly of gravel.
The trail make it’s way through tall foliage until you are finally able to see the deep valley and surrounding mountains off to your left. There was also various types of mushrooms that I had never seen before littering the pathway.
Soon enough, you begin crossing over numerous boardwalks until you finally see a wooden sign posted on a tree that reads “Gorman Lake- 3 km”.
At this point you begin to make your way upwards through thick pine trees, enjoying the sound of the creek billowing beside the hiking trail.
Everything opened up as we walked into a marshy meadow that sits below a large mountain right ahead of us.
We were only walking in the meadow for a short bit before the trail veered off into the giant boulder fall that litters the ground. It’s a bit of a climb up and there were times where if there weren’t any cairns leading the way, we might have lost sight of the trail.
The boulder climb lasts for about 500 m before we finally find ourselves on the other side, the valley now to our right. At the end of the boulder climb is a large and impressive inukshuk.
We moved up over a small hill and then walked through a very short gully.
On the other side was one of the most beautiful and tranquil scenes I have ever seen. There was lush green grass as far as the eye could see. A beautiful small waterfall cascaded over the edge of the still unseen Gorman Lake, crash landing into a gorgeous turquoise pool below.
We marveled at the sights around us as we climbed up the small bowl that holds the lake itself.
The trail continues on both sides of the lake so we began making our way around counterclockwise. There are two partially collapsed bridges that cross the creek running from the lake that you have to be careful crossing. Once we were at the southwest side of the lake, we took this moment to sit down, enjoy the view and have some lunch.
Once we were finished our lunch, we continued around the lake until we were climbing over the scree fall that sits near the end of the lake itself. At some points we were literally jumping from boulder to boulder in an effort to keep moving.
As you keep walking along the scree, you are eventually faced with a fork in the road (indicated by a cairn). You can either begin moving upwards or keep going straight. I wanted to see what was beyond the scree so we decided to move upwards. It’s a bit of a tough climb since the ground is made mostly of lose gravel at this point but it’s worth it to get a higher panoramic view of Gorman Lake. You follow the cairns all the way up until the trail finally loops back downwards. Along the way we spotted a hoary marmot sunning himself on a rock.
The trail quickly descends back down until you are standing at the end of the lake, where the trails link up again.
We sat and enjoyed the scenery for a few minutes before we realized that we were about to get rained on. So we began making our way back around the lake, choosing to take a shortcut instead of climbing back up the way we had come. Shortcuts always seem to be a bad idea and this one didn’t seem to be any different. The slope we had to climb across was incredibly steep and the trail was very narrow. One wrong step and we probably would have ended up sliding down into the cold lake below.
But eventually we found ourselves at the beginning of the lake where we had started, safe and sound. Of course, the moment we surpassed that challenge, we ended up being faced with an entirely new one. The clouds suddenly opened up on us, showering us with hail.
We tried quickening or pace but were startled by the very close and loud sound of thunder. Because we didn’t want to end up stuck on the exposed boulder slide while there was lightning, we decided to hunker down in a bunch of trees to protect ourselves. We ended up crouching down for about fifteen minutes before the storm finally passed.
Once the clouds moved on, we were rewarded with the sun for the rest of our way home which led to some amazing pictures.
The hike back was quick regardless as we were very wet and a bit chilled!
Despite the hail storm, this was an incredible short and relatively easy hike. I think driving to the trailhead was the trickiest part! The lake itself provides tons of places where you can stop and enjoy the view or, like Kim and I did, you also have the option of continuing to hike around the lake. Either way, you’re guaranteed to have a great day!