Backpack the Heather Trail, BC

Manning Park, British Columbia



24.9 miles

Elevation Gain

1138.5 ft

Route Type



Added by Christina Marchand

Beautiful alpine views, wildflowers and a refreshing lake make for a fantastic multi-day adventure. 

This hike begins in the middle of Manning Park, with a drive up to the trail-head. This means you get all the benefits of alpine views and fields of wildflowers in the summer months, without hiking the elevation gain. 

Manning Park is on the Crowsnest Highway (BC-3). Across the highway from the Manning Park Resort, turn onto Owl Way, and then left onto Blackwell Road. Follow Blackwell Road is it curves up the mountain to Blackwell Peak at 2,000m. This is the start of the Heather Trail which can be completed in a number of ways. It can be a day hike where you make your way to Buckhorn Wilderness Camp at the 5km mark (the first of three campsites), or to the First of the three Brothers (at 10km). The second wilderness camp is Kicking Horse which is only another 3.5km away, and is a great place to stop for your first night on a multi-day adventure.

Your second campsite will be Nicomen Lake, 7.5km from Kicking Horse. You can then either head back to Blackwell Peak, or continue past Grainger Creek (another wilderness campsite, if needed) on to Cayuse Flats where you leave your second vehicle if you're planning on completing the entire trail. Cayuse Flats is about a 30 minute drive from Manning Park Lodge.

1st Section: Blackwell Peak to Kicking Horse Camp

This section begins with an easy trail slowly descending to Buckhorn Camp, the most popular section of the trail where you’ll likely pass lots of hikers and families during the summer months. The next section from Buckhorn to the top of the Bonnevier Ridge is one of the most difficult, but results in incredible views. Small seasonal ponds and some snow will be seen in this area. You can choose to go the 1km trail up the First Brother mountain, or simply continue on the trail to Kicking Horse which is a great camp with a number of tent pads, and a small stream. Caution, you’re likely to encounter deer in this area.

2nd Section: Kicking Horse Camp to Nicomen Lake

This section is also quite beautiful, with some portions taking you through the forest. Beware of bugs! The descent down to Nicomen Lake is a bit strenuous but just take your time, the lake is an incredible reward. A great place to cool off, the lake is very cold, but also a relief from the hordes of mosquitoes you're likely to encounter. This is a beautiful lake and wilderness campsite and there are often fish jumping just off shore.

3rd Section: Nicomen Lake to Cayuse Flats

This is a very long section, approximately 18km so do not underestimate the distance to your destination. Ensure you have lots of water and food to propel you back to your vehicle. This last stretch back to the highway is slow and the later half follows an old wagon road where the path gets quite wide near the end. At one point you have to cross Grainger creek on a few fallen logs, and good footing is needed.

All in all this is an excellent hike, and definitely doable for the beginner backpacker, as the elevation gain is minimal. That being said if going point to point, ensuring you have adequate water and food is vital – especially during hot summer months, in addition to comfortable hiking boots.

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