Introduction to the Pinnacle Lake Trail
Majestic snow capped alpine peaks surround you like a nest surrounds her baby chicks, tumbling falls of glacier fed streams and the pristine Monashee wilderness is the reward for those who brave the Pinnacle Lake hike. It is not a walk in the park. The ancient tree roots, petrified wood, rocks and boulders hewn by millennia
of rushing water and the decomposing lengths of broken trees along with any water streaming through the valley bottom are not part of the trail, they are the trail. A hiking trail built by pioneers and the pioneering, complete with zero amenities is Pinnacle Lake Trail and hike. Do the provincial parks of British Columbia bring you to the limit of your recreational abilities? Then don’t come here.
GPS co-ordinates and Trail Map
Level of Hiking Difficulty
While many experienced hikers will call this an easy trail because experienced hikers complete it in an afternoon or less, the hiking level is rated as difficult because of the above trail characteristics. The trail has a difficult elevation gain of 1400 metres and most of that gain is in a short section located at the end of the trail.
The Monashee Mountains are considered grizzly habitat. Hikers should understand the difference between black bears and grizzlies and what precautions to take. The trail is slippery in many sections with sudden drop offs in other sections. Trees fell from lightning or strong winds may block the trail and detours may be required to navigate deadfall. Stretches of the trail run adjacent to a rushing stream and in the weeks of high water could wash small pets or children over rumbling falls if due care and attention are not afforded. The lure of the scramble from the lake to vistas that await the adventure above Pinnacle Lake will result in death if the dangers of such activities are not clearly understood. Always tell someone where you are going and your expected date and time of return when embarking on adventure in the untamed backcountry of BC.
Directions to Pinnacle Lake
The GPS route is attached to this tracksandtrails post but the general area is East of Vernon, BC and just beyond the official eastern border of the Okanagan region, located in the Monashee mountain area of the Kootenays. There is a Pinnacle Lake BC Forest Recreation Site but that ‘rec site’ is located in the Okanagan region off the Coquihalla highway and is near Pennask lake, many miles away from the Pinnacle Lake Trail. Pinnacle Lake Hike Trailhead is located at the end of a rough forest service road which is found by following Highway 6 East of Vernon and then heading north along a major forest service road and taking a number of decreasing smaller forest service roads that lead to the trailhead. The adventure begins with identifying the correct FSR branch to take and / or exploring with your vehicle more than you expect as you make a mistake and double back to get on track. Make sure you fill up your fuel at Frank’s General Store in Cherryville if you haven’t completed your research and, become confident in the lay of the land. Researching with topographic and satellite layered maps may help your orienteering.
Pinnacle Lake Hike Description
You probably won’t see the two Colorado travellers having breakfast on top of their backcountry bus with every detail engineered for off the grid adventure, like I did upon my arrival, but you will see the end of the road and a parking area. If you’re on a multi-day adventure, you may want to protect your vehicle from rodents, they like to munch on automobile wiring. Scanning the parking area for Pinnacle Lake Trailhead, you’ll see old log footings used for a bridge required for past logging operations. Walking to the area of the bridge, you will realize the need to cross a creek and come to the conclusion walking through it is required. However, if you learned to be aware of your surroundings, you would have completed a quick walk-about of the immediate area and discovered a typical hiking bridge which allows adventures to cross the creek. It is a log rail to walk on while you hold a rope that’s fixed above the log to hold on to as you cross. In the very least, one would think that at least 1 of the 10 brilliant hikers in your group would have simply looked to downstream and realized a bridge was available. Not this day, we all crossed bare foot and upon our return, the first one back found it and aided others in the discovery.
After the creek crossing, the hike continues on a gentle incline and takes you through a small meadow. Depending on the weather and time of year you hike, the next portion of the trail is green and lush with numerous muddy areas. However, in most of the wet areas you’ll find a way to cross without getting wet. It would be wise to bring an extra pair of socks with you, just in case. Entering this stage of the hike, it would be sad if you do not pause and consider the beauty of a small grove of ancient cedar trees. The first one is only the remains of a giant cedar that was hit by lightning many years ago. The base of this tree would have been rotten, as many large cedar trees are, and now, completely burned out, it provides for a great photo opportunity.
As you pass through the cedar Grove and the series of muddy and wet slippery areas, you will notice lovely green plants and if you grab one, it will be uncomfortable. Be sure to watch out for stinging nettle and any poison ivy. Fun fact, poison ivy is not actually poison! (Google it) After the wet areas you will begin a gentle incline But you’re not out of the wet areas yet. The trail descends a little as you skip down through a few more slippery sections and and then finally climbs up out of the wet area. However, there’s still another decent sized creek to cross. This creek crossing is marked with a piece of ribbon and an incredible massive sized boulder about the size of a tractor trailer. Well, the problem is, The trail continues past this marking because everybody seems to pass it first and then come back and find the proper place to cross. So if this happens to you, just remember, ‘Oh, big rock cross here’! The rock is actually a very cool part of the trail. I love it. You’ll see why as you discover it.
This is going to hurt. My neck still needs physiotherapy. My first shot of the waterfall was from a little openings in the surrounding branches. If your talking or looking down to ensure safe footing, it’s easy to miss. The roar grew loud as we hiked closer to the rushing water. Everyone was ahead of me and for some reason, no-one took the little side trail that led to a photo opportunity! Maybe the attention of the group was on the multiple ribbons hanging down for the next 150 metres, strung to dangerous branches, turns in the trail and other obstacles and maybe they focused on the obvious dangers of the trail rather than the side trail to the left. Upon my return to the main trail, it was time to increase my speed and catch the group, now out of sight and earshot. I tapped my outback hat down, gripped my hiking stick, pushed off with the right foot, bent my head down and quickly skimmed over the trail. THUD! (my head hitting a deadfall tree of 1 metre diameter at just the wrong height over the trail) Crack, crack, crackle! (likely the bones and vertebrae in my neck compressing) The area was clearly marked with ribbons that I noticed as I entered the section of trail but yet again, I clearly was not obeying the ancient TracksAndTrails proverb, “Be aware of your surroundings.”
The audio at the end of this 10 second video tells a story in one word. Bug. It was taken at the photo opp mentioned above.
Up, up up way up!
Now the fun begins. Most of the elevation gain happens here. The trail is rough, hewn from the roots of surrounding trees. The anatomy of the forest is the stairway to Pinnacle Lake.
About midway up this section a steep sharp turn reveals yet another well used side trail. It takes you to the edge of the cascading water and provides a great place to fill a canteen, as I did. The rocks here can be treacherous due to the body busting fall that awaits the one who forgets to be aware of their surroundings.
The Straight Stretch
I don’t know which makes you forget the weary legs and heavy feet more; the disappearing water as it cascades out of sight and the mountains afar suddenly wrapping around you like a summer silk quilt or the fact that, you are now walking on flat land again. Regardless, there was not a peep from any hiker of how daunting that last bit of trail was!
What do you expect, more? Why are still reading? This is it, the lake is right there, you just can’t see it yet. Of course there is a lake with a Monashee mountain view that squeezes you tight like a big bear hug. Weird, I know, but that’s the way this particular mountain destination made me feel. The absolute vastness of the spectacular alpine mountains being so deceptively close, they make the little camp, with the tiny little fire seem at trails end, ahhh, just right.
Join a hike. I hike in the Okanagan, contact me via the contact page to see if we can meet up for our next hike.