One weekend early in June, we decided to head to Monashee Provincial Park for some backpacking and hiking for a couple of days. Being that the drive takes a few hours from where we are, we headed on our way after work on a late Friday afternoon, with our destination being the western trailhead that lies east of Vernon. A well-maintained, easy to follow road past Cherryville and Sugar Lake led us to the Spectrum Lake trailhead where we arrived well after dark and camped for the first night in the parking lot.
The western trailhead is the easiest access to Monashee Park although it largely goes through some thick forests so there is not a lot to see on the way until you make your way to the alpine beyond Spectrum Lake. The trail, however, was clear of debris and easy to hike on the way to the campground at Spectrum Lake. The Spectrum Lake trail itself is only a 6km hike to the lake and is quite possibly one of the most beginner friendly backpacks trails we have seen. If you’re new to backpacking, this is certainly a good place to start.
Spectrum Lake itself does have quite a nice camp with most of the pads being wonderfully level wooden platforms. There was not much beach to be found, though, due to very high water and it was obvious that the snow had only recently come off the ground in the trees even at the lake’s elevation. I had hoped to do some flyfishing but I was barely able to find any place to cast from. We expect that later in the season when the water is lower, there are plenty of locations from which a fisher could cast.
We had a plan of setting up our tent and then hiking up to Little Peters Lake further up the valley. While it was not a long hike, it was a very steep hike and requires quite an elevation gain to get to Little Peters. This was compounded by quite a large amount of deadfall and logs across the trail, making it appear that the trail cleanup crews had not yet been up this far on the trail.
As we hiked higher, we ran into more and more snow until eventually we were post holing our way and trying to follow what appeared to be the trail. We soon realized that there was not much point going too far as the snow just made moving along the trail a pain in the ass.
Eventually while following the trail which was a stream, or maybe it was a stream that became a trail, we reached Little Peters Lake.
We found that as we got into areas that were open and facing south, there was generally less snow and it became easier to move around. But it wasn’t long before we found that we could go no further. A raging river coming out of Little Peters Lake had carried away the bridge and trying to cross through the water seemed to be complete folly with the water running as fast as it was. A slip would have resulted in a wild ride down into a pond followed by a nice little tumble off a waterfall if you didn’t catch yourself in the pond.
It was at this point we decided to head back down to Spectrum Lake and just hang around there for the day, but we put a return trip into our plans.
While Spectrum Lake is not the most exciting of backcountry trips, it’s relative easiness makes it a good place to start if you’re new or just looking to stretch your legs early in the season. From this trailhead, you can also go all the way up to Margie Lake and beyond, with this trail being the most popular way to the Big Peters camp that lays below Mount Fosthall. Mount Fosthall itself is a very worthy destination and many people make this trip to scramble to its top. Our recommendation for anyone looking to do this trail is to wait until the snow is largely cleared later in July if they plan to go further up the trail. Of course, it’s very buggy during the summer months, so a trip in September or after the first freeze would likely be more enjoyable.
GPS track and map
Max elevation: 1749 m
Min elevation: 846 m
I am one of the founders of campingcanucks.com. I was lucky enough to grow up in Golden, British Columbia and have been camping, backpacking, and skiing pretty well all my life. I started climbing a few years ago which has opened up even more backcountry and alpine opportunities.
These days, I’m a systems administrator by day and a SAR volunteer operating as a ground search team leader, rope rescue member, swiftwater rescue member, and avalanche response team leader with Kamloops Search and Rescue.