The Hermit Trail in Glacier National Park is famously steep and strenuous.
The elevation gain is 830 m over 3 km, a heart-pumping effort. The hike begins with long, deep switchbacks through the subalpine forest. The tree line breaks at about 1900 m and the spectacular and rewarding views begin. The trail ends at beautiful Hermit Meadows. Reservable backcountry campsites facilitate a wilderness experience and access to nearby peaks: Mount Tupper, Hermit Mountain, Mount Rogers, and Swiss Peak.
From Kelowna follow Glenmore Road to Okanagan Highway / BC-97 N in Lake Country. Drive from BC-97A N and Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 E in Rogers Pass. The trailhead is located 1.5 km east of the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre. There is no left-hand turning lane for eastbound traffic. Google Map
Parks Canada daily admission fees apply in Glacier National Park. These may be purchased at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre. You may choose to purchase a Discovery Pass which allows for unlimited annual National Park admission.
Parks Canada maintains three front-country campgrounds near the summit of Rogers Pass: Illecillewaet, Loop Brook, and Mount Sir Donald. All campgrounds are first-come-first-served (FCFS). Illecillewaet (60 sites) and Loop Brook (20 sites) have similar amenities: flush toilets, kitchen shelters, and food lockers. Illecillewaet Campground is a short distance from the ruins of the Glacier House Monument and the start of most Glacier alpine day hikes. Illecillewaet Campground also offers a staffed welcome station and interpretive boards. This is our preferred campground to stage out of. Loop Book is equally lovely, but smaller and a few km further from the Glacier House trailheads. We have not stayed at Mount Sir Donald.
Hermit Trail – August 6, 2018
- Distance: 6.3 km
- Duration: 4 h 21 min
- Gain: 831 m
- Map: CalTopo
For our second day hike in Glacier National Park, we picked another big challenge: Hermit Trail! My flight out of Kelowna was at 1800 h, so we had to get up early to complete this hike. The previous day, Victoria and I hiked the Abbott Ridge Trail. After an evening of rest and recovery, we checked out of Loop Brook Campground and prepared for another adventure.
We started hiking from the highway-side Hermit trailhead (1294 m) at 0748 h. We didn’t have a lot of time to linger, so we put out heads down and motored upwards. The first few metres of trail was nice packed gravel. The terrain quickly transitioned to the familiar rocky forest floor. The grade was very steep! The whole climb was an intense cardio workout. We tried to pace ourselves, but also knew we had to be up and down by 1300 h at the latest. Once we left the thick trees, a fresh, cold creek ran alongside the trail. We stopped for a drink and noticed birds and Indian paintbrush flowers of all shades of red and orange. The trail became rockier and more exposed, but beautiful stones materialized to guide us the final 200 metres. We navigated these engineering wonders, plus a short scramble zone with rope assist. After just over 2 hours of effort with minimal breaks, we arrived at the Parks Canada “End of Trail” obelisk (2125 m) in Hermit Meadows.
The wide open alpine meadow bowl was gorgeous! We explored some of the rocky bluffs and tent pads perched with views of Mount Macdonald. Looking down to the green, vegetative floor below, Victoria spotted a large furry brown mammal bounding across the landscape. It was likely a marmot, but from our vantage point we were not positive. A pretty creek braided and drained through the meadow. We stopped on a warm rock to take a snack break and absorb this spectacular landscape. Looking south, we could see Abbott Ridge from our trip the day before.
After about 40 minutes of rest, we transitioned to “downhill mode” and retraced our steps all the way back to the trailhead. Again, our trekking poles were essential and saved our knees over the next few hours. We met some backpackers on the way up who were loaded with gear and looking for water. The air was getting warm and we were happy to enter the shaded forest once again. We made it down to the trailhead in excellent time! Clean clothes, cold drinks, and tasty snacks awaited us in the car. After a quick change and wet-wipe-bird-bath, we zoomed off to the very busy Kelowna airport. We managed to accomplish two of the best and most challenging day-hikes in Glacier National Park. There is much to do and see in this park, and we will be back!