0 km: Leave the large parking spot at the end of the road at 1890 m (6,200 ft.) and hike across a new bridge over Brewer Creek to the north side. After 500 m, cross a tiny tributary creek.
600 m: Right fork (uphill) branch in old logging block.
800 m: Second right fork (southwest) and the road becomes a trail. Defined trail gains elevation steadily for 1.2 km. Look for orange diamonds nailed high on trees, as trail markers.
2 km: Following a steep section in the forest, the trail slides out into a meadow. Don’t rest here, because just over 100 m farther is a scenic meadow beside the quickly moving stream with a mountain view, N80636-E56078. The path meanders southwest to the end of the valley through lush moist meadows with many creeks and soft mossy wetlands (riparian area). The water constantly changes the surface of this riparian area, obscuring the trail in some places.
2.9 km: The trail leaves the meadow and heads into partially open subalpine forest laced with several trickling creeks. The route then follows a tributary creek up a narrow gully.
4 km: The trail splits, N79141-E55451. The gully opens into a large damp meadow. Far to the right (northwest) across the meadow is an orange trail marker nailed to a tree. The marker points to a well-built, evenly graded trail. Head uphill on this trail, northwest in the forest, to the Central and Northern tarns, 2300 m (7,600 ft.). (The other split from the meadow is best hiked on the way down. It is an undefined, steeper route and it enters this meadow from the west, down a rocky creek and sparsely treed avalanche area.)
4.8 km: Central Tarn, N79818-E55239.
5.4 km: Keep to the north shore of the tarn and follow a trail for 600 m to reach the largest and deepest of the tarns, Northern Tarn, N79800-E55200. (This trail continues northward, likely connecting with an undeveloped route to Mount Goldie trail from Panorama Ski Resort on Toby Creek. I have yet to follow it, though, as Brewer/Mineral Pass and the southern tarns are the most scenic of this hike and they invite me south, not north.) From Northern Tarn you can either head to the Brewer/Mineral Pass via Mount Brewer or take the meadow trail at the scenic base of the mountain.
Mount Brewer option
Northern Tarn is also the base for the climb up Mount Brewer. The peak rises to a dome-shaped, grassy and rocky summit directly northwest of Northern Tarn. Scramble up 420 m (1,400 ft.) to the summit at 2800 m (9,180 ft.).
Meadow Trail option
I prefer to hike back to the Central Tarn and take the moderate trail south along the base of Mount Brewer and the ridge. Views along this alpine meadow are worth it. Climb south from Central Tarn on a good trail and then the trail stays on contour.
Some 800 m south of Central Tarn, the trail goes by the top of a steep gully, N79170-E55020. This is the route down to where the trail split in the lower meadow. Hike down the left of the gully in the avalanche slope of small trees. But don’t head down yet. Brewer/Mineral Pass and the southern group of tarns still await. Continue south on the trail.
7.4 km: Round a corner to Southern Tarn in an inviting meadow and the sloping ramps of an unnamed summit framing the Purcell Mountain scene, 1.2 km south of Central Tarn.
8.1 km: Hike the well-defined, rocky trail from Southern Tarn up to Brewer/Mineral Pass at 2480 m (8,156 ft.), gaining only 106 m (350 ft.) to the pass, N78707-E54693. Walk along the ridge and enjoy the views in every direction. Mount Brewer rises 2 km north of the pass.