335Elevation Gain (m)
Although you’ll come to a sign claiming to mark the end of this trail, there is much more to explore beyond here. A daylong loop of experience awaits if you venture beyond the trailhead, as a wide open limestone expanse lies in front of you. Step off the path, head upward in a northerly direction and continue on glacier-scraped rock that was once covered in massive sheets of solid ice. The destruction left behind is immense and wondrous, and distracts you enough so that you scarcely notice the gain in elevation.
Another kilometre of strolling is interrupted by some moderate switchbacks that leave the forest and ascend the southwest slope of the Illecillewaet Valley. Tremendous views of Perley Rock and Mount Sir Donald and the amazing waterfalls of the northeast slope of the valley are nothing like you have ever seen before. There is so much water tumbling from these peaks that you wonder how it could possibly continue to fall in such volume all day and all night without stopping.

The path adheres to the hillside, climbing continually upward, passing two small weather-monitoring stations within a kilometre of each other. From the second of these weather stations, another kilometre of uphill strolling brings you to the official, signed end of the route. Cool glacial water runs freely down a rocky slope just beyond the trail’s end.

Beyond here, travel the massive, open rock slabs left behind by the Great (Illecillewaet) Glacier, and venture to its toe. This open region, and the ensuing route, has but one faint track that fades at a large cairn 400 m up the path. This trail is not on any maps. Elevation gained from the end-of-trail marker to the cairns is 139 m. To reach the toe of the glacier, continue, without the aid of trails, another 800 m of distance with an elevation gain of 290 m. To complete this outstanding uncharted journey, work your way up the right (west) side of the ridge to the Glacier Crest summit (N51 14 20.8 W117 28 02.7). The top of the Glacier Crest Trail is an additional 185 m upward.


The trailhead for the Great Glacier route is situated among many others in a scrambler’s paradise. The point of origin for all of these routes is at Illecillewaet Campground, 3 km west of the Rogers Pass Centre on the Trans-Canada Highway. Purchase your day pass at the small welcome centre and walk to where the pavement meets gravel. Watch for detailed signage that will guide you to the historic ruins of Glacier House.

From Illecillewaet Campground, follow the markers to the trailhead. The route passes through a clearing that contains the remains of Glacier House as it makes its way into the thick green forest. Five minutes in, the path splits, with signage sending you to the right-hand fork (straight). Another five minutes and a sign steers you left. The well-worn path cuts through this gorgeous, cool forest of western cedar, hemlock and undergrowth of ferns and moss, alongside the Illecillewaet River. During the notorious forest fire season of 2003, we hiked this valley with temperatures outside the forest at an intolerable 36° C, while inside, it was a comfortable and cool 29°.

Hike Map
Gerry Shea

Gerry Shea

“Gerry Shea moved to Kamloops from Vancouver at the age of nine, which is when he became enchanted by the nearby hills. It was on a family vacation many years later that he discovered the mountains and began hiking and climbing in his spare time, gathering knowledge and experience that he has since used to help beginning hikers, scramblers and backpackers to trek safely. Gerry lives in Kamloops with his wife and children.”

Excerpt From: Gerry Shea. “The Aspiring Hiker’s Guide 2: Mountain Treks in British Columbia.” iBooks.

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