3.2 km
335Elevation Gain (m)
Hourglass Lake is a quiet, 1-km-long twin lake pinched in the middle by a rocky narrows. “The narrows” are only about 20 m across, thus the name Hourglass Lake. From the slate-grey water rises a tiny, rocky-knoll island. It takes about an hour to reach the narrows. There you find a rustic campsite, with an outhouse.

At the west end of the lake, a massive waterfall plunges through the forest, roaring down the steep slope from Upper Hourglass Lake. Large chunks of broken bedrock separate the upper and lower lakes. Hikers may scramble up this rock slope to the spectacular Upper Hourglass Lake. White Grouse Mountain is a semi-forested dome across the valley.

The scenery of Upper Hourglass Lake is worth the climb. A ring of light-grey jagged rock protects this alpine lake, and alpine larch trees cling to the jumble of boulders. Near the lake’s outlet, shallow pools spill into tiny rivulets and splash into other tiny pools of clear water. Soft carpets of heather smooth the ground.

The mountains surrounding these lakes are typical of the southern Purcells. Exposed bedrock reveals the scouring by ancient glaciers. Spruce and fir forests dominate the ecosystems and few flowers grow between the trees. The exception is the beargrass with its tufts of white flowers growing on stiff metre-high stalks.

Upper Hourglass Lake

To get to Upper Hourglass Lake, cross that turbulent creek and scramble up the loose rocks. In wet weather the rocks are very slippery under a cover of fine dark lichen. It is about an hour of scrambling up these rocks, with a further elevation gain of 335 m (1,100 ft.). The trip to Hourglass Lake is a satisfying day hike, but combined with the vigorous ascent up to Upper Hourglass Lake, it is a memorable hike.

0 km: From the trailhead parking, hike west through a logged area, downhill 18 m (60 ft.) to a good bridge across Meachen Creek. Many blowdowns cross the trail as it switchbacks up the steep hillside. Occasionally see glimpses of the turbulent creek as it bounces and splashes over slabs of black bedrock.

2.2 km: Take the right fork (avoid the left fork, a steep and often slippery rock bluff).

2.7 km: Hourglass Lake, N84685-E36519, at 1880 m (6,180 ft.). Continue to follow the trail around the north shore. About halfway along the north lakeshore (before the narrows) there is a faint trail branching to the right (north). It leads to a small tarn bound by large avalanche slopes of low-growing vegetation. The trail to the small tarn climbs 60 m (200 ft.) in 1 km.

3.2 km: The narrows – a popular picnic spot and campsite. Continue along the northern shore.

3.9 km: West end of the lake. A turbulent creek bounces into the deep lake.


Road: sturdy car or almost any vehicle

Follow road directions for Meachen Creek Road with St. Mary, Dewar and Meachen Creek roads.

29 km: On Meachen Creek FS Road, Hourglass Lake, N85461-E37497, at 1580 m (5,200 ft.); unsigned trailhead. Park in landing along road. Look high up the forested slopes to the right (west) for a thin white streak of a waterfall. The trailhead/parking is the only pullout along this section of road where you can see the waterfall.

Hike Map
Janice Strong

Janice Strong

Janice Strong is an established professional outdoor photographer. Her images grace collections all over the world and appear in many respected publications. She is passionate about hiking and is also an avid snowshoer and skier, exploring the outdoors of the East Kootenay in southeastern BC year round.

She openly shares her passion for the outdoors with others and has introduced hundreds of people to the joys of hiking. For a decade she led hikes for the City of Cranbrook – Parks and Recreation. With her guidance, many people have themselves become enthusiastic hikers.

Climbing mountains, finding new places and enjoying the experience of the journey have always been important to Janice. She cherishes the little things she sees along the trail, as well as the grand destinations.

When Janice is not writing, hiking or taking photographs, she is involved in various creative digital, website design or photographic projects for her clients. She and her husband, Jamie Levine, enjoy their rural property, near Cranbrook, BC.

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