(July 2017) via explore-mag.com

There’s a quote among gardeners that says, “The Earth laughs in flowers.” If that’s the case, Mother Nature must be enjoying a deep belly laugh in Sun Peaks, B.C.

For the month of July, hikers will encounter alpine meadows painted in fiery reds, purples and oranges as Indian paintbrush, tiger lilies, and fireweed burst into bloom. And according to Jeff Putnam, parks and recreation manager at the City of Kamloops, it's the best bloom he has seen. He should know - he's been hiking Sun Peaks for 15 years.

"We actually had friends who stayed with us last summer and they had been through the Swiss Alps. They said the variety and the intensity of the wildflowers in Sun Peaks was better than the Swiss Alps."  

The hiking season at Sun Peaks runs July through August, and even outside of the wildflower bloom, offers up a trail network of spectacular alpine hiking.

"You get such an incredible variety of hiking [in the Kamloops area]; you can literally hike a trail a day for 10 years and not repeat it," Jeff tells Explore Magazine.

As for what makes Sun Peaks a perennial favourite? "As you gain elevation, you will discover a changing palette of floral colours and tree species from spruce, cedar and birch at the bottom, to Douglas fir, cedar and pine closer to the summit."

did you know?

Sun Peaks is located in the Thompson-Nicola region and nearby Kamloops is the northernmost point of the Sonoran Desert, which extends all the way from Mexico. This diversity presents hikers with some unique flora. Lower elevation hiking in the area means encountering sage, prickly pear cacti (which bloom about now), and purple lupine, which thrive in the grasslands environment. Those driving to Sun Peaks might consider making a pit stop to view these lower-elevation wildflowers.

sun peaks hiking fast facts

Wildflower Hikes
Photo: Mary Putnam
  • Sun Peaks is laced by a network of 16 trails, ranging from short and gentle, to heart-pumping alpine summits 
  • From the Village, skip right into the alpine (6,000' above sea level) on the scenic Sunburst Express chairlift.
  • Looking for a workout? Skip the lift. Head up #15 Broadway Loop (2.1 km) and then #4 Trail to Village (3.4 km).
  • All mountain trails are well marked.
  • Mobile connectivity is intermittent but hikers should have access to data approximately three-quarters of the time.

Not sure where to start? We asked Jeff for Sun Peaks trail recommendations based on hiker interests.

Sun Peaks Suggested Trails:

Tod Mountain Wildflowers
Photo: Jeff Putnam

The best trail for wildflower viewing

"Once you're on #12 Tod's Backside Trail, that’s where the wildflowers are just unbelievable."

Take the Sunburst Express chairlift to mid-mountain. Travel along #7 West Bowl (5.4 km) or #9 Gils' Trail (2.4 km) to reach #12 Tod's Backside Trail (2.3 km). Distances are one-way.

jeff's favourite hike: 9-11-12-9

From the Sunburst Express, hike #9 Gils' Trail (2.4 km) to reach #11 Tod Peak Trail (2.4 km). Meander around the backside of Mt. Tod through alpine meadows on #12 Tod's Backside Trail (2.3 km). From here, retrace your route down #9 Gil's Trail (2.4).

Along this hike you'll pass Tod Lake. "Tod Lake is really cool. It feels like a glacier-fed lake (though its water comes from high alpine snow) surrounded by wildflowers. It almost looks like it’s inside the cone of a tiny volcano. It’s paradise," Jeff tells us. 

The long-distance hike

This route follows Jeff's favoured trail combination (described above: #9 - #11 - #12), except instead of returning to the Sunburst Express via #9 Gil's Trail, hikers should opt for #7 West Bowl Trail (5.4 km). Bonus: you're not likely to meet much foot traffic on #7 West Bowl. The total approximate distance is 12.5 km. The terrain is mixed, from level, low-grade to some steep sections that qualify as moderate.

outdoorsy families with younger kids

"I like #6 Juniper Ridge Loop (0.6 km). It’d be about half an hour or 45 minutes, return. It’s beautiful vistas but it’s fairly short in duration."

From the chairlift, travel a short distance down #2 Crystal Bowl Loop before turning onto #5 Top of the World Trail. From here, keep your eye out for the #6 Juniper Ridge Loop spur trail.

Alternatively, "Those looking for something a bit more adventurous might set out on #2 Crystal Bowl Loop (1.8 km). The Loop starts from #1 Vista Trail, then climbs and traverses across the lower Crystal Bowl through wildflower meadows. Sometimes you can see elk in the meadows and deer - or a bear!" 

the sun peaks trail with the best view

"The best view would be straight up the #10 West Ridge Trail." From this vantage point, hikers drink in panoramic views of Skunk Peak and the valley below.

From the chairlift, set off on #2 Crystal Bowl Loop before turning onto #5 Top of the World Trail (1.2 km). The trail will join with #10 West Ridge Trail (1.5 km). Hikers can return the way they came, or head back down via #7 West Bowl Trail (5.4 km) or #9 Gil's Trail (2.4 km).

when you go:

Photo: Sam Egan

Alpine Blossom Festival

Day-hikers and weekenders can best peep the petals during the Alpine Blossom Festival, which runs July 28 through 30th. Hike straight from the village or whisk yourself to mid-mountain on the Sunburst Express. From here, access the wildflower meadows on Tod Mountain. Down in the village, celebrations include a schedule of entertainers, activities and a free outdoor concert featuring Jesse Roper and Devon Coyote. A kids zone will be open all weekend for families that count junior hikers among their members.

Reach the peak

Date: Sunday, July 30, 2017
Departure time & location: The Sunburst Lift at 9:15am
Price: There is no special registration, hikers just pay for a lift pass. $20 for an adult, $17 for youth/seniors, and $11 for children.

Fancy a social Sunday summit? Join Canadian ski legend Nancy Greene for the sixth annual Reach the Peak summit hike. This approximately 10.2-km hike leads hikers from the top of the Sunburst Lift to the peak of Mt. Tod. This inclusive event welcomes all ages and encourages hikers to travel at their own pace.

guided alpine hikes

When: Thursday to Sunday; Monday to Wednesday, based on guide availability
Duration: 2 hours
Departure times: 10am and 1pm
Price: $25 + tax per hiker (includes the cost of a lift pass)

Spend a few hours hiking in the Sun Peaks alpine with the ease and expertise of a local guide. Let him navigate, while you admire panoramic views and learn about the flora and fauna, and artifacts of days past. Click for hiking tour details.