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Adventures With B: Hermit Meadows in Rogers Pass

One of Canada's best hiking trails

Rogers Pass between Golden and Revelstoke in B.C. is one of Canada’s most famous alpine climbing, skiing and hiking areas. And like most Glacier National Park hikes, Hermit Meadows is steep, but follows a distinct and well-used trail.

It’s an easy trailhead to find as it’s well signed and located directly on the Trans Canada Highway 79 kilometres west of Golden. From the large parking area, you head up the wide dirt track that quickly starts to gain elevation.

Over the past 20 years, I”ve often used the trail as a quick up-and-down to get the blood flowing while driving from Canmore to Squamish. Fit hikers can get from the parking area to the meadows in 90 minutes, but if you’re carrying heavy packs with camping gear then add an hour.

Unlike many of the other hikes in the area, the Hermit trail leads to an alpine bowl instead of a rocky ridge. From there you can head onto the Swiss Glaicer and other alpine objectives.

On my last romp up the busy-on-a-long-weekend-trail, the temps were rising quick so moving fast was essential to beat the late morning heat. The rail is only three kilometres, but feels far because of how steep it is in the first kilometre.

After some in-your-face switchbacks, you get your first glimpse of Mount Tupper and Mount Macdonald and then of the Illecillewaet Glacier. The roots of Canadian mountaineering can be traced to this area and I recommend doing some research on the history.

Once you get eyes on the alpine, the trail mellows out and you start following more rocky terrain next to a low ridge. Then the trail goes from dirt to rock steps in moss and meadow-like terrain. It starts to feel very “Lord of the Rings” as you can see in the photo below.

Hermit Meadows trail

Creeks stream through the plush vegetation and small waterfalls fill the air with the sounds of rushing water. Cold air dropping from the glacier is a welcomed reprieve from the scorching mid-summer temps as you hike up the final few hundred metres onto the meadows proper.

Tall moraines mixed with small cliffs and rolling glaciers surround the high-above-the-highway hanging field of alpine perfection. A few tents sit perched on wooden platforms but the vastness gives a remote vibe to the experience.

On my descent, I passed dozens of hikers who appeared new to the sport, most huffing and puffing their way up. One heavier set gentleman asked through a big exhale, “How much farther to some water?”

He told me that he’d done the hike over 30 years ago during his “fitter days” but that he’d dreamed of returning ever since. It turned out that I had climbed in the Canadian Rockies with his son a few years prior. Luckily for him, he wasn’t that far from a cascade where he surely dipped his head.

That’s one of my favourite parts about heading into the mountains on busy trails during the summer, you never know who you’re going to bump into.

It’s rare that I head into the alpine without climbing gear and a bigger objective, but Hermit Meadows is such a stunning area that I can’t help but stop the car and romp up when motoring between ranges.

I highly recommend it.

Mounts Tupper and Macdonald

About Some Names

Mount Tupper was formerly named Hermit Mountain until renamed in honour of Sir Charles Tupper in 1887. The original name of the Macdonald was Mount Carroll but was renamed to honour the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald in 1887.

In 1907, the Illecillewaet Glacier was known as the “most visited glacier in the Americas” but was called the Great Glacier. The name “Illecillewaet” is an Okanagan First Nations word for “big water” and referred to the river before being applied to the glacier. It gradually replaced “Great” and was adopted by Parks Canada in the 1960s.

Hermit Meadows Beta

Distance: 3 km
Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours to the campground
Total Elevation: 875 m
Difficulty: Difficult
Access: Easy
Area: Glacier National Park
Map Reference: 82 N/5 Glacier, or use the Chrismar Rogers Pass map

The Gear

I’m not a gear nut so often just bring what I have in the van. For shoes I wore Black Diamond Sessions, which I’ve been using for most adventures lately. My pack was a Petzl Bug. Most of my gear relates to technical climbing. My water bottle was from a gas station in Golden, maybe Evian? I didn’t put on sunscreen, but I should’ve, and I left the bear spray in the car because of how crowded the area was. Phone photos from an iPhone 11.

Mandatory try-to-look-cool selfie at Hermit Meadows

About Adventures with B: My late friend Anna Smith, who lost her life Himalayan climbing, once said to me after an epic we had in Chamonix, where we got away unscathed: “Adventures with B are messy and unplanned but always fun.” This column will focus on skiing, hiking, SUPing, paddling, fishing and other adventures. A new alpine climb in 2020 was named in Anna’s honour, read about it here.