Barnes Peak, 24 July 2020

Limestone Ridge and its highest point, Barnes Peak (2421 m; centre) as viewed from Darrah S2. Long on my ‘To Do’ list, this turned into a surprisingly fun loop featuring great trails, great views, and of course, great company.

⚠️ Hiking and scrambling are inherently dangerous activities. Please read my Disclaimer⚠️

A popular backcountry destination for local anglers and campers, this obscure mountain south of Corbin, BC, has been on my ‘To do’ list for many years. Even though I’d driven by the trailhead on several occasions and had studied the terrain on maps and photos, I was not expecting the two lakes nestled beneath its slopes – Elliot Lake and Barnes Lake – to be so scenic. Barnes Lake of course is the primary destination for anglers, but Elliot Lake also holds it own beauty and the route we planned allowed Andrew and I to experience the best of both.

I am also surprised that there is very little online about this locale, given the fantastic access trail and a straightforward route onto Limestone Ridge. Other than Rick Collier’s attempt in 2011, it is really only flagged by off-road groups, which is too bad since it is a fun traverse that makes for a natural loop. Indeed, our initial plan was to gain Limestone Ridge above Elliot Lake and then follow it south to Barnes Peak, before descending to the shores of Barnes Lake and returning along the trail. However, when we arrived at the Barnes Lake/Elliot Lake junction, we debated visiting Barnes Lake first and doing the loop in reverse, but we stuck to our plan and ultimately concluded that this was the best choice for two reasons: 1) the Elliot Lake trail allowed us to gain easy elevation and 2) the ascent ridge offered the chance to see both lakes. The traverse itself posed few challenges, allowing us time to enjoy the continual presence of the Flathead Mountains and Barnes Lake.

I will probably come back again as this is one of the few remaining ways to access the summit of Michel Head, as logging has closed off most of the area around Corbin. I wish we had been able to make the summit of Michel Head during our Mount Taylor trip, but I think that using the trail from Elliot Lake to Michel Ridge might be interesting – though long.

Anyway, today’s trip definitely provided more than we were expecting – and all in a good way. If you have a high-clearance vehicle, it is well-worth making the effort to reach the trailhead, which leads me to thank Sonny Bou, who, though he was unable to join us, alerted us to the possible closure of the Flathead Valley Road south of Corbin. Fortunately the BC government website was outdated, but because of Sonny, we were nonetheless prepared with bikes as our backup plan to reach the trailhead. Thanks Sonny! 😊

Be sure to read Andrew’s trip report!

To get to Barnes Peak from Lethbridge, drive west on Highway 3 and cross the border into BC. From the end of Summit Lake drive another ~7 km until you come to the Corbin Road. Turn left and onto the Corbin Road and drive for another ~24 km until you reach Corbin. The Flathead Valley Road will be on your right just prior to the mine entrance. The road is not maintained and you will need a 4×4 or high clearance vehicle as there are several sections of deep ruts and mud holes. From the bridge in Corbin, it is ~4.4 km to the junction with the road that leads down to the trailhead. You can either park here or drive down the rough road for ~200 m to the new logging bridge over Michel Creek. This is the trailhead and there is parking at the old trailhead off to the left.

From the bridge, we followed a recently constructed logging road for ~1 km before we came to the actual trail on our right. It could be easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention, so keep an eye out for it. The trail itself is wide and easy to follow. Shortly after leaving the logging road, we came to an unbridged creek crossing, so be prepared for this. Approximately ~3.4 km from the trailhead, we came to the Barnes Lake / Elliot Lake fork. We continued on the Elliot Lake trail by keeping to the right and followed it for ~725 m onto the crest of a small ridge. This is where we left the trail.

We then ascended a small ridge for ~2 km (some bushwhacking is required) until we reached Limestone Ridge. Once on the ridge, it was an enjoyable ~1.1 km ridge walk (94 m elevation gain) to the summit of a prominent peak (2376 m) located to the north of Barnes Peak. From here it was another ~2 km hike (94 m elevation loss and 140 m elevation gain) to the summit of Barnes Peak (2421 m).

We descended off of Barnes Peak by following Limestone Ridge further to the south, before cutting back to a small ridge overlooking Barnes Lake – and then down the tree line and a gully to the lake. In total it was ~4.1 km from the summit to the lake with an elevation loss of 529 m. From the south end of Barnes Lake we followed the trail for ~1.5 km (there are 3 unbridged creek crossings) until we arrived back at the junction of trails. We then returned down the main trail to our vehicles.

Our total distance travelled was 18.7 km with total elevation gains of 1080 m. Our total roundtrip time was 6 hours and 55 minutes.

Our parking spot at the old Barnes Lake / Elliot Lake trailhead. You will need a high clearance vehicle or bikes to reach the trailhead from Corbin.

The trailhead sign is still located where the original bridge used to be.

Andrew crosses the new trailhead bridge over Michel Creek.

Following a recently constructed logging road.

Approximately 1 km from the trailhead, we came to the junction with the trail (right). It could be easy to miss, so keep your eye out for it.

We were surprised at the great condition of the trail.

Not long after leaving the logging road, we came to this unbridged stream crossing.

Too lazy to take off our boots, we scurried across on a nearby log.

Getting our first views of Limestone Ridge.

Shortly before the Barnes Lake / Elliot Lake junction, we came across this surprisingly large waterfall. In the background is the prominent peak that sits to the north of Barnes Peak.

Approximately 3.4 km from the trailhead we came to the Barnes Lake / Elliot Lake junction.

Gazing down the trail that leads to Barnes Lake and getting our first glimpse of Barnes Peak (centre). This would be our return route.

Andrew follows the Elliot Lake trail up from the junction and onto the crest of a small ridge.

Arriving on the ridge crest and the point where we would leave the trail.

The first kilometre or so along the ridge required a moderate amount of bushwhacking.

As we gained elevation, we began to get a good look at Barnes Peak (centre), but we still couldn’t see the lake. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

The view towards Limestone Ridge from the lower section of the ridge.

Gazing back at our route along the ridge.

Closer to the top, we came across a good trail (foreground right) that eased the bite of an otherwise steep slope.

A lone sentinel. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

As we approached the upper section of the ridge, we were finally in a position to see both lakes. This is looking south at Barnes Lake…

And this is looking north at Elliot Lake.

Andrew checks out the impressive wall of rock above Elliot Lake.

Drawing close to the top of Limestone Ridge. It was tempting to side-slope to the col in the centre, but we decided to keep ascending the ridge (right) to take in more views of Elliot Lake.

I was not expecting this trip to be so scenic!

Throughout the day, we had great views of the Flatheads. Mount Darrah is on the left and our old friend, Darrah S2 is on the right.

Our views of Elliot Lake kept improving as we neared Limestone Ridge. In the distant centre is the summit of Michel Head. With all of the recent logging activity in the area, ascending Michel Ridge from the Elliot Lake trail may be one of the few remaining ways to reach it. Unfortunately, it was just too far for us on our 2017 Mount Taylor trip and it may well be too far from here… (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Andrew tackles a section of rubble just prior to reaching Limestone Ridge.

Gazing east at our route up the valley.  The green patch in the centre is an interesting wetland close to the outlet of Barnes Lake. We would get a closer look at it later in the day.

A great view of Elliot Lake from Limestone Ridge. In the distance on the right is Mount Ptolemy and behind it are the three peaks that comprise the Northwest Ridge of Ptolemy.

A pano to the west from Limestone Ridge. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Starting off towards the unnamed 2376 m peak that sits ~2 km to the north of Barnes Peak.

The view back along Limestone Ridge towards Michel Head and on the distant left, Mount Taylor. Our ascent ridge is in the foreground on the right. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

A pano as we approach the summit (right) of the unnamed peak.

This was turning into a decidedly scenic ridge walk!

Another look back along Limestone Ridge.

Andrew stands atop an impressive cliff. The traverse did not require much scrambling and in most places, the sharpness of the crest could be avoided if desired.

Arriving on the summit of the unnamed 2376 m peak. I’m inclined to nickname it, “Elliot Peak” or “Limestone Peak” simply because it is so prominent. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

A pano from the summit.

Nestled beneath the summit of Barnes Peak (right), Barnes Lake glistens under the mid-day sun. Our descent route followed the ridge in the centre.

The ridge in the foreground looked impressive from the trail and one day, it might be neat to explore.

Andrew takes in more views as we descend towards the col with Barnes Peak.

It was a delightful ~2 km hike from the summit to reach Barnes Peak. This included a ~94 m elevation loss to the col followed by a ~140 m elevation gain to the summit.

Andrew leads the way. The only drawbacks to the day were the unsettled weather to the north and the strong wind from the west – but what else is new in this area? Moreover, unlike the wind, the views to the west were not very strong which is why I didn’t take any pictures until I reached the summit.

The impressive face of Barnes Peak.

Gazing down at Barnes Lake from a small outcrop as we near the col. The lake is a popular spot for local anglers and campers.

Andrew’s view of the outcrop where I took the previous picture. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Arriving at the col.

The ridge narrowed as it led up from the col. We did not find it difficult to navigate, but care had to be taken as the drop to climber’s left was rather severe. If desired, it could possibly be avoided by heading into the trees on the right.

Glancing back to the unnamed summit as Andrew follows me along the ridge.

And yet another view of Barnes Lake. The Elliot Lake trail that we used to reach the ascent ridge is noticeable above the wetlands on the far left.

While the views to the west weren’t great, it was hard to get enough of this.

Steps of the gods. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Drawing closer to a false summit.

The actual summit was still a ways off.

The summit of Barnes Peak (2421 m) which is the highest point on Limestone Ridge.

A pano to the northwest.

A pano to the southeast.

A pano to the south.

A pano to the northwest. You now know why I included so many pictures of Barnes Lake and the Flatheads. 😊

A telephoto of Mount Ptolemy (centre) with “Pharaoh’s Peak” to its left and Andy Good Peak to its right.

A telephoto of Mount McGladrey and Mount Pengelly, which are bookended by two, higher unnamed peaks.

Glorious Mount Darrah.

Gazing over at Darrah S2 and the scary ridge that thwarted our ascent. On the right is Darrah S3.

Continuing along the Flatheads to Centre Mountain (centre) and the distinctive, Centre N1 (left). Centre SE1 is to the right of centre and “South Flathead Peak” is on the far right. The shadowed peak in the middle is Centre E3.

The view to the southeast at two of my ‘To Do’ list destinations, Mount Borsato (centre) and Mount Corrigan (right of centre).

A telephoto of Mount Borsato (centre) and in the shadows to its left, Hollebeke Mountain.

Looking further to the southeast at the MacDonald Range.

Looking south at Mount Doupe (centre) and in the foreground, Flathead Ridge East.

Further to the southwest sits another destination on my ‘To Do’ list: Mount Broadwood.

A telephoto to the northwest at the Three Sisters and Mount Bisaro.

Andrew joins me on the summit.

And yet another view of Barnes Lake.

I will have come back one day and bring my fly rod. 😊

Enjoying lunch and snapping photos, but not at the same time. I’m not that coordinated. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Though it was sealed, the summit register was soaking wet and I ended up pouring out about half an inch of water. I could only read one entry and that was from 2018. I really wish that I had a replacement container.

Andrew on the summit of Barnes Peak.

“Dave, just take a few more steps back…” 😂 (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

With the wind growing colder and sketchy skies creeping closer, it was time to leave.

Descending from the summit.

It was hard to not stop and take one more photo. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

We would follow the ridge all the way to the point in front of Andrew, before cutting back towards the lake.

This section of the ridge was chock-full of flowers.

The Flatheads continued to provide us with a scenic backdrop.

Glancing back to Andrew as he follows me along the ridge.

Our purpose for venturing so far along the ridge, was to get a better look at Mount Corrigan, in particular, the ridge on the left that can be accessed from the Flathead Valley Road. The section before the false summit (centre) could present an interesting challenge. The actual summit is on the right.

This section of the ridge also gave us the chance to scope out Centre Mountain which has been ascended by several Lethbridge-based scramblers – but sadly, not by me… One day Dave. One day. 😉 Edit: Done!

Heading over to the ridge (centre) above the lake.

Arriving on the ridge.

There are some impressive anticlines beneath the summit.

Gazing down to the lake.

We followed the ridge down to large gully that we then used to descend towards the lake.

I’m guessing that this may be the route that people use to both ascend and descend Barnes Peak from the lake.

Andrew makes his way down the gully.

From the gully, we followed an open patch on our right until we came to a faint trail (centre) that led towards the lake.

The trail turned into a gully that in turn, took us right to the lake.

At the moment, we were the only people enjoying Barnes Lake.

What a gorgeous place to visit!

A small, but elegant waterfall.

This memorial was fastened high up a tree next to a campsite.

Following the trail around the lake.

Gazing back to the summit. If you are wondering, yes, there were a number of small cuts rising.

A pano that includes both peaks.

The outlet creek flows across the trail. We found it easier to cross using a series logs located next to the lake.

One more look at Barnes Peak. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)

Someone had left their kayak next to the lake.

From the lake, it is a ~1.5 km hike back to the junction with the main trail.

Crossing the outlet stream again.

Cold, clear mountain water.

Andrew follows the trail onto the wetlands that we saw earlier in the day. In the background is the little ridge that we used to access Limestone Ridge. Even though there are signs prohibiting ATVs from venturing beyond the Elliot Lake / Barnes Lake junction, it was obvious from the deep ruts and fresh tracks that some people choose to ignore them.

A pano of the little creek as it meanders through the wetlands.

Crossing the creek one more time just prior to reaching the junction with the main trail. Some kind soul had fashioned a wooden pole to assist in walking across the logs. You can see it leaning against the log in front of Andrew.

On the main trail and making quick work of the remaining ~3.4 km back to the trailhead.

On the way back, we encountered a group of  backpackers who were heading to Barnes Lake for a few days of fishing. They were thrilled to discover that no one else was camping at the lake.

Whereas on our way up, we used logs to cross the stream, we just walked through it on the way back.

Arriving back at the trailhead…

And our vehicles after a roundtrip distance of 18.7 km and a total time of 6 hours and 55 minutes. Once again, this was another awesome day spent in the mountains. I can say with certainty, that while I’ve wanted to visit Barnes Peak for a number of years, I was not expecting it to be as scenic or as enjoyable as it turned out to be. After completing the loop, both Andrew and I came to the conclusion that while it could be done in reverse, the advantage of gaining elevation via the Elliot Lake trail coupled with what we feel are better ascent views, made us preferential to the route we used. As I contemplate reaching the summit of Michel Head, I may return to use the Elliot Lake trail as an access Michel Ridge. It may be longer than I would like, but with much of the area now closed off due to logging, it may be the best way to reach Michel Head.


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