⚠️ Hiking and scrambling are inherently dangerous activities. Please read my Disclaimer. ⚠️
I love winter trips because they offer the chance to explore those small foothills and ridges that I take note of, but bypass for much of the year. Such is the case for lowly, “Beaver Mines Ridge”. It was during our Hollebeke Mountain trip – while we were waiting for Andrew at the Castle Falls turnoff on Highway 774 – that Brad and I noticed the long, treed ridge across the highway. We’d driven past it a kazillion times, but waiting for Andrew gave us the opportunity to give it more than a passing glance. That’s when we decided to add it to our winter hit list.
Not knowing what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that “Beaver Mines Ridge” – the nickname we’ve assigned based on its location to both Beaver Mines Lake and the hamlet – was not as mundane as it appeared; nor was it hard to reach. In fact, there’s an old ATV road that leads up and across the ridge from the Beaver Mines Lake road. There are also cutlines and logging roads that can be used depending on your direction of approach.
The ridge offers remarkably good views and in a non-Covid world, you could park a vehicle at each end and have a tidy little end-to-end trip. You could also do what we did (at Brad’s suggestion), and add on a few extra kilometres by descending to Beaver Mines Lake to enjoy the scenic trip across the ice, before following the road back to the trailhead. I have to say that the views of Table Mountain from the lake are worth it. I’m sure this is a well-known hike among local residents and for sure, the scout camp on Beaver Mines Lake must take advantage of it.
Once again, I’m in awe of what a seemingly unremarkable bump in the Castle has to offer. I shouldn’t be, but I am. Brad and I have even more of these ‘bumps’ on our list, and I’m looking forward to being surprised again and again this winter. Of course, while the trips themselves are fun, great company makes the day and I’m fortunate to have a friend in Brad to explore with. Since both of us had recently read, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley, we had another classic to discuss throughout the day – when we weren’t sidetracked by the scenery that is! 😊
To get to “Beaver Mines Ridge”, drive ~13 km south of the hamlet of Beaver Mines on Highway 774 to the turnoff for Beaver Mines Lake. From the cattle guard, drive ~2.3 km and look for a small sign where an old ATV trail enters the woods on your left. This is the trailhead.
Follow the easy trail for ~1.6 km until you see an open slope through the trees on your left. You can leave the trail at this point to ascend the slope, or stay on the trail as it will eventually emerge onto the same slope. Follow the trail across and up the slope to the top of the first open highpoint (1640 m) along the ridge.
Continue following the trail northeast and along the ridge for ~2.3 km (you will cross a noticeable cutline) to reach the summit (1679 m). Enjoy the views and then continue on for ~410 m to a marginally shorter highpoint (1671 m) located further to the northeast. From here, either return or continue to the final highpoint (1665 m) located ~550 m to the north.
We decided to return by descending from the summit using the cutline that we had crossed earlier. We followed this until we intersected with another cutline used for power lines, which we then followed for ~1 km, until we were beside the lake. We then took advantage of the ice and walked across the lake for ~1.6 km to the parking area at the other end of the lake. From the lake it was an easy ~2.7 km walk back along the road to the trailhead. You could also do this whole trip in reverse as well.
This graph is obviously compressed and as a result, make the elevation gains look WAY more severe than they are. Our total roundtrip distance was 14.6 km with total elevation gains of 568 m. Our total roundtrip time was 5 hours and 4 minutes. For reference, from the trailhead to the summit, it was ~4.6 km with an elevation gain of 360 m. It also took us 1 hour and 50 minutes to reach the summit from the trailhead.
Gearing up at the trailhead which is located along the Beaver Mines Lake road approximately 2.3 km from the junction with Highway 774. We stumbled on this fantastic trail completely by accident, though I’m sure it’s well-known to others.
Brad passes a sign prohibiting ATV use as he starts up the trail.
The trail allowed us to completely avoid gaining – and then losing elevation – on an intervening bump.
Enjoying the easy hike.
It wasn’t long before we could see the open slopes of the first highpoint.
Approximately 1.6 km from the trailhead, we left the trail (note Brad in the trees on the left) for a shortcut onto the open slope. Had we stayed on the trail, it would have eventually curled back and emerged onto the same slope.
Brad leads the way.
We could now see the bump that we avoided by following the trail.
Arriving back on the trail. It was a gorgeous and nearly windless morning!
The trail will take us onto the first highpoint.
Brad stops to enjoy the great views. In the background are Syncline Mountain and St. Eloi (centre), which will become increasingly beclouded as the day goes on.
Gazing to the west at the southern end of the Flatheads.
Still looking at the Flatheads, but this time, further to the northwest.
The summit of the first highpoint (1640 m).
A wide angle look to the southwest.
Still looking at the Flatheads with majestic Mount Darrah to the right of centre, and Darrah S2, Darrah S3, and Darrah SE4 to the left of centre. The uniquely shaped, Centre N1, is on the far left with razor-like Darrah S4 to its right.
Following the trail as it continues along the ridge.
The small viewpoint just prior to the summit (not visible) is straight ahead, though the photo has foreshortened the distance. In reality, it’s a ~2.3 km hike from the first highpoint to the summit.
What a gorgeous day to play outside! 😁
Even though we’d brought our snowshoes, we never had to use them. That being said, this would be a great mid-winter snowshoe trip, though I’d add on extra time to your day to account for slower travel.
The trail remains easy to follow.
A small clearing allows us to get a good look at Table Mountain.
In the summer, this would be a great family hike.
Heading into a stand of Douglas fir.
For context, some of these trees were here when the 1918 pandemic ravaged the globe.
A fleeting glimpse of Table Mountain.
Approximately 950 m from the first highpoint, we came to the cutline that bisects the ridge from west to east. The trail would continue on the other side (left of centre).
However, we decided to explore the cutline a bit further to the west.
The cutline leads all the way down to the rest area on Highway 774 and presents an alternative for ascent and/or descent.
We wondered if the area to the left of the cutline was equal in elevation to the first highpoint – it was decidedly lower.
The trail narrows on the other side of the cutline.
Brad pauses to look east along the cutline. We would use it on our way back as part of our route to reach Beaver Mines Lake.
A moose had generously post-holed a path for us. 😊
Even though it was narrow, the trail was still easy to follow.
It’s hard to beat the beauty of snow-covered trees. For me, there’s always a marked sense of wonder that comes from exploring a forest in the winter. It’s been that way since I was a kid, when I would go on winter adventures in the forest behind my house.
Still following the moose tracks, we arrive at an open section along the ridge.
The trail will lead us up to the viewpoint on the left, At first, we thought this might be the summit.
The neat little viewpoint (1657 m) sits only ~350 m or so from the actual summit. Unfortunately, an intervening section of forest makes it impossible to see the summit.
Every opening on this little ridge forces you to stop and take in the views. 😊
In the short time that it took us to reach the viewpoint from the first highpoint, low-level clouds had enveloped most of the peaks to the south.
The view back to the first highpoint.
Meanwhile, clouds pour over the Flatheads near North Kootenay Pass.
Fortunately, it remained a gorgeous day in our neck-of-the-woods. 😊
Following the trail from the viewpoint towards the summit.
Easy and enjoyable hiking was the order of the day.
A wide angle near the summit highlights the expansive views.
A frozen Beaver Mines Lake sits beneath Table Mountain. We would visit the lake on our way back.
The summit of “Beaver Mines Ridge” (1679 m). For reference, from the trailhead to the summit, it was ~4.6 km with an elevation gain of 360 m and a one-way time of 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Another wide angle to the southeast. It’s hard to believe that this unassuming little ridge has such great views. 😊
Looking further to the southeast…
And now to the east. Speaking of fun winter destinations, Mount Albert is on the left.
A closer look at the summit of Table Mountain. I’d like to do a repeat one day and scramble up from the bowl on the right.
Gazing down to Beaver Mines Lake.
The clouds continue to rapidly move eastward, yet for some reason, we experienced little to no wind.
Another look to the southeast.
Another highpoint lies ~1.5 km to the north (foreground left) while lowly Mount Backus (right) seems almost mighty from this vantage.
Brad celebrates with his usual summit fare: a pipe and some absinthe.
I celebrate with Sambuca, though I’m making the switch to Drambuie for 2021. I’m just not tough enough for absinthe. 😳 (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
Leaving the summit for the next highpoint, which is only ~410 m away.
Someone obviously keeps this trail maintained.
After a slight loss in elevation, Brad follows the trail upwards.
This highpoint feels more “summity” because of the exposed rocks.
While the actual summit doesn’t offer views to the west, this one does, making it a worthwhile add-on to the trip.
In addition, it also features great views to the southeast…
And to the south.
At 1671 m, this highpoint is only 8 m lower than the summit (foreground).
With one more highpoint still to go (right), we set off along the trail.
A slightly different angle of previous photo.
The frosty forest beneath the summit. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
And an even closer inspection of the fire lookout on the summit – yet another great winter destination!
While Brad stuck to the trail, I tried a shortcut across this clearing…
Unfortunately, I found myself in knee-deep snow and Brad ended up well ahead of me.
Brad arrives on the broad summit.
This highpoint (1665 m) offered more great views, including ones further to the north,
Glancing back to the summit (right) and the highpoint we had just come from (left of centre).
The entirety of the ridge highlights why it flies under the radar – it’s simply unappealing unless you’re actually on it.
These views to the north are what’s missing from the other highpoints.
But of course, there are still great views to the west! (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
Further to the north sits Morin Peak (centre), the South Peak of the Livingstone (right of centre), and Centre Peak. In the foreground to the left of centre is Byron Hill with another great winter destination, “The Dog” (centre), directly in front of Morin Peak.
The view to the southwest.
Syncline Mountain is almost completely obscured…
This gorgeous little foothill that sits to the east is located entirely on private land.
Since I laboured to make them, we took advantage of my post-hole artistry. 😉
Brad begins to contemplate an alternate descent to Beaver Mines Lake…
Heading back to the summit with the lake tempting us on.
Brad’s back is back on the summit. 😂
The lake continues to tempt us – well, Brad more than me – but I will soon acquiesce. 😉
Heading to the viewpoint where we’ll make a decision…
To Beaver Mines Lake it is!
It was an easy trip from the viewpoint to the the cutline.
Brad is dwarfed by some Douglas firs.
On the cutline and looking back to the ridge.
Brad leads us down the easy-to-follow cutline.
We soon came to an intersection where a logging road (left) bisected the cutline (right).
I initially thought this was the connecting cutline to the lake, but I was wrong. It ended up being a decent shortcut though.
We only followed the road for a short distance before setting off across a clearing. It was interesting that loggers had left this lone tree standing.
From the clearing, we entered into the woods, heading in the general direction of the lake.
We had no difficulties bushwhacking our way through.
Even the deadfall was easily stepped over.
Entering a clearcut just prior to the second cutline.
Looking back to the summit. Even from this vantage, the ridge is completely unappealing.
Arriving at the second cutline. Had we stayed on the first cutline, it would’ve intersected with this one.
Again, there was nothing difficult here.
Following the cutline towards the lake.
When it was conveniently close, we made the quick trip from the cutline to the lake,
The lake provided more great views of Table Mountain.
I lead the way as we take advantage of the ice. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)
Brad confidently struts along, because he knows that his suggestion to visit the lake was a great one. 😂
To repeat my mantra for the day: this was definitely more scenic than I was expecting.
Brad (centre) and I take a wide berth around an ice fishing hut.
Brad ventures towards the middle of the lake as he reveals the real reason why he wanted to come: to find the lady giving out swords. 😂
Wow! What a bunch of iceholes! 😂
Speaking of iceholes… 😂😂
There were quite a few people fishing. One guy told us that he had no problem catching his share of 11-inch ‘bows with the largest being a 15-inch lunker.
Almost at the end of the lake.
The view back.
On the road and making the ~2.7 km walk back to the trailhead.
One last look at Table Mountain.
Arriving back at the trailhead after 5 hours and 4 minutes over 14.5 km. “Beaver Mines Ridge” was an unexpected surprise, though you’d think by now, I’d have grown used to these obscure little ridges and foothills punching above their weight-class. This was a great winter destination with the added bonus of a beautiful afternoon stroll across a frozen, Beaver Mines lake – all thanks to Brad. 😊