Hiking and Camping with Kids at Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, BC

by Josée

Our family of five loves to explore the backcountry, especially spending a few nights out under the starry sky. However, overnight backcountry adventures can be challenging with three young kids, especially when they aren’t big enough to carry all their own gear. To make backcountry adventures a bit easier and simpler, I look for parks with family-friendly features, like backcountry huts or easy to access wilderness campgrounds. Last year we took a bus up into the Lake O’Hara wilderness campground. We skipped the 11 km hike in, and  saved our energy for exploring the beautiful trails from our base camp. We love it! You can read more about our adventures up at Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park, BC over here.

This year we decided to explored Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park by hiking 8 km to Kokanee Glacier Cabin, and then exploring the various trails from the hut. I have included a detailed description of our Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park adventures below, including how to make reservations for the cabin, what to pack and what trails to explore.

Whether your family is new to the backcountry or a frequent visitor, this park is a delight and I would highly making it your next family backcountry adventure!

Hiking and Camping with Kids at Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, BC

Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park is located just north of Nelson, British Columbia, Canada. This beautiful park is reknown for its rugged mountain, steep rocky cliffs and jewel coloured lakes. Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park was set up in 1922 making it one of British Columbia’s oldest established parks. With almost one hundred years as a park, this area boasts a long history of keen adventurers exploring its many mountain peaks and peaceful valleys.

This park is wonderful place for family backcountry adventures. The trails are well marked, the views are spectacular and Kokanee Glacier Cabin is backcountry luxury!

Best Time to Visit with Kids

Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park is high up in the mountains and so the weather can be unpredictable. We were there from July 20th to July 23rd and the days were blue and sunny. However, there were still patches of snow on the trail and plenty of hungry mosquitoes. To avoid the potential for snowy trails I would recommend booking your adventure for later July or August. Again, there’s no guarantee with the weather up in the mountains, just be prepared for sun, snow, rain and mosquitoes.

Making Reservations for Kokanee Glacier Cabin

IMPORTANT! Making reservations for an overnight backcountry adventure in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park is only required if you would like to stay at one the of Alpine Club of Canada huts in the park. 

There are three huts in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park to choose from: Kokanee Glacier Cabin, Silver Spray Cabin and Woodbury Cabin. I would definitely recommend making reservations to stay at Kokanee Glacier Cabin

Note (July 2018): Silver Spray Cabin and Woodbury Cabin are currently not accessible due to an obstruction.

Please note: There is no need to make reservations for day hikes or for the use of Kaslo Lake Campground.

Kokanee Glacier Cabin

Kokanee Glacier Cabin is probably one of the most luxurious backcountry huts in Canada. It has its own mini hydro system that supplies the cabin with electricity and an in house septic system deals with human waste.

On the main floor there’s a kitchen that’s fully stocked with cooking tools, dishes, dish soap, two stove tops, an oven, a toaster, several coffee makers, a microwave, potable running water and beautiful long wooden tables for eating. There are two indoor flush toilets, toilet paper, and a shower stall with a gravity fed shower bag. There even are guide books, maps, board games and a couple guitars for visitors to use.

The upstairs loft sleeps twenty people in the summer months. The sleeping area is open but divided into four alcoves, each with two bunk beds and a single bed, each bed has its own mattress.

It costs $25 per night for an adult OR $50 per night for a family of five (2 adults and 3 children) (these rates are for 2018, please check the website for their current rates).

RESERVATIONS FOR KOKANEE GLACIER CABIN MUST BE MADE THROUGH THE ALIPINE CLUB OF CANADA: CLICK HERE. Reservations can be made up to ONE YEAR in advance (to the date). For example, if you want to reserve five spots for your family from July 27th to 29th in 2019, you can call to make those reservations on July 27th 2018.

We made our reservations a year in advance and it was a good thing we did. This hut books up quickly so make your reservations early so as not to be disappointed.

Kaslo Lake Wilderness Campground

There are thirty (30) wilderness campsites at Kaslo Lake Campground in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. These campsites have pit toilets, food storage bins and tent pads and are only accessible by foot (8 km hike). The cost of the campsites are $10.00 per adult and $5.00 per child (per night) (fees for 2018, for up-to-date fees visit this website). You can pay for your backcountry camping fees ahead of time here but that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a specific spot (it’s first come, first serve).

Family Packing List for Staying at Kokanee Glacier Cabin

Staying at Kokanee Glacier Cabin means that your family won’t have to pack in as much stuff – yay! There’s no need to pack a tent, sleeping pads and cooking paraphernalia. Now that you know what you don’t need to bring, here’s what you should be packing:

Family Packing List:

  • Backpacking packs (for adults and older kids) *Our two older kids (8 and 10) carried their own packs, but our 6 year old did not.
  • Water packs and/or bottles
  • Water purifying system *the water at the cabin is filtered, a filtration system is only needed for purifying water while out hiking. 
  • FOOD! Foods that are light in weight and pack well (e.g. oatmeal, nuts, dried fruit, bagels, peanut butter, honey, dried sausage, apples, hard cheese, dehydrate meals)
  • First aid kit (blister bandaids/moleskin are a must)
  • Sleeping bags (one per person)
  • Sun hats
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses *The sun is bright up there, especially if there’s still snow.
  • Bug spray
  • Bear spray
  • Hiking boots and socks
  • Rain coat and rain pants
  • Hiking poles *Helpful for adults and some older kids like them too.
  • Appropriate clothes:
    • Base layer bottoms/top that can second as jammies
    • Hiking pants/shorts
    • T-shirts (not cotton!)
    • Toque and mitts
    • Fleece coat
    • Puff Jacket

Accessing Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park

There are five different entry points to Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. If your family is hiking into Kokanee Galcier Cabin use the most common entry to the park located just north of Nelson, BC at Gibson Lake.

Driving Directions

Following Highway 3A north of Nelson turn onto Kokanee Glacier Road, which is just opposite Kokanee Creek Provincial Park Campground. This bumpy gravel road is not recommended for low clearance vehicles but we managed it just fine with our van in the middle of July.

Fending Off Porcupines

When you arrive at the large parking lot a Gibson Lake take a look around. You might notice something peculiar about the vehicles parked there – they’re carefully wrapped in chicken wire! Yes, there are ravenous porcupines (and marmots) that like to munch on tires and tubes under your vehicles while you’re away. Don’t fret! There is a large corral of chicken wire for hikers to use to fend off these fiends. Take a moment to wrap up the bottom of your vehicle before heading out on your adventure.

Hiking with Kids at Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park

There is over 85 km of hiking trails in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. Please respect the park by staying on designated trails and respecting any signage that you see.

Gibson Lake to Kokanee Glacier Cabin

If your family is hiking into Kokanee Glacier Cabin this will be your first hike in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. This trail is about 8 km (5 miles) long with an elevation gain of approximate 490 metres (1600 feet). The first section of the trail is a moderately steep grind up towards Kokanee Lake. It’s a good grade (slope) upwards (not too steep) and it should take about two hours to hike this 4.5 km stretch. We distracted our kids during this upwards section by telling them lots of stories!

Once you reach Kokanee Lake take a much needed snack and rest. You’ll be greeted by cute little ground squirrels while you rest, but don’t be fooled! These little critters are getting use to humans and won’t hesitate to steal your food. Don’t feed them! Continue along Kokanee Lake, through the delicate alpine meadows and forests until you reach Kaslo Lake and the welcomed sight of Kokanee Glacier Cabin.

Kokanee Glacier Cabin to Sapphire Lakes

On our second day in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park we hiked from Kokanee Glacier Cabin to Sapphire Lakes, approximately 6 km return. This beautiful hike bring you up into the alpine where you will see many beautiful tarns (small alpine lakes), soft meadows, rocky outcrops and delicate alpine flowers.

Before starting this hike we were cautioned that there was a creek crossing and some sections with steep falling hazards. The creek crossing is about a third of the way from the start of the trail, and was very manageable. The sections with steep falling hazards are minimal but if your little one is unsteady on their feet you may want to carry them through these sections.

Once you get to Sapphire Lakes take a moment to relax and use the open air toilet (that faces the trail – haha!).

Kokanee Glacier Cabin to the Glacier’s Toe

On our third day in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park we hiked from Kokanee Glacier Cabin to the the Toe of Kokanee Glacier, approximately 5 km return. This trail passes by the old historic Slocan Chief Cabin which has been transformed into a small museum and then climbs up and up towards the toe of Kokanee Glacier.

The hike to Slocan Chief Cabin is quick and fairly easy. There are some pretty little spots to explore around the cabin that my kids enjoyed. If you continue onward you will start hiking up towards the glacier. The second part of the hike is steeper. As you approach the toe of the glacier there will be a fork in the trail, keep left. The right trail takes you to Smuggler’s Ridge trail.

Towards the end of July there were still patches of in the last section of the trail to the Glacier’s Toe – which were perfect for boot or bum sledding! Anticipating these patches of now I packed my kids’ rain pants and gloves. Sledding down these snow banks was probably the highlight of our trip.

More Hiking Trails

There are plenty of trails and areas to explore in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park and if you want to learn more about them you can visit this website.

I hope this this guide to exploring Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park will help your family. If you have any questions or comment about exploring this area, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me

Raising Outdoor Kids Facebook Group

Looking for more ideas, support and inspiration for raising outdoor kids? Come are join our new Facebook community: Raising Outdoor Kids.

Related Articles

1 comment

CHRISTOF RAMPITSCH March 5, 2021 - 12:18 pm

Nice write up! I have not been to Kokanee since…hmmm… 1995 or so. Question: how busy does the campsite get these days?? I’d hate to hike in and find it full 🙁 Am planning to go this July/August. Back in ’95, I think I had most of the entire park to myself!


Leave a Comment