Skyline I Trail, Manning Park
By Kimberly Walker
E.C. Manning Provincial Park is well known for its plentiful hiking opportunities and spectacular sub-alpine wildflower displays. Hiking trails in the park offer something for everyone – whether you are a brand new hiker or a seasoned veteran there is a trail perfect for you.
For beginner hikers, the classic Manning trip is the Lightning Lake Loop. Manning Park boasts four main lakes – Lightning, Flash, Strike, and Thunder – and a very ambitious beginner hiker could even tackle the entire 20+ kilometre lake chain without much hiking experience as there is a minimal amount of elevation change on the trail. For those wishing to keep it a bit shorter, stick to the 9 kilometre loop around Lightning Lake and if that is a bit too long, cross the lake at the narrowest point via Rainbow Bridge and cut your journey in half. Offering great views, frequent opportunities to get down the water, and predominately flat terrain, the Lightning Lake Loop is the perfect beginner hike in Manning Park.
Intermediate hikers should check out the 9 kilometre Three Falls Trail. I have to admit that even though I have been hiking at Manning Park my entire life, I had never hiked this trail until a few weeks ago, mostly because it doesn’t offer the alpine views I typically seek in a Manning hike. I was pleasantly surprised by the trail and would rank it highly for days when the sun is beating down and you are looking to clock some distance but stay primarily in the trees. The trail leaves from Strawberry Flats and, true to the name, is quite flat for the first two or so kilometres. At this point, the trail deposits you at the bottom of the Manning Park T-Bar before crossing the run and entering the trees on the other side. The trail is up and down until Shadow Falls (about 3 kilometres into your trip) and then goes gradually downhill with views of Neopopekum Falls on the other side of the valley before descending more steeply to Derek Falls, the final destination of the hike. Returning to your vehicle you realize just how much downhill there was to get to the falls, and the return trip certainly makes you work for it!
Manning Park is known for its spectacular mountain vistas and abundant sub alpine meadows, and nowhere are these more apparent than on the long, steep, and challenging Skyline I trail.
Leaving from Spruce Bay near the Lightning Lake campground, follow signs for Thunder Lake before branching off uphill at the Skyline I sign. For an hour you will ascend through the trees, before breaking out into a landscape transformed by wildfire. It has been 25 years since the 1994 wildfire that left its mark on the park, and the burn area is an eerily beautiful place. Once through the burn, the trail follows the ridge and there are plenty of places that make a good lunch spot. This section of the trail gets your heart pumping, as there are three significant up-and-down sections made entirely worthwhile by the wide-open views of Mt. Frosty, Three Brothers, the Manning Park ski hill, Mt. Hozameen in Washington State, and more. Resist the temptation to only look up, though, as the trail also offers peek-a-boo views of Flash, Strike, and Thunder lakes. Once you start to descend, you come to the most spectacular wildflower meadow you have ever seen. The flowers are waist high and if you listen carefully you can probably hear the Sound of Music playing in the background. Or maybe that is just in your head!
Continue through the meadow to the junction with Skyline II at Despair Pass, then head towards Strawberry Flats. The trail becomes a steady descent through the trees and you will be forgiven for thinking “are we there yet?!” over and over in your head. Alas, once you are there, you still have an almost four kilometre walk back to Spruce Bay along the South Gibson trail. I prefer to hike Skyline I in the direction described, but as it is a loop you can, of course, hike the other way – if you don’t mind the uphill from Spruce Bay back to Strawberry Flats right at the end of your 20+ kilometre day!
Manning Park is a hiker’s paradise offering plenty of options whether you are seeking a casual family stroll or a multi-day wilderness adventure. Make sure to take plenty of water and snacks with you and wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Always remember to pack out what you pack in and stick to the trails in order to preserve this beautiful place for future generations.
For accommodations in the area and elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Lodging, Camping or RVing options at Travel-British-Columbia.com.
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Published: August 8, 2019
Kimberly is a Special Education, Elementary School teacher in Hope, BC. Previously having worked ten years at the Hope Visitor Centre & Museum promoting tourism in Hope and British Columbia, Kimberly worked on many local history projects in the museum as well as researching and writing articles for the local newspaper. Kimberly loves travelling with her husband Dale and their dog Alpine. In the fall of 2014, they spent the first 78 days of married life travelling and camping their way across Canada - just the two of them and the dog - travelling in a Hyundai Elantra! Kimberly loves various outdoor recreation types and exploring our beautiful province.