The Enderby Cliffs Trail (also known as the Tplaqin Trail) offers one of the most impressive hiking experiences in the northern Okanagan region.
The path climbs 700m from the valley floor through a shady forest to the top of towering cliffs, rewarding hikers with spectacular, sweeping views of a patchwork of farmland as well as mountains, rivers and lakes.
Easily accessible from Highway 97, the Tplaqin Trail provides the perfect opportunity to take a break from driving, get a great work-out, connect with nature and enjoy some gorgeous views.
This post shares everything you need to know about hiking the Enderby Cliffs Trail, including:
- Trail description
- Hiking guide
Enderby Cliffs Trail
Location: Enderby, British Columbia
Distance: 7km one-way to the summit (we recorded 8km)
Elevation change: 700m gain
Hike type: Out and back
Time: Allow 4 to 5.5 hours return with summit stop
Difficulty: Low to moderate – long day hike with steady ascent
Dogs: Allowed (please use a leash)
Hazards: Steep drop-offs
Before heading to Enderby Cliffs:
- Remember to bring the 10 Essentials
- Know how to stay safe and also avoid negative bear encounters
- Understand how to Leave No Trace to help keep nature beautiful
- Check out our recommended gear
- Read the safety advice carefully – be sure to hike within your limits
Published June 2021. This post contains some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
About Enderby Cliffs
The Tplaqin/Enderby Cliffs Trail is part of Enderby Cliffs Provincial Park, a protected area conserving a diverse transitional ecosystem as well as the namesake cliffs.
The towering 1200m high Enderby Cliffs were carved by glaciers pushing south from Shuswap Lake. These looming basalt sentinels are estimated to be around 50 million years old and can be seen for miles around.
According to the Enderby Chamber of Commerce, there is a local legend that likens the cliffs to the head of a Neanderthal Man who once guarded this northern gateway to the Okanagan.
Enderby Cliffs is a significant cultural site for the local Splatsin (pronounced spla-jeen) community. The Splatsin are the most southern tribe of the Secwépemc Nation. Learn more about the Splatsin people and Secwépemc Nation.
Enderby Cliffs: Hike Experience
The Enderby Cliffs Trail starts in the designated parking lot on Brash Allen Road. A single track path leads from the BC Parks noticeboard, through a fence, over the road and then onto the trail proper.
The dirt track is on the wider side and borders a field. After less than 300m, the provincial park boundary is reached, marked with clear signage. From here, the trail narrows slightly, enters the forest and begins to climb.
The first section of the hike features very slow elevation gain, with very long (almost a kilometre!) switchbacks. The first big turn is signified with some stone steps.
The forested is shaded but not so dense that you can’t see the sky. During mid to late spring, wildflowers brighten up the route.
The first significant feature on the trail is a large shrine at the 2km mark. This wooden shrine was carved by villagers of Oberammergau, Germany.
A wooden bench accompanies the shrine, making it a great place to pause, have a drink of water and get your breath back if needed.
Enderby Cliffs viewpoints
After the shrine, the angle of ascent becomes slightly steeper. It’s still relatively gradual overall, however.
The first views then start to appear, at the Shuswap Lookout (2km from the parking lot, 680m elevation). Here, you’ll be able to see the curving Shuswap River winding through farmland below.
Better panoramas await just a little further on, at the Larch Hills Lookout (3km from the parking lot, 800m elevation). From here, you can see as far south as Vernon.
The viewpoint area is fairly open, with some space for groups to sit on the ground and have a snack or water.
Beyond the Shuswap Lookout, the trail returns to the forest and proceeds to a series of tighter switchbacks.
This is the most intensive part of the hike, with around 200m of elevation gain in 1.7km of trail. Stop as often as you need to.
The corner of the final switchback heralds the arrival onto the spine of the cliffs. The forest suddenly seems a lot brighter and a BC Parks sign warns of ‘Steep Cliffs Ahead.’
The path widens and flatters out but still gradually gains elevation as it winds through the trees.
Hiking along the Enderby Cliffs
A side view of Enderby Cliffs appears at the 5km mark. It’s the first chance to see a close up of the namesake cliffs and also check out what lies ahead. You may be able to spot hikers sitting or walking along the cliff edge.
From here, the vistas just get better and better as the trail follows the curve of the cliff top (all while slowly climbing). A popular place to stop is a large open plateau, located around 5.5km from the parking lot.
The trail actually continues for another 900m, all the way to the very end of the cliffs. There are multiple optional viewpoints as the path diverts in and out of the trees and continues to climb. Be careful around the cliff edge.
There is one very short, steeper section of trail here. It’s over pretty quickly, however, and the reward is beautiful panoramas as far as the eyes can see!
The end of the trail, just beyond the official summit (1150m elevation), is signified by a large open area on two levels.
From here, you can look north to distant snowy mountains, northwest to Shuswap Lake, southwest to Enderby and further south to Okanagan Lake.
Choose a piece of ground and give yourself a well deserved rest, snack and a drink of water. After enjoying the views, head back down the same way to return to your vehicle.
Enderby Cliffs Hiking Guide
In this section, you’ll find all the nitty-gritty info about the Enderby Cliffs Trail. I hope it will help prepare you well for this gorgeous hike.
The Enderby Cliffs parking lot and trailhead is located a very short drive from the community of Enderby in the Okanagan Valley region of British Columbia.
Enderby is located just north of Vernon, one of the Okanagan Valley’s biggest cities.
Another one-of-a-kind attraction in town is the Starlight Drive In movie theatre. It’s the only one left in this region (and only one of three in BC!) and you an actually see the Enderby Cliffs from parking spots!
There is some navigational signs to the trailhead from Highway 97. The trailhead is also correctly marked on Google Maps.
The trailhead parking lot is located right off Brash Allen Road, which is a paved rural road.
Enderby: 4.4km, 6 mins
Vernon: 40km, 32 mins
Sicamous: 37km, 31 mins
Kelowna: 93km, 1 hour 20 mins
Kamloops: 120km, 1 hour 35 mins
Enderby Cliffs Provincial Park has a large paved parking lot, with space for about 35-40 vehicles.
The parking lot is suitable for larger vehicles such as campervans. Vehicles with trailers will be able to turn around and exit easily, but may have difficulty parking.
On busy days, the parking lot will be full by 10 or 11am.
There is detailed BC Parks trailhead signage (in the form of a notice board) as well as two outhouses.
Technically, the trailhead parking lot isn’t actually in Enderby Cliffs Provincial Park. The trail crosses intro the provincial park boundary 300m after leaving the parking lot.
The best time to hike Enderby Cliffs
Though it can technically be visited all year round, Enderby Cliffs is best hiked from April to October. The most ideal months are April, May, June, September and October.
The spring and autumn months provide cooler temperatures, perfect for hiking the Enderby Cliffs Trail. The path can, however, be a little muddy in early spring. A little later on though, and the wildflowers start to bloom.
Autumn also offers bursts of colour, this time from the trees as the leaves begin to change. Snow starts to arrive in late autumn, which can make hiking a little trickier.
Some people like to hike the Enderby Cliffs Trail in winter, with the use of microspikes (we personally use and love these Kahtoola ones). Keep in mind, however, that the trail isn’t maintained. The outhouses will be closed as well.
In the summer months (July, August), the heat can make hiking a bit unbearable. During this time, I’d recommend starting to hike Enderby Cliffs early (before 9am) or late (after 5pm, but keep sunset in mind!)
Navigating the trail
The Enderby Cliffs Trail starts from the trailhead parking lot, crosses Brash Allen Road and then continues on a designated, well defined path all the way to the top of the cliffs.
There is trailhead signage at notable points along the way – at the beginning, the park boundary, at the Shuswap Lookout (2km) and the Larch Hills Lookout (2.9km).
Intermittent orange blazes (metal diamonds) can also be spotted on trees.
For the most part, the trail is very easy to follow. There are, however, numerous shortcuts along the route, created by hikers trying to save time.
Some of these shortcuts are fenced off, while others are clearly still used often. The main path is usually obvious and should be kept to whenever possible to avoid further soil damage and erosion.
I would rate Enderby Cliffs to low to moderate difficulty. Why such a broad definition? It depends on your fitness and hiking experience.
The trail itself is easy to traverse. The mostly dirt and rock path has been cleared of most larger tree routes. There are some uneven stone and wooden steps in several places.
Some short, steeper sections near the summit area feature mud or loose dirt (depending on the season). These steep climbs never last long (20-30m).
The real difficulty of this hike is the extended length (14km or 16km return, depending on who you ask!) with steady, significant elevation gain on the way to the summit.
If you’re not a regular hiker, you may find both of these factors to be exceptionally tiring. Even if you do hike often, you may feel out of breath occasionally when climbing to the summit.
The great part is that there are plenty of places to stop on the way up. The first views appear after 2km, at the ‘Shuswap Lookout.’ If you don’t feel confident in your fitness levels, aim to get to that point and then see how you feel.
There are better views another 900m up the trail at the ‘Larch Hills Lookout.’ Choose that as your next target. If you turn around here, it’s still a very worthwhile adventure (6km return).
Allow 4 to 5.5 hours to complete the full hike, with a 15-30 minute break at the summit. If you tend to hike much slower than the average, estimate 6 hours to be on the safe side.
On our last trip, we spent two hours climbing to the top (with plenty of photo stops) and just under two hours coming down.
This beautiful protected area is home to a variety of animals. Birds and bats live in the cliffs, including golden eagles, grouse, song birds and white-throated swifts.
If you’re lucky, you may have some of these birds riding the thermals next to you as you hike the trail along the cliffs (we did!)
Enderby Cliffs is a key winter range for mule deer. According to BC Parks, other large animals roaming this area are moose, bobcats, lynx, marten, grizzly bears and cougar.
A black bear was sighted on the trail a week before our most recent trip in late May.
To avoid negative interactions:
- Make noise to warn wildlife of your approach
- Carry bear spray and keep it accessible
- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings
- Pack out everything you bring with you (including biodegradable items like banana peels and apple cores)
- Keep dogs under control and on leash
- If you do see animals – keep your distance, don’t feed and always leave them with an escape route
Check out my complete guide to bear safety for more info.
Trail hazards and important safety info
Without a doubt, the biggest hazard on the Enderby Cliff Trail are the actual cliffs.
There are numerous steep drop-offs along the final third of the trail. It is easy, however, to avoid walking close to the cliff edge.
The main path stays a reasonable distance away from the edge at all times (it’s more than a metre or two away), with the exception of the very end.
Falling rock is another concern, which is why BC Parks recommended all hikers to stay on designated trails only and avoid areas below the cliff face.
Children and dogs should be under close supervision at all times but particularly during the final third of the hike, when the trail winds along the cliff top.
Other safety aspects to keep in mind:
- Hike distance. Don’t start this hike too late in the day – know when sunset is and make a plan to turnaround at a certain time
- Exertion. This trail features continuous elevation gain. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. There is no water available on the trail
- Mosquitoes. Most of the trail winds though a shady forest. Mosquitoes can be prevalent
- Wildlife. As mentioned above, large animals do live in this area. Bring bear spray, stay alert and make plenty of noise
Essentials items to bring
- Proper hiking footwear. This is a long hike. For the sake of your feet, I’d definitely recommend wearing hiking shoes or boots to hike Enderby Cliffs
- Water – Whatever you do, be sure to bring plenty of water. This is particularly true during the warmer months from June to September. Keep in mind that there is no water available on the trail. If you are bringing your dog, have extra for them too!
- Hiking poles. If you have knee issues, you may find it helpful to have a pole or two to ease the pressure on your knees during the long descent. We love Black Diamond’s incredibly lightweight Carbon Z series
- Layers of clothing. It is very likely that you will get a little hot while hiking to the top of Enderby Cliffs, so be sure to bring/wear layers of clothing so you can cool down easily. It may also be windy at the top
- Bug repellent. The mosquitoes can be quite aggressive in the forest sections of the Enderby Cliffs hike. Apply bug repellent before hiking or bring some with you
- A snack or lunch. You’re going to want to stay a while at the summit of Enderby Cliffs so bring something to eat and enjoy at the same time! No-one likes to hike hungry
- Dog leash. If you have your dog with you, please keep them on a leash. The Enderby Cliffs Trail has many steep drop-offs
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada