The best hikes aren’t always the longest ones, as proven by the Jumbo Pass Trail near Kaslo, British Columbia.
There’s only 5km of distance between the parking lot and Jumbo Pass itself, yet the reward is immense – a beautiful subalpine landscape, backdropped by huge peaks and glaciers.
Hikers who push a little further and reach the top of the rocky ridge behind Jumbo Pass are able to enjoy unobstructed panoramas of it all.
Jumbo Pass is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever been, holding that title proudly with the nearby Monica Meadows Trail.
This trail, does, however, require some exertion from aspiring hikers. The aforementioned 5km route features a relentless ascent of 800m elevation gain. The view at the top is worth every step.
The trailhead is also a bit tricky to reach – a solid two hour drive from Kaslo on a dirt road. But Jumbo Pass is all the better for it. If you want to go here, you need to put the effort in.
Here’s what to expect in this post:
- About the Jumbo Pass Trail
- Hike Experience
- Hiking Guide
Published March 2022. We hiked to Jumbo Pass in August 2020. This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, we may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
Jumbo Pass (western approach)
Location: Near Kaslo, BC
Distance: 10km return
Elevation gain: 800m
Hike type: Out and back
Time: 4 to 6 hours
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An introduction to Jumbo Pass
Jumbo Pass is located in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. The Purcells are best known for the beautiful granite spires of the Bugaboos, one of the world’s top climbing destinations.
Jumbo Pass can be approached from the east (near Invermere) and also from the west (near Kaslo) on dedicated hiking trails. This post covers the West Kootenay approach only.
The western trailhead is only a short drive from another incredible mountain hike – Monica Meadows. If you can, hike them on the same trip.
The Jumbo Pass Trail is part of Recreation Sites and Trails BC, which falls under the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Hikers do not have to pay any fees to utilise the trail.
Jumbo Pass is situated on the traditional territory of the Sinixt, Secwépemc and Ktunaxa First Nations. The Jumbo-Toby Creek watershed is called Qat’muk by the Ktunaxa Nation. It is considered to be the home of the grizzly bear spirit.
This area has been the subject of a longstanding environmental campaign, after a ‘mega’ ski resort was proposed for development. Public and private funding enabled a buyout and Jumbo Pass was saved.
In early 2020, the Ktunaxa Nation announced the creation of the Qat’muk Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area. The new ICPA, about 700 square kilometres in size, will protect cultural values and crucial wildlife habitats in this area for years to come.
Jumbo Pass: Hike Experience
The Jumbo Pass Trail starts right from the parking area on Glacier Creek FSR, behind the trailhead sign. Here’s what to expect on the trail.
The ascent to Jumbo Pass
The path starts to climb almost immediately, as it traverses along the side of the valley. A series of tight switchbacks ensure that the elevation gain is even quicker.
Occasional teasing views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers can be seen through the trees. While it’s not super scenic, the forest does does provide much needed shade during hot summer days.
The trail is quite narrow at times, which can result in some interesting passing maneuvers with other hikers. The terrain drops off to the right, sometimes steeply.
At the 2.7km mark, the path turns east towards the pass and starts a series of small switchbacks. Less than a 1km later, the forest widens and a beautiful wildflower meadow carpets the ground.
The steady climb continues but it’s now possible to turn around and look above the treeline. The views only get better as you ascend the pass, with excellent vantages of the Horseshoe Glacier.
Reaching Jumbo Pass
Another uphill section through wildflower meadows and there is a signed junction. Left leads to the cabin and ridge while the right turn leads to the other Jumbo Pass trailhead (Invermere side).
Celebrate, the hard work is done! The last 700m of trail has a slight incline as it travels through the rolling subalpine terrain.
Trees border the path on the left hand side on the approach to the Jumbo Pass Cabin. The right hand side features an open subalpine landscape with a small tarn, all backdropped by seemingly endless peaks and valleys.
While this section of trail is undeniably beautiful, I found it to be more impressive from the other direction.
The subalpine ecosystem around Jumbo Pass is very fragile so please be sure to stay on the established path at all times. Crushed vegetation can take years to recover.
Jumbo Pass from above
The main path ends at the Jumbo Path Cabin. Even better views await on the rocky ridge above the cabin. It does require some extra effort to climb, however.
The trail ascends very quickly (about 100m) with short switchbacks through a small patch of forest. Loose rock makes footing tricky in some sections.
After the initial climb, the path levels out somewhat and opens to a ridge area. There’s plenty of choice for places to stop and take in the epic views.
Karnak and Jumbo Mountains lie to the northeast, with the Macbeth Icefields to the northwest. To the southwest is the huge Horseshoe Glacier, flanked by Bastille Mountain on the closest side.
We turned around after 500m, happy with the panoramas we had gained on the ridge. The path starts to narrow shortly after this point.
Some hikers choose to continue further along the ridge. I’m not sure how far the trail continues, however.
Back to the parking lot
The return journey to the parking lot follows the same route. As mentioned, I thought the pass views were better on the way down, so be sure not to rush.
Look out also for the junction with the other trail! It would be very easy to miss it and just continue on hiking towards the wrong trailhead. The views are that distracting.
The first part of the descent from the pass is also better from this direction, with Horseshoe Glacier looming above the meadows.
Anticipate 4 to 6 hours to hike the Jumbo Pass Trail. Allow 7 hours if you know that you hike at a slower pace.
We spent 5 and a half hours on the trail, with plenty of stops for photos and a long lunch on the ridge. We consider ourselves to be pretty average hikers.
Jumbo Pass Hiking Guide
Inspired to check out Jumbo Pass yourself? Read on to discover everything you need to know about this spectacular hiking trail in BC’s Purcell Mountains.
Please note that this hiking guide will only feature the western approach to Jumbo Pass, from the trailhead near Kaslo (not the one close to Invermere).
When to go
The best time to hike Jumbo Pass is from late July to early October. Located at 2350m, snow takes some time to disappear from Jumbo Pass. Glacier Creek FSR is also vulnerable to avalanche debris and this can take some time to clear.
The meadow sections of the trail are lined with beautiful displays of wildflowers in midsummer. Though it depends on the year, early August is a good bet. We were still able to enjoy some wildflowers when visiting during the third week of August.
Jumbo Pass is a home to a significant number of larch trees, a huge draw for hikers in late September when they turn golden. Expect the trail to be very busy on weekends. The nearby Monica Meadows Trail is also very popular at this time.
Cold temperatures and snow comes early to Jumbo Pass, though ‘winter’ conditions are possible at any time of year. Temperatures were below 0°c overnight during our visit in August.
How to access the Jumbo Pass trailhead
Jumbo Pass is located in the Purcell Mountains, British Columbia. The village of Kaslo is the nearest community to the western trailhead.
- From Kaslo, head north on Highway 31 to Lardeau and Trout Lake. 35km from Kaslo turn right onto Argenta Road. The surface quickly turns to gravel. The road is wide, well-used and generally easy to drive
- Continue following Argenta Road. After passing Glacier Creek Regional Park, look out for a right hand turn marked ‘Glacier Forest Service Road’ (12km from Highway 31). There are signs for Macbeth Icefields, Jumbo Pass and Monica Meadows
- Follow Glacier Creek for 26.6km. The road is narrow but fairly flat and reasonably well maintained. Expect occasional debris on the road
- Continue on Glacier Creek FSR after passing the signs to Monica Meadows
- There is a washed out culvert near the 24km mark
- The Jumbo Pass Trailhead is located right at the end of the maintained part of Glacier Creek FSR. The road does technically continue but it is not well used
I would definitely recommend driving a high clearance vehicle to the Jumbo Pass trailhead, not just due to the washed out culvert mentioned above. We had to drive through a shallow creek (see photo below) during our visit. For reference, we drive a GMC Savana van with all terrain tires.
Be prepared to drive slowly and expect the journey to take longer than anticipated. Though less than 42km from the Highway 31, it took us just almost two hours to reach the parking area.
The nearest vehicle accessible campground is Glacier Creek Regional Park on Argenta Road (11km from Highway 31). Located on a peninsula on Duncan Lake, this forested campground is only $15/night. Some of the sites even have lake views. It’s popular with ATV users.
Jumbo Pass parking
As mentioned above, the Jumbo Pass Trailhead is situated at the end of the Glacier Creek FSR, GPS co-ordinates 50.370877, -116.654505. The icefields can be seen right from the parking lot.
The parking lot with a small dirt turning circle and a wooden BC Forest Service trailhead sign. No other facilities are available.
Vehicle parking is available parallel to the road only. Pull over as far as possible to allow enough space for other vehicles to pass. Leave the turning circle completely clear for maneuvering purposes.
Some people surround their vehicles with chicken wire for protection from porcupines, who apparently love to chew on rubber components.
We did not have any chicken wire with us and parked at the Jumbo Pass and Monica Meadows trailheads without issues.
The Jumbo Pass parking lot does not have an outhouse.
We hiked Jumbo Pass and then stayed overnight in the Monica Meadows parking lot, which does have an outhouse. We then hiked Monica Meadows the next day. Monica Meadows also has a tent camping area along the trail.
How to navigate the trail
The western approach to Jumbo Pass is an established 10km return trail, with 800m of elevation gain. It starts right from the parking lot and ends at the Jumbo Pass Cabin.
We found the main path easy to follow. It is dirt for the most part with some rockier sections. At the 4.2km mark, there is a sign for the cabin at the intersection with the eastern approach trail from Invermere (be sure to turn left, not right).
Please note that the subalpine ecosystem around Jumbo Pass is very fragile. Crushed vegetation can take years (decades even) to recover. Stay on the established path at all times to avoid damage.
The trail to Jumbo Pass is clearly marked on our favourite navigational app, Maps.me. Be sure to download the relevant maps before leaving home so you can use the app offline (there is zero phone signal in the Jumbo Pass area). Of course, a paper topo map is recommended as well.
From the cabin, there are paths leading down to the small tarn and also up to the ridge. The first part of the trail up to the ridge is very steep (100m elevation gain) with plenty of loose rock. It does level out after a while (0.5km) but the path becomes narrower.
Jumbo Pass is located in a remote backcountry area. Here are some of the main hazards to be aware of:
- Weather. Located at 2350m, weather can change very quickly on Jumbo Pass. Snow is possible even in the middle of summer. Bring multiple layers
- Elevation gain. The western approach to Jumbo Pass is short (5km) but is uphill almost the entire way. If you’re not a regular hiker, you may find the ascent very tiring. Pace yourself
- Water. Bring plenty of water for the uphill climb, especially on hot summer days. There is a small tarn by the cabin at the top but I’d recommend filtering the water first
- Trail. The path up to the ridge features steep terrain and loose rock. Be very careful with footing and know your limits. The views from Jumbo Pass are incredible enough without having to go too far along the ridge
- Bears. This area is grizzly bear territory so be sure to stay alert at all times. Make noise to make your presence known to any bears (or other wildlife) in the area. If staying overnight, keep a clean camp and keep all food and attractants out of reach of wildlife. Read our bear safety guide
- Communication. There is zero phone service after turning off Highway 31. Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back. Bring a satellite communication devices (Inreach or Spot) for emergencies
Jumbo Pass camping
The Jumbo Pass Cabin was constructed in 1997 and is maintained by the Columbia Valley Hut Society. With two bunk beds and loft space, it sleeps 6 people comfortably with 8 being the maximum.
- Mattresses and cookware are provided as well as a propane stove and lantern
- Hut users should bring 1lb propane cannisters for cooking
- There is a woodstove in the hut, but use is prohibited from 1st June to 15th September
- Though there is seating and a makeshift firepit outside the hut, the Society asks visitors to refrain from fires as the local ecosystem cannot sustain firewood cutting
- The hut is available by reservation only. The rental fee is $90. It can be reserved online up to two months in advance
- For an additional $40 fee, it is possible to reserve the hut by email up to two months and two weeks in advance
More details are available on the Columbia Valley Hut Society website.
We did see some people camping close to the Jumbo Pass Cabin.
The subalpine ecosystem here is very sensitive, however, and can be damaged easily. I hope the campers set their tents up on durable surfaces that had already been used for camping.
There are no established facilities for campers – I imagine people just use the hut outhouse.
Essential items to bring
As well as the 10 Essentials, I would recommend bringing the following items when hiking to Jumbo Pass:
- Bear spray – Grizzly bears live and roam in this area. I’d consider bear spray a must when hiking the Jumbo Pass Trail. Be sure to store it somewhere handy using a holster
- Hiking poles – There is significant elevation gain on this trail. We found it helpful to have hiking poles, especially for the descent down to the parking lot. Incredibly light and foldable, Black Diamond’s Carbon Z poles are my tried and tested favourite pair
- Spare tire. While Glacier Creek FSR was not the roughest road we’ve driven in the West Kootenays, it’s practice to bring a decent full size spare tire on unpaved roads such as this. You’re a long way from anywhere if something happens. Make sure it is inflated properly before leaving the highway and know exactly how to replace it
Looking for more adventure inspiration in this area?
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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