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Little White Mountain via Canyon Lakes Trailhead: Hiking Guide

2171m high with a massive exposed slab of granite rock, Little White Mountain is a unique summer hike destination in BC’s Okanagan Valley region.

The summit offers impressive 360 degree views of Kelowna, Okanagan Lake, rolling hills and distant mountain ranges.

If the name sounds familiar, Little White Mountain is the slightly smaller ‘brother’ of Big White (2315m), host to a ski resort of the same name.

Little White Mountain granite wall with JR standing in front of almost vertical cliff
Little White Mountain granite wall

Located in a remote area with almost no development, Little White takes some effort to access. And that includes the drive to the Canyon Lakes trailhead!

This detailed post will help you plan a future hike with a trail overview, trailhead directions, safety tips and more.

Little White Mountain – Canyon Lakes trailhead (Highland Trail)
Location: Between Kelowna and Penticton
Distance: 5.1km one way (10.2km round trip)
Elevation gain: 520m
Hike type: Out and back
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Camping: None
Fees: None
When to go: July to early October
Dogs: Allowed

Backcountry necessities

Vertical photo of Little White Mountain's towering granite wall
Another view of Little White Mountain’s impressive granite wall

Little White Mountain

Little White Mountain is a 2171m peak in the Okanagan Valley region of British Columbia, situated on the traditional territory of the Syilx/Okanagan people.

One of the highest peaks in this area, Little White probably gets its name from the dense snow that covers the summit from November to June.

Little White is part of the Okanagan Highland mountain range and can be summited from a few different trailheads.

Looking across talus slope to forested hills below, with large lake
Canyon Lakes as seen on the Little White Mountain hike

The Canyon Lakes trailhead lies to the east of Little White Mountain. Another popular route is via the Upper Crawford trailhead near the Bellevue Trestle on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail.

This guide will only cover the Canyon Lakes trailhead as that is the one I have personally visited. As I will detail below, this trailhead is accessible from both north (Kelowna) and south (Penticton) directions.

Little White Mountain brown sign at trailhead, surrounded by forest
Little White Mountain trailhead

Little White Mountain hiking experience

With this trail overview, know what to expect on the Little White Mountain hike from the Canyon Lakes trailhead.

Trailhead to signed junction (0-1.7km)

Start the adventure behind the Myra Bellevue Provincial Park Highland Trail sign.

Back view of JR hiking ascending section of trail on Little White Mountain hike, with scattered trees
The trail starts climbing almost immediately

The rock and dirt path climbs through the forest quickly, with a ridge visible on the left.

There is a trail split after 750m – both routes join again after a few minutes.

Trail split on either side of lone tree, with fall foliage around and other trees in background
Trail split

A steep section leads to the first viewpoint over Canyon Lakes. It’s a surprisingly good vantage point over a lake and forested hills.

The ascent continues into an exposed slope area. There are switchbacks and a short talus traverse, during which it would be easy to lose the path.

Elevated view over tops of trees to long Canyon Lake, with tre on left and forested hills surrounding lake
First Canyon Lakes view

The trail then turns northwest and back into the forest, to start ascending the ridge.

After climbing more than 140m in just 700m, a wonderfully flat section leads to a signed junction (left to Little White, right for Canyon Lakes).

Looking up at JR hiking along rocky switchback section of Little White Mountain hike
More climbing on the Little White Mountain hike

Signed junction to Little White summit

It’s time to climb the final section of the first ridge! This is steep with some loose rock. At the 2.2km mark, most of the trail’s elevation gain (360m/520m) is done.

Time for a break then? Sort of!

Dirt trail leading up and into forest, with talus slope on either side
The start of the ascent up to the first ridge

The next 2km or so of trail meaders through the sub-alpine landscape, with some lovely long mostly flat stretches as well as some small ups and downs.

Overall, the path has a gentle incline.

The Little White summit can be easily spotted ahead almost throughout – an almost vertical granite wall with a sparsely forested ridge on each side.

Back view of JR hiking on Little White Mountain trail with sub-alpine surrounding
Hiking through the sub-alpine landscape – the summit area is visible

The wildflowers along this section in July would be beautiful. There are occasional tarns by the path – most were dry during our early September hike.

The views on each side of the trail start to open up about 1km from the summit area.

Looking across sub-alpine scenery on Little White Mountain trail to mountain layers and big cloud/blue skies
The views opening up

Summit area

Eventually, the path arrives at the side of Little White’s main granite wall. The views are already incredible from here.

The trail curves around to the ridge that leads up onto the larger granite wall. From this point on, the official route is much harder to see.

Side view of Little White Mountain's tall almost vertical granite wall, with forested hills behind
Little White Mountain’s granite wall

Luckily, it is fairly straightforward to make your way across the rock slabs. The radio towers at the summit are easily seen from here and provide a good target.

Expect to pass a couple of ponds near the top, with a few more lying close to the radio tower. Once on the slabby summit area, take a rest and enjoy the fabulous views!

Back view of JR hiking up granite ridge towards Little White Mountain summit
Heading up to the summit

Don’t be too surprised if you see other hikers – there are at least two other trails that lead up here. We were alone during our hike but found other hikers at the summit.

The return hike to the Canyon Lakes trailhead is via the same route.

Rocky Little White Mountain summit with radio tower on right
Little White Mountain summit area

Little White Mountain hiking guide

Inspired to hike to Little White Mountain from the Canyon Lakes trailhead? In this section, you’ll discover everything you need to know to start planning a trip.

There are affiliate links in the text ahead. 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.

Back view of JR standing on rock looking out at forest and rolling hills below on Little White Mountain hike
Checking out the views on the way down

Location

Little White Mountain is located between Kelowna and Penticton in the Okanagan Valley region of interior British Columbia. It is situated east of Chute Lake and west of Highway 33, an area only accessible via unpaved roads.

Screenshot of Little White Mountain and surrounding area on Google Maps
Little White Mountain on Google Maps

Trailhead and parking

The Canyon Lakes trailhead is situated 6.6km up Canyon Lakes Forest Service Road.

The large dirt parking lot is surrounded by small trees. There are no facilities in the parking lot besides a brown Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park Highland Trail sign.

Canyon Lakes Forest Service Road (FSR) is a narrow unpaved uphill route with around a dozen cross ditches.

We found the first 1km and final 1km to be the rockiest and most challenging sections. Some parts look similar to a creek bed. This FSR is not regularly maintained and the condition can vary from year to year.

I would highly recommend a high-clearance vehicle with all-terrain tires. AWD would be preferable. We used our GMC Savana van in September 2023 and it was a rough ride (note that it is not AWD or 4×4).

Vehicle view through windshield of Canyon Lakes FSR, with dirt road surrounded by trees
Canyon Lakes FSR

Trailhead directions

To reach Canyon Lakes Forest Service Road:

  • From Kelowna, drive east then south on Highway 33. 45km from downtown Kelowna (about 40 minutes), turn right on unpaved McCulloch Road. After 800m (about 1-2 minutes), turn left on unpaved Okanagan Falls FSR, also known as the 201. Follow for 21km (around 35-40 minutes) and then make a sharp right on the unpaved Greyback FSR. Turn right on Canyon Lakes Forest Service Road after 2.5km – look for the ‘Little White Mountain’ sign
  • From Penticton, drive east on paved Carmi Road. Around 9km from downtown Penticton (15 minutes), turn right on the mostly unpaved Beaver Dell Road. After 16.8 km, turn left to join the unpaved Okanagan Falls FSR (201). Follow for 22.3km (around 35-40 minutes), turn left on the unpaved Greyback FSR. Turn right on Canyon Lakes Forest Service Road after 2.5km – look for the ‘Little White Mountain’ sign

Total distance from Kelowna: Around 76km, allow 1.5-2 hours
Total distance from Penticton: Around 58km, allow 1.5-2 hours

I have been generous with the above time estimates as it is hugely dependent on recent road conditions.

Vehicle view through windshield of Okanagan Falls FSR, with dirt road surrounded by trees
Okanagan Falls FSR

Our visit to Little White Mountain coincided with when the Okanagan Falls FSR was being used as the main road between Penticton and Kelowna due to rockfall on Highway 97.

At that time, the Okanagan Falls FSR was being regularly maintained by AIM Roads. Our total journey time from Penticton to the Canyon Lakes Trailhead was just less than 90 minutes.

As unpaved roads go, the Okanagan Falls FSR is usually pretty decent. Flat and wide, it is regularly used by both industrial and recreational traffic. Expect to drive 50-70km/h.

Greyback FSR is less used but when we visited, it was a similar condition to Okanagan Falls FSR.

The Canyon Lakes FSR is the road that provides the main driving challenge of this trailhead approach.

White GMC Savana van with canoe on top and solar panels on side, parked in dirt parking lot at Canyon Lakes trailhead
Canyon Lakes trailhead parking lot (and our van)

When is the best time to hike Little White Mountain?

With Little White Mountain’s summit being located at 2171m, the hiking season is quite short.

The trail is usually snow-free from mid-July to early October, depending on recent weather conditions and the timing/depth of winter snowfall. In warmer years, such as 2023, it was completely snow-free by early July.

Looking down on Little White Mountain granite wall with forested mountains and distant hills behind
Little White Mountain granite wall

If the idea of a few patches of snow doesn’t bother you, it may be possible to hike the trail in mid to late June as well. The biggest issue with early-season hiking is that there may be snow on the access road.

The trail can also be overgrown and brushy, with possible fallen trees.

Wildflowers typically border the trail in July. Being so high in elevation, summer temperatures are lower here than elsewhere in the Okanagan Valley. Even so, it would be a good idea to start hiking early on hot summer days.

We hiked to Little White Mountain in early September and enjoyed the cool temps and fall colours.

Dirt hiking trail climbing towards forest, bordered by bright brown/yellow/orange plants
Fall foliage on the Little White Mountain hike

How difficult is the Little White Mountain hike?

I would rate the Little White Mountain hike from the Canyon Lakes trailhead to be moderately difficult.

The trail is mostly well established and features more than 500m elevation gain over 5km distance, with some steep and rocky uphill sections.

Back view of JR ascending steep rocky section of Little White Mountain
Some sections of the trail are steep

The summit approach consists of rocky slabs – good footing is required. This area is exposed to weather and could be very windy at times.

In my opinion, the trail offers a solid challenge for intermediate hikers. Expect to spend 4 to 5 hours hiking the trail (2 to 2.5 hours each way). Allow additional time for an extended break at the top.

Talus traverse on Little White Mountain hike with large rocks near camera and forest behind
Talus traverse

Little White Mountain navigation

As mentioned above, the Little White Mountain hike from the Canyon Lakes trailhead is well-established for the most part.

The dirt path is narrow, steep and rocky in some areas.

A few signs offer directional help on this trail, with one in the parking lot, another at the trail junction with Canyon Lakes and the last close to the summit.

There are some triangular reflective orange trail markers along the route.

Please note that this trail is part of the Okanagan Highland Trail, as displayed on the BC Parks’ map and the Friends of the South Slopes map.

The route is marked on Organic Maps (our favourite offline trails app) and also AllTrails.

Close up of brown Little White Mountain and Canyon Lakes directional signs
Canyon Lakes/Little White Mountain junction

Safety information

While the city of Kelowna may not be very far away ‘as the crow flies,’ the Little White Mountain hike is still in a remote area. There is no phone signal.

  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back (check out our outdoor safety guide for more tips).
  • Weather conditions can vary and change quickly at this elevation. Bring extra clothing in case of cold or wet weather.
  • There may be snow patches on the main trail until early July.
  • Bring water (at least 1.5l per person, 2l is preferable). There are some ponds and tarns along the route, but be sure to use a filter.
  • The Little White Mountain hike has limited shade. Bring sun protection and extra water in hot weather.
  • There are some steep drop-offs along the route, especially around the summit area. Stay away from the edge
  • This trail is mostly uphill, with some steep sections. Slow and steady is the way to go if you’re not an experienced hiker.
  • Besides these hazards, it’s also important to be aware of wildlife. Make noise, stay alert, give wildlife space and carry bear spray.
Looking across slabs of rock to Little White Mountain summit views
Little White Mountain summit views

Other posts you may find helpful:

21 Fast and Fun Kelowna Hiking Trails

23+ Best Things To Do In Penticton: A Local’s Guide

Skaha Bluffs Climbing Guide, Penticton

17 of the Best South Okanagan Trails

Vancouver to the Okanagan Valley Road Trip Guide

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