Shimmering with colourful quartzite, Mount Crawford dazzles hikers along the Plaid Lake Trail. With scenic alpine ridges, flowering meadows, a quick summit, and the eventual dip down to Plaid Lake, this is an amazing trail with something for everyone!
Trailhead: Plaid Lake Road
Distance, Round Trip: 9.7km
The Plaid Lake Road is guarded by a few moderate water bars, but it is relatively easy access. Until the very end.
The last 1km of road suddenly becomes very steep, very rough, and very narrow. Just before this nastiness, the road widens to a wide parking area at the end of a switchback. We got about 100m up the steep part in our 4WD HC vehicle before stalling out and backing down.
We hiked the remaining 1km, passing through a cut block and then into forest to find the trailhead:
The final 1km of road was littered with both boot prints and tire tracks – it could certainly be driven with the right combination of vehicle, skill, and nerve.
Up the Ridge
The first section of trail climbs through open forest, bordered with amble huckleberry bushes. It was a hot day and the south-facing slope was getting uncomfortable. Fortunately, within about 30 minutes, the trail switchbacked to a high ridge with a cool breeze.
Mount Crawford immediately comes into view, with the trail winding enticingly higher along the ridge.
The trail follows the top of the ridge to reach the saddle beneath Mount Crawford. We took our first break here, after about 1hr of hiking. There is a clear junction, with the left fork continuing down to Plaid Lake and a fainter right fork angling for the summit.
Although Mount Crawford looks high, the summit is only a 200m climb and can be reached within 30 minutes. There is a trail leading all the way up. It crosses some slippery talus, but there is minimal exposure.
We went for the summit! At first it is simple ridge line hiking, but the trail does steepen about halfway up. Poles were appreciated, but no scrambling was required!
Near the top of Crawford, you stop upon a high ridge overlooking Plaid Lake. The summit is now a final push away:
Mount Crawford Summit
The views from the summit were amazing. The flying ants were not.
Perched on blocks of orange quartzite, we tried to enjoy the summit but the swarms of ants floating in the hot breeze were everywhere! Ants in the sandwiches, ants in the photographs, ants getting into the summit register – eventually we packed up and decided to finish lunch at the lake!
Down to Plaid Lake
After heading back down to the saddle, the trail loops neatly through fields of pink and white boulders trailing beneath Mount Crawford.
In late August, the larches were still green, but in a few weeks, they will be blazing golden! The trail flows through alpine meadows before wrapping around Mount Crawford to reveal Plaid Lake far below:
Yes, you must hike downhill to reach the lake – it’s a loss of about 330m – and, yes, you’ll feel it on the hike back up. It’s worth it!
As the trail descends to forest, it’s huckleberries galore! Then the trail follows a stream down through open meadow to meet Plaid Lake.
We didn’t stay long at Plaid Lake. I dipped my feet and enjoyed an ant-free lunch while Andrew napped. The water was very cold, but very still – it was a great spot!
For most West Kootenay hikes, the climatic mid-point is atop some high mound and it’s all downhill from there. Not the Plaid Lake Trail! After leaving the lake, we ascended back to the saddle and enjoyed a final kilometre of ridge line hiking!