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Posted: August 4, 2019

World class in our back yard

Road Trippin’ Bugaboo Provincial Park, B.C.

You can catch glimpses of the Bugaboos from vantage points along Highway 95 at Brisco, 29 km north of Radium Hot Springs.

But to really see them you have to travel 50 km mostly uphill along Bugaboo Creek Road to Bugaboo Provincial Park, where the Purcell Mountains meet the sky in an array of some of the most dramatically gobsmacking peaks this side of the Dolomites.

There are many reasons ‘the bugs’ are considered some of the finest climbing peaks in the world, with several of the glacier-ringed mountains reaching past 3,000 metres above sea level.

The Bugaboos/central Purcells are also the birthplace of airplane and then helicopter skiing, with Canadian Mountain Holidays’ beautiful Bugaboo Lodge a show-stopping eyeful at the end of the road.

A few kilometres past the lodge (the turn off is before) is Bugaboo Provincial Park, 13,646 hectares of remote wilderness hiking, climbing and camping.

A main attraction in the park is the aptly-named Conrad Kain Hut, maintained by BC Parks and the Alpine Club of Canada. A base camp for climbers, the trek to the hut is not to be taken lightly or unprepared.

All hiking in the park should be taken seriously, due to its remote location, general lack of immediate emergency support and copious wildlife.

As the BC Parks website for the Bugaboos notes: “Inexperienced or ill-equipped climbers and hikers should forego a visit here in favour of less demanding areas of the province.”

In other words, this is expert country.

That doesn’t mean one cannot venture into it to experience some of the finest wilderness scenery to be found in the world.

Accessing the park also requires preparation and awareness of road conditions. You definitely want to be driving a higher clearance vehicle (half ton, SUV etc.) and while it can be difficult considering all there is to see, keep your eyes on the road. There are a couple of locations where even higher clearance vehicles will ‘oil-pan-out.’

One can make it up to Bugaboo Lodge in a car (slowly and carefully) but I don’t recommend going to the provincial park vehicle lot at the end of the road.

If you do find yourself parking in that lot, avail yourself to the chicken wire made available in a nearby bin and ring your vehicle with it, staking it down with sticks and rocks (also available). This deters porcupines and some other smaller animals from chewing through rubber brake lines, tires and accessible bits on your engine while you’re off revelling in high country paradise.

When visiting ‘the bugs,’ we also stopped along the way at Kain Creek and Bugaboo Falls. And having not been to Bugaboo Lodge in over a decade I did not realize one couldn’t stroll about any longer unless being a paying guest.

Just preparing for the summer season, lodge staff kindly allowed us to walk up to it and around the gorgeous back garden, even though company mucky-mucks were all over the place.

The end result of a drive to the Bugaboos is the reward of jaw-dropping mountain scenery. And while we East Kootenay residents are blessed to live among natural beauty the like travellers the world over trek to experience, the Bugaboos remain a jewel in the crown of the Kootenays.

Photos and video by Carrie Schafer and Ian Cobb

Lead image: Pp. Ian Cobb photo


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