Joss Mountain West Approach Trail

Rating: 4 stars.

Use: Hiking.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Distance: 9 km return to the lookout.

Description: A trail that is unfortunately overlooked by many as an ‘alternate’ route to the summit of Joss. The ‘epic’ bikeable East Approach to Joss has become very popular in the last couple of years. Rightly so, its a good one but this trail does not disappoint either. If pushing your bike up thousands of feet of single track is not your thing and you want to check out the Joss Lookout to see what everyone is talking about, this is a great option. Approaching from the west this trail provides an excellent route to the top with about a quarter of the effort as that from the east. I would even go as far to say that this hike ranks right up there with Eagle Pass Mountain and Fred Laing Ridge. That with the added bonus that it is only an amazing 35 min drive to the trailhead from town on relatively good road. Thats hard to beat! There are a couple of different options for getting to the top of Joss on this approach. 2.4 kilometres from the trailhead the trail itself diminishes. From here you have basically two options. The first and probably the easiest is to follow the high ground, traversing the high ridge all the way to the lookout. This route provides awesome views of the south side of Joss and its alpine lakes. The second option is to take the low ground and follow the basin below the large impressive crags on the north face of Joss. Hiking up the ridge to the summit and back down below the face makes for a great round trip day. Obviously travel is not quite as easy below the face due to the boulders, scree and rubble, at least in later season when the snow has melted. See the maps below for the two options. For those ‘ultra’ trail runners why not stash a vehicle on the east side and traverse the entire Joss Mountain east to west covering nearly 15 kilometres on perfect trails with an easy alpine route between. 

Directions: Drive east along the Trans Canada Highway. Just past Three Valley Gap Resort, around the corner at the top of the two lane hill look for the Three Valley-Mabel FSR. (The most treacherous part of your day will be turning left onto this FSR coming from Revelstoke). Reset the odometer at the start of the Three Valley-Mabel FSR. Turn left off the Three Valley-Mabel FSR at 6.0 km onto the Bowman Road. Follow this road navigating a few forks with the accompanying maps for 10 km to where the trailhead begins. There is even a proper trailhead sign that would be hard to miss. 

Trailhead GPS:

  1. Three Valley-Mabel FSR: N50 55.906 W118 28.916
  2. Bowman Road: N50 53.082 W118 29.729
  3. Joss Mountain west approach trailhead: N50 50.356 W118 29.921
  4. Joss Mountain Lookout: N50 49.842 W118 27.252

Useful Maps: Backrounds Mapbook.

Joss Mountain lookout history PDF

Joss Mountain West Approach Trail Overview Map PDF

Joss Mountain West Approach Trail Detail Map PDF

Joss Mountain West Approach Trail KML file on Dropbox

Coming out of treeline. Joss Mountain West Approach. Ben Wilkey Collection.
The impressive north face crags on Joss Mountain. Ben Wilkey Collection.
Heading for the high ground ridgeline. Joss Mountain West Approach Trail. Ben Wilkey Collection.
Looking towards the south from the ridge on the West Approach. Spectacular mountain hiking. Ben Wilkey Collection.
A panorama to the south. Joss Mountain. Ben Wilkey Collection.
The final stretch to the summit. The lookout in the distance. Ben Wilkey Collection.
The view to the East from the Lookout. Ben Wilkey Collection.
The alternate route below the north facing crags of Joss Mountain. Worth the slower travel. Ben Wilkey Collection.
July Wilkey stands on one of the larger boulders below the north face of Joss. Ben Wilkey Collection.
A small tarn below Joss. Ben Wilkey Collection.
Joss Mountain Lookout. Robert Nash Collection
Joss Mountain Lookout. Robert Nash Collection

16 thoughts on “Joss Mountain West Approach Trail

  1. The trail is well marked thru the trees and once in the alpine it is obvious. A steep trail thru the trees but a rapid ascent to glorious views

  2. I have intimate knowledge of this trail and it’s origins and can add a few things.
    The turn left off the Three Valley-Mabel FSR at 6km is called Branch 5 and is barely marked as such (no Bowman Road sign). There is a lot of fresh logging up here at present and they are hauling. At about halfway up there is a major newer road to the right. This heads down and is the wrong one. Stay left and up.
    The first bit of trail is straight up thru a clearcut. At the top of the clearcut are 2 photo maps stapled to trees. One says it is 2 1/2 – 3 hours to the lookout the other says 3-4 hours. Don’t be fooled. This is a steep mountaineers type trail. If you can sit at the big picnic table at the lookout in less than 4 hours after leaving your vehicle you have done well.
    Craig and I have just sawed out the multiple new deadfalls and the trail to the alpine is in good shape. This trail has seen lots of foot traffic in the last 2 seasons. Yesterday the wildflowers on top were peaking, perhaps a bit early; really interesting stuff up there. I particularly enjoy the wee little yellow paintbrush.

    1. Thanks for all the work Doug and friend. We met you at the top and on the way down. Trail is open and clear and well enough marked in the meadow to easily find ones way. It’s a bit of a push, and well worth it!

  3. One more note…. Bring enough water for your entire day. There is no water on the main route to the summit however water can be found on the low route below the cliffs on the north side of the mountain… Enjoy this peak is in a beautiful spot.

  4. Hey everyone! All your insight to this trail has been awesome and helpful. I look forward to hiking it this summer! One question. Is the trail 9km one way or round trip?

  5. A couple friends and I went up again on Sunday July 2/ 2017 and conditions were excellent! Only a couple new blowdowns. We were on the snow starting at the tree line but easily were able to stay on top until mid afternoon when we started punching thru a bit. The open alplands on the top were nearly snow free with flowers starting to bloom. We returned via the north valley alternative and it was very good and fast because of all the snow. Just stay as far away as possible from the cornice high above.
    There is some confusion on the approach drive up Branch 5. At about 6 or 7 km there is a new spur road leading down to the right. It looks like the main road but don’t take it. It is labeled 9032 .120 0km
    Stay on the main up and to the left.
    There is some new very steep logging around 8km. The road is a bit damaged but just stay well to the inside and don’t look down. We were disappointed to see this apparent poor logging practice. Hopefully the road will hold up.

    1. Two fires near the West trailhead means road is closed for at least this weekend 22-23rd. I also agree with the comments about the steep logging. I suspect that the new road 9032 will replace the current road across the steep slope but only a hunch.

  6. We made our annual visit to Joss via this trail yesterday July 8, 2018. The road is in excellent condition because there is a new cut block past the parking spot at the trailhead and they have been hauling, probably last winter. The bad spot at about 8km has been repaired!
    There were quite a few new blowdowns on the trail, mostly big green trees and mostly in the first 1km. But Craig has most of them cut out now and what is left is easily overcome.
    Snow levels were surprising lower on the upper alplands than last year but travel was fast. Also much to my surprise was how late the floral display was. However I’m sure things will catch up quickly, as it always does.
    We went up the left-to-right upper snow ramp but returned via the North Valley which was again mostly snow covered. The cornice was nearly gone. This makes a great round trip if you are ok descending the steep snow at the top (stay right to start). However later in the season all those loose rocks in the North Valley can get a bit tedious.
    Glad to see all the traffic on our favorite trail. But I hope all the new Mt. bikers from the NE and the ones from the helicopters stay on the trail. The open landforms up here are very soft and fragile. Tire damage lasts a very, very long time. In my opinion the damage done to the historic NE trail because of tires and erosion is bad enough but if they get off the trail it is not repairable.
    Anyway, enough ranting……….happy hiking.

    1. Many thanks to you, Doug and Craig, for all your work on this trail AND on the Eagle Pass Mountain Trail! We also appreciated your clear and precise directions to the trailhead for the West approach to Joss Mountain (other sites describe older routes). We scrambled to the top of the cabin roof of Eagle Pass Mtn on July 12/18 and sat for an hour transfixed by the vista! Then on July 14/18 we hiked your trail to Joss from the west and were most thankful for all the cutting and clearing in the ~2km forested part. The trail was clear across both benches in the alpine, but we could not find a marked path up the steep upper alp land to the west summit, despite crossing back and forth from the last marker. This was disappointing to us, since a clear trail here would help keep folks from wandering all over the fragile area above – just as you were commenting above. Exceptional mountain views from the top – especially the Gold Range of the Monashees – well worth the huff and puff to get there!

  7. July 12, 2020. Great hike, still lots of snow above 2000m which made for nice travel. Did the basin below the crags and then upon to the lookout and then returned via the ridge. Great outing

  8. July 4, 5, 2020 Craig and I went up on a cold and rainy weekend and cleared the new deadfall off the lower part of the trail in the timber. We also did some clipping of the Mt Laurel and hung a bit of ribbon. Still plenty of snow above the tree line. The trail is now in good condition. The logging road is also good.

  9. July 20, 2020 I can report a friend making it to 1800m. Ran into 3 feet of snow an had to stop short of the summit

  10. On July 5/20 my wife set down her hiking pole just above the logging block above the parking lot. If found please text 250-558-9620. Thx. Dave

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