Rating: 5 stars.
Difficulty: Difficult. Good route finding skills are required past the col above the end of the trail.
Distance: 13 km return to the lakes.
Description: Whether you want to tick off another ‘seen from town summit’ by climbing Mount Tilley or just camp at the lakes, this is a great hike into an amazing area. Take my word for it, its a special spot. I have landed there many times over the years and it has always blown my mind. Access into this area has been made easier with the recent rebuilding of the English Creek bridge and brushing of the power line road above it. Using the Macpherson West Access Trail puts you up and over the col. With good route finding skills you will be able to work your way over to the beautiful North Tilley Lakes. Just for the record these cluster of five lakes north of Mount Tilley are ‘unnamed’ on official Geo BC maps. ‘Tilley Lake’ is actually located to the southeast of Mount Tilley between Mount Tilley and Mount Begbie. To avoid confusion I am calling the five lakes to the north the ‘North Tilley Lakes’.
Directions: Drive west of Revelstoke on Highway 1. Just before the 3 Valley Gap ‘Resort’ hang a left onto the Three Valley – Victor FSR. Drive for 2.6 km on this road until you come to a Y. Take the left hand road (100 Road) that leads into the English Creek drainage. Here you will cross the recently rebuilt English Bridge and head up the even more recently brushed access road. Follow the road beneath the powerlines until you reach a high point. Start down a small hill then drive through a small creek that runs over the road. Just past the creek there is flagging tape on a small cairn on the edge on the road, This is the trailhead. Recent reports indicate that some work has been done to the trail making it clear and easy to follow. Head up the trail that leads up the drainage to the small lake (where the trail ends) and onto the boulder gully that leads to the col. From the col you have a couple of options. If you have a real aversion for bushwhacking stay high contouring across the top of the cliff to the east of the boulder gully leading down to English Lake. Start dropping elevation where it seems reasonable. Without good route finding skills you may find yourself getting a little cliffed out. The second and probably safer option is to descend the boulder gully below the col towards English Lake. When it seems reasonable start contouring east until you hit the open meadows. The second crux of the route involves contouring the last stretch before dropping into the lakes themselves. There is a series of small benches and cliffs that you will have to negotiate picking the efficient route. The final point worth mentioning for those not so experienced in backcountry travel is that this route goes through prime grizzly country. Most people I have talked to that have done this route have seen clear evidence of bears around the English Lake area. Last summer when I hiked the West Approach Trail to get onto Mount Macpherson I came across a mother grizzly and four cubs. It was the closest and scariest encounter I have ever had in the mountains. Just something to think about. Make lots of noise!
- Three Valley – Victor FSR: N50 56.202 W118 25.939
- Branch 100 Road: N50 56.496 W118 24.344
- English Bridge: N50 56.693 W118 23.191
- Macpherson west approach trail parking: N50 56.566 W118 20.752
- Macpherson west approach trailhead: N50 56.409 W118 20.672
- Small lake marking the end of trail: N50 55.892 W118 20.503
- Macpherson west col: N50 55.496 W118 20.204
- Tilley Lakes Camp: N50 54.076 W118 18.515