Brilliant Overlook is a wonderful (or maybe brilliant) trail that overlooks Castlegar in the Kootenay Region of BC. We did this hike on a hot, summers day and loved the views down to where the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers merge. Parts of this trail are very steep, but it is not very long, so it is great for road trips when you want to hike for a few hours to stretch your legs between towns.
Brilliant Overlook Map
You can see our strava recording (with the extra section along the ridge) here.
Not bad views eh? This is the scenery from the top, as well as near the start.
Brilliant Overlook – the basics
Elevation gain: 430-500m
Highest Point: 970 m
Time: 2.5-3 hours
What to bring: The 10 Essentials and Bear spray
Facilities: Pit toilet at the Brilliant Substation
Dogs: No. Dogs are not allowed up to the Rainbow Alpine area, even on a leash.
How hard is it? Moderately hard. It’s very steep in some sections, but the trail is easy to follow.
Brilliant Overlook – Getting started
There are a few different possible trailheads for this hike, but the easiest is at the end of McPhee Creek Road, next to Brilliant terminal station, the electrical substation. This is all just off Highway 3A, outside of Castlegar. We started on the Skattebo Reach trail which soon turns off onto the Brilliant Overlook trail. The start of the trail allows you to look up left at the steep cliffs above, where you are about to hike!
The steep parts
Once you turn onto the main trail, it gets pretty steep. There are railings, cables and steps to help you hike up the cliff. However the soil is sandy and slippery so step carefully!
The next obstacle along the route is a rock field. This area is right below the cliffs that may having falling or rolling rocks (especially in the springtime.) Do not linger in this area. Just zoom straight through.
After the rock field the trail goes through pleasant, lush forest.
There were oodles of thimbleberries along the trail. These look a bit like raspberries, but have a more intense flavour when they are good. The ones here are really tasty.
First brilliant viewpoint
About 2km along the trail, there is a sharp turn. If you look to the left, there is a bench with a partially tree-screened view down to the Kootenay River. We did this hike on a very hot day in August so we were glad of the break.
After the first viewpoint, it is only 1.3km through the forest to the Brilliant Overlook.
Continue along Brilliant Ridge
We skipped the official Brilliant Overlook to start with, as we fancied exploring further along the trail to the highest point of the ridge first. As soon as you get above the trees, the views from the ridge are fabulous.
We stopped for lunch at the end of the trail on a helipad. There is a fantastic view down to where the Kootenay River merges with the Columbia River.
After hiking along the ridge we returned to the Brilliant Overlook. To reach the official overlook, you need to hike for around 300m downhill.
The Brilliant Overlook view
This really is a brilliant view; It is well named. You can see the Kootenay River and the Brilliant Dam (as well as Brilliant suspension bridge) below. The tree-covered hill below is called Dove Hill. It has a nice-looking hike with a viewpoint if you’d prefer an easier adventure.
Where the river curves off to the right is the Columbia River. Syringa Provincial Park where we camped the previous night is over that way. Castlegar looks quite small from here with just 6 streets. There are a few more streets, they are just hard to spot from up here.
These give you an idea about how expansive (and lovely) the views are from the Brilliant Lookout, and along the ridge.
If you are looking for a fun hike near Castlegar with a good effort-to-epic-view ratio; The trail to Brilliant Overlook is a fantastic option. We were very hot by the end of this hike, but I loved every moment of it. Click on the pins below to save them.
Other adventures near Castlegar
We only spent one night near Castlegar on this road trip, but we did find a few other cool places nearby:
- If you want to camp, visit Syringa Provincial Park – the campsites line the lovely Lower Arrow Lake.
- Yellow Pine trail – a quick easy trail to a viewpoint above Lower Arrow Lake
- Tulip Creek Falls – an easy to reach waterfall just beyond the campgrounds in Syringa Provincial Park