The Coquihalla Summit area between Hope and Kamloops (East of Vancouver) is one of those places that surprises me each time we visit! It is quite a long drive from Vancouver, so we have started exploring this area on the way (or on the way back) from other adventures to Manning Park. On this occasion we attempted to hike up to Needle Peak. However the scramble was just a bit too scary and dangerous for us, so we changed plans and kept walking to the easier to reach peak, the Flatiron.
The Flatiron itself is an intermediate hike which punches well above it’s weight in terms of beautiful views. Just be aware that in summer, you will pay for the prettiness with mosquito bites.
The Flatiron via Needle Peak trail map
The Flatiron via Needle Peak – the basics
Distance: 12km (8.5 km if you go to Needle Peak instead)
Cumulative Elevation gain: 867m
Elevation change: 700m
Highest Point: 1898m
Time: 5-6 hours
What to bring:
Loads of water and bug spray
The 10 Essentials
Hiking poles were helpful
There is a loo at the hot dog stand on the opposite side of the highway to the trailhead.
Dogs: Yes for the Flatiron (no for Needle Peak)
How hard is it? Intermediate – Steep but not too technical. (Needle Peak is tough.)
The Flatiron Peak – Getting Started
The Flatiron and Needle Peak trailhead is right by the Coquihalla highway (exit 217 on the south side.) Once you leave the highway, take a right, then turn right again to park on a gravel road, just below a highway maintenance shed. There is space for quite a few cars, but this trail is popular at the weekend, so you may need a plan B (like Zoa Peak) if it’s full.
To get started, walk west along the gravel road. You cross a small stream, then turn left, following the sign for Needle Peak.
As with almost all the hikes in this area, the trail is steep when you get started. In the first 2.5km you’ll climb up 500m. We started before 9am so it was just starting to warm up. Luckily the steepest section is in the shade. I would not enjoy this hike if we started later in the heat!
Once you’ve climbed above the trees, the trail flattens out slightly. Once you get this high, you’ll want to keep turning around too see the views.
The rocky walls of Yak peak looks pretty amazing from up here.
There were still a few patches of snow at the end of July, but they were melting pretty fast. We were able to fill our water from the stream, but this might not be possible later in the summer.
Needle Peak Vs the Flatiron Peak
One of the best things about this trail is you can choose how hard you want it to be. The views are fantastic even if you stop on the first ridge for a fun, easy-ish walk. If you want to go a bit further, hike up to the lake below the Flatiron. Or, keep hiking to the top of the Flatiron for an energetic hike with truly epic views. The hardest option is to climb up to Needle Peak itself.
There is a cairn-covered rock where you can choose your next adventure. Our original plan was to attempt to climb Needle Peak. So we headed left first.
Needle Peak is all over instagram this year, so there are lots of hikers. This made me think it would be easier than it was. If you are new to hiking, or scared of heights, it’s probably better to head for the Flatiron rather than Needle Peak. It’s starts off as an easy scramble, but then gets VERY steep. I pulled myself up some ropes to the top of the first bump, but I was worried I wouldn’t be able to climb back down! We’d been hiking/camping for several days in a row so our legs were already tired, and not quite up for anything quite this difficult.
Marc felt the same, so we decided to change plans and hike to the Flation Peak instead. I was a bit sad not to make it to the top, but we both decided we should be stay safe, rather than risk hurting ourselves on the steep section. The photo to the left is where we planned to go next.
Heading to Flatiron instead
Once we’d climbed down from Needle Peak, there is a ridgeline between the two peaks.
These are the views between the two peaks. Flatiron Peak is the photo above, and the photo below is looking back up to Needle Peak. We only made it as far as the bump below the main peak. The top section looks even steeper than the section we climbed up.
Once you have made it most of the way up the Flatiron, you’ll reach a pretty tarn formed from melting snow. This is a great spot for a quick (cooold) swim. We were so hot, that we chose to stop for a dip, even though we didn’t bring our swimsuits. We managed to go for a speedy skinny dip while there were no other walkers around.
There are a few different paths from Flatiron lake to the peak. It gets steep again, but it is far easier than the path to Needle Peak!
This is the view looking back, almost from the top.
The Flatiron Peak
I am not sure if we just got lucky, but we had the whole peak to ourselves. There is a wide, open peak with a flat top. If you want to see the views in all directions, you’ll need to walk to the edge in a big loop.
There is a large radio repeater. These simultaneously receive radio signals and re-transmit them with an extra boost in power so the signal can make it through the mountains. It’s a strange sight in the middle of all the heather and rocks.
Views from the Flatiron
The mountains around the Coquihalla Summit area are fantastic. We could see over to Mount Baker in America as well countless snow covered peaks off in the distance. This is just a taster about how pretty it is in all directions.
This lonely tree made me imagine how flipping cold it must be up here in the wintertime.
Heading back from the Flatiron
You need to retrace your steps to return from the Flatiron. By this point I was starting to turn slightly pink, despite lathering myself in sunscreen. Marc made me wear his sweater on our hike down to try to avoid getting burned. By the end of this hike, we were VERY hot and covered in new mosquito bites. Despite that, I had a brilliant day!
Panoramas on and around the Flatiron
I will finish with a few panoramas to give you a better idea of how gorgeous the linked-up views of the Coquihalla Summit area can be. Aren’t the views fabulous? Click on them for a larger view.
If you like the idea of a hike along the Coquihalla highway, it is worth having a look at the Flatiron. Or, if you are good at scrambling up very steep rock faces, you can also head up Needle Peak itself. Whichever hike you choose, you’ll get to see some beautiful mountain views. Which option do you fancy?
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