Pulpit Rock is a popular hike on the north shore of the Kootenay River opposite the beautiful city of Nelson in BC, Canada. This is one of the many short, steep, BC hikes that will get your heart pumping; Rewarding you with gorgeous views of the river, city and forested mountains. We did this on a road trip as our first introduction to Nelson – it is a great way to see the area!
This hike was not too hard BUT it is very hot in the summertime. Bring plenty of water and consider hiking early in the morning, or late in the afternoon to avoid overheating!
Pulpit Rock Trail Map
Pulpit Rock Trail – the basics
Distance: 3.6km (although strava recorded 4.5km)
Elevation gain: 380m
High Points: 910m (just above Pulpit Rock)
Time: 1.5-1.75 hours
What to bring:
Water, snacks and your camera! The 10 essentials + bear spray
Facilities: No facilities, but it’s only 5km from the center of Nelson and its amenities.
Dogs: Dog friendly
How hard is it? Moderately easy. It is a workout hike, but so short that most people can do it.
Extra Note: There are hiking poles available to borrow (for free) at the start of the trail. There is also a donation box for hikers to support the maintenance of the trail.
Pulpit Rock Trail – Getting started
If you’re coming from Nelson, cross the big orange bridge, then turn left along Johnstone Road. The trailhead is here, 2.2km down that road. There is an information board and space for several cars. The trail itself is very obvious. There is a set of steps leading up into the gorgeous forest.
Kootenay River Views
This is a steep workout trail, so you’ll find yourself climbing quickly with peek-a-boo views down to the Kootenay River and over to Nelson.
Pulpit Rock Trail – too many steps?
As I mentioned above, this is a workout hike so you can expect plenty of steps. But it is less than 100m elevation gain per kilometer, so it’s actually not bad at all if you are used to the various workout hikes near Vancouver (like the Grouse Grind.) This is MUCH easier and definitely doable if you have energetic kids.
Is Pulpit Rock busy?
I have heard that this can be a very busy trail at the weekend. We did it in the late afternoon on a Sunday in August and although we met a couple of groups of hikers on the trail, we had the viewpoint at the top to ourselves. It seemed pretty empty when compared to hikes in the coastal mountains to the west.
Steep section before the top
Once you get to about 800m in elevation the trail steepens again. There are 4 small switchbacks that allow you to climb up to Pulpit Rock and the fantastic views down to Nelson and the Kootenay River. There are two routes an “easy” and a “hard” route. We already did a few hikes on this day, so we followed the less steep easy option.
History of Pulpit Rock
It is pretty cool that people have been hiking up this steep trail for over 100 years! The trail was mentioned in accounts as far back as 1923, when it was already a popular spot. I loved that this hike is part of Nelson’s culture and history.
This is not a bad way to see a city for the first time is it!?
Climbing up Pulpit Rock
If you sit close to the edge, please be careful not to drop anything off Pupit Rock! In addition to the hiking route, there are multiple climbing routes to scale the cliffs to get here!
Pulpit Rock Panorama
This gives a pretty good idea of the views from Pulpit Rock. The Kootenay River is down below and you can see how beautiful the city of Nelson is, with so many tree-lined streets.
Continue on to the Flagpole?
Most people stop at Pulpit Rock, but if you have more time and energy, you can continue on to the Flagpole. This will double the distance and the elevation gain but the views look even better! This was our fourth hike of the day (and we were getting hungry) so we decided to zoom back down to Nelson.
Treat yourself to Charcuterie
Nelson has plenty of great food options, so if you fancy a hike, you can reward yourself with some seriously tasty food afterwards! Our favourite was the Black Cauldron, which is a charcuterie and cocktail lounge with a gorgeous garden. We ordered some fabulous appetizers as well as a couple of incredible charcuterie boards loaded with meats, cheese, pickles and olives. Perfection.
Hiking up to Pulpit Rock was such a great introduction of Nelson and the surrounding area. It is a fun, fast hike so is perfect when you first arrive to get your bearings and see the lay of the land. This taster made me want to explore and hike more in this area, so I am sure we’ll return to Nelson at some point. What do you think? Fancy a hike in the West Kootenays?