Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk is a short (and super easy) walk that is a great place to stretch your legs between Revelstoke and Banff. The trail is located on the edge of Mount Revelstoke National Park, right next to the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1.) We spotted the turn off to this walk at the end of the day, just before we reached Revelstoke, so we returned the following morning to take a peek, before continuing on our drive to Vancouver.
I am really glad we visited. I have never seen anything quite like this skunk cabbage-filled wetland. The bright yellow flowers brightened up an otherwise grey day.
Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk Trail Map
Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk Trail – the basics
Distance: Normally 1.2 km However part of the loop is under repair at the moment, so you need to do this as an out and back walk: 2 km (ish).
Elevation gain: None. It’s flat.
Time: Half an hour (or hours if you like bird watching!)
What to bring:
Your National Park Pass!
You don’t really need anything for the walk apart from a camera.
There is a car park, and toilets.
Open: Normally from May – October.
We went in April, and it was closed, but we could park just outside the gate and walk in.
Dogs are welcome if you keep them on a lead.
How hard is it?
Just like the Giant Cedar Boardwalk trail (which is 1km down the road) you’d never know such an interesting, bird-filled, marshy wonderland exists from the highway. It’s not secret – there is a massive sign pointing at the car park…you just need to stop your car to explore.
Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk Trail – getting started
To reach the skunk Cabbage boardwalk, you need to follow a path into the trees, (past more of those red chairs that we always spot in picturesque locations here in Canada.) There is a large sign board, so you can’t miss it!
At the start of the boardwalk, you won’t see many skunk cabbage plants. They are dotted about, but you need to keep walking to see the bright yellow areas filled with hundreds of these lantern-like flowers.
I’ve never seen anything quite like these plants back home in the UK.
So, what is a Skunk Cabbage anyway?
The Lysichiton americanus plant is called skunk cabbage due to its distinctive odor. It is meant to smell “skunky” but I thought it smelled sickly-sweet (and not terrible like a skunk!) Once the yellow flowers have died back, these plants grow huge, bright green leaves which make them look like large cabbages. We saw these flowers in late April, but you should still be able to see them in May.
These plants like to grow in marshes. I have seen mini patches of them closer to Vancouver, but never quite so many blooming in one place. The whiff of the blooming flowers attracts plenty of pollinators like flies and beetles, and those attract song birds.
The skunk cabbages are one of the first flowers to bloom after the spring melt. When we arrived in April, the car park was snow free (although there was still a little snow on the ground) It seems a bit of a shame, that most tourists must miss the bright yellow display, as it’s too early in the season for many people to visit. I guess this is just one more reason to visit Banff in the springtime!
One of the Skunk Cabbage’s names is swamp lantern. I can sort of see why!
Bird watching paradise
This Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk is the only site in British Columbia where breeding songbird populations are monitored on a regular basis through bird banding. There are more than 45 species here, including the MacGillivary’s Warbler. You can read more about Mount Revelstoke National Park’s bird monitor efforts here. There are platforms to help you spot birdies, and signs to help you identify them.
The end of the boardwalk’s loop is sinking back into the wetlands at the moment; So you’ll need to retrace your steps back past all the skunk cabbages. Once you’ve finished exploring the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk, take a peek at the views down to the Illecillewaet River. If you’re lucky to have a break in the mist, the views are lovely.
This little bird-filled (and slightly pongy) trail is another fun little stop-off on the highway between Revelstoke and Banff. It is only 1km away from the gorgeous Giant Cedars Boardwalk trail, so if you’re on a Banff road trip (or if you’re staying near Revelstoke) you can easily visit both.