The Tikwalus Heritage Trail is an incredible hike where you’ll get a good workout, see some great views and learn about the history of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation and the Fraser Valley. This is a teeny section of a longer historial trail, that wound through the mountains all the way to Kamloops.
Please note, I am not an expert in the Nlaka’pamux people or the history of BC, so the historical parts of this post are all from the various sign boards we read while hiking along this trail. I really enjoyed learning about it all, so I hope you do too. If you would like to learn more about it all, there are links at end of the post.
Tikwalus Heritage Trail Map
Tikwalus Heritage Trail – the Basics
Distance: 11.7 km
Cumulative Elevation gain: 930m
Highest Point: 912m
Time: 5 hours (including breaks)
What to bring:
Loads of water
The 10 Essentials
No loos at the trailhead, so if you need the toilet, stop at Alexandra Bridge on your way here.
There is a loo, picnic table, food lockers and fire pits at the campsite on the bluffs route section of the trail.
Dogs: Dog friendly, but there are bears in the area, so keep them on a leash.
How hard is it? Intermediate.
I had read that this is done by local children on their annual camping trip, so I thought it would be easy. I was so, so wrong! The first part of this trail is very steep, gaining around 300m of elevation in a single kilometre! So the start of this walk is steep, hard and sweaty. Then it gets much more manageable for the rest of the way.
History of Tikwalus
Tikwalus was the name of the largest village of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation in the 19th century. This trail was part of a huge network of trails that linked around 30 villages throughout their territory.
When the Hudson bay Company fur traders first visited this area at the start of the 19th Century, they would not have survived without the help from the Nlaka’pamux people. They welcomed the newcomers, gave them salmon & venison, and acted as guides in exchange for traded goods. In 1847 Chief Pahallak showed the fur traders this trail, and helped them prepare the path for brigades of horses to carry goods along it. Since then, this trail has played a part in the history of the Nlaka’pamux and the province.
Tikwalus Heritage Trail – Getting started
The trailhead is pretty easy to find. It’s 3km North of Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park on the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1), north of Hope. There is a big sign with information on the history of the trail; So you’ll know you’re in the right spot.
The hike starts by climbing steeply though Nlaka’pamux forest. When I say steeply, I really mean it! Once the trail starts to climb, it goes up over 300m in a single kilometre. We hiked up on a cloudy, but hot day. I even started to regret our choice of hikes as it was so exhausting.
Chief Pahallak Viewpoint
Chief Pahallak was the man who guided A.C Anderson (from the Hudson Bay Company) along this ancient Nlaka’pamux route. The chief and the villagers agreed to assist Anderson by widening the trail and adding in extra switchbacks to make it possible for horses to travel along here. So, the first really good viewpoint is named after Chief Pahallak. It’s such a good view that you can forget how tough the previous few kilometres felt.
The Hudson Bay Company planned to use this ‘fur brigade‘ trail to transport goods from Kamloops, to Fort Langley. From there they could load the goods onto boats, and float down the Fraser River to the Pacific Ocean. However the poor horses couldn’t find enough to eat along the trail (apart from pine needles) so they began to starve. 70 out of the 400 horses died along the trail on the first trip. Unsurprisingly this route was only used for a couple of years before they found an alternative way through the Cascades.
Quatqulhp – Cedar Trees
One of the next cool things you’ll find along the trail are Culturally Modified Cedar trees, or quatqulhp. The signboard said that the outer bark of these western red cedars was cut off to be used as roofing or flooring in people’s homes. They would then pound the softer inner bark to make clothing and mats. It’s pretty cool that they took just enough that the tree could continue to keep growing for another hundred or so years.
Junction – Bluffs vs Lakes
Just after you have walked for 4km, there is a junction that leads to a loop, so you can go either way. We started by following the higher, Lakes trail, then returned via the Bluffs trail. The Lakes trail was the route used by the Hudson Bay Company in 1847-49 while the Bluffs Trail was used by gold miners later in 1858-60.
The pathway that winds past all the lakes has some slightly eerie, but beautiful views. Back in 2004 a car accident on the highway below started a fire that decimated the forest on this part of Lake Mountain. Now the trees are starting to re-grow and fill in the gaps between the silver and black remains of the burned trees.
Foraging along the trail
One plus point about the fire, is before the young trees can crowd them out, the berry bushes have grown up in full force! We found countless juicy blueberries, thimbleberries and even some (incredible tasting) wild strawberries. If there were more berries on the trail back when the fur brigade attempted to use this route, they may have fared a little better…
The Hudson Bay company gave up on this trail, but a decade later gold miners flooded back to this region searching for riches. Miners and mule trains carried tonnes of supplies along here. There used to be a cabin near the lakes where they could rest and have a drink. There was a squatter who sold liquor to people as they passed through. The local judge could not find anyone to testify about this, so he solved the issue by burning down the cabin!
We couldn’t find any trace of the cabin. But there was a pretty stream nearby as well as views through the trees to each of the multi coloured lakes.
We loved the campsite along the Tikwalus trail. I hate the idea of lugging up our camping equipment up the steep sections; But it would be worth it if you get to sleep somewhere with such fabulous views.
The campsite is in the wilderness, so if you decide to sleep here, you need to pack out all your rubbish and leave absolutely no trace. However it is pretty well equipped. There is a picnic bench and a fire pit on one end, near the bear-proof food locker. Then there are several great spots for tents. It must be great fun for the school groups that still venture up here. Just be aware you should not have campfires if there are fire restrictions in the back country. You can check current fire bans and restrictions here.
We stopped and ate here to admire the views.
The Bluffs route
On our return journey we took the path along the bluffs.
The Gold miners who used this route were not interested in developing relationships with the Nlaka’pamux people. The brought their own food and traveled in large groups without guides. It sounds like they had some terrible behaviour – they dug up salmon spawning grounds and harassed Nlaka’pamux, even burning down five of their villages, including Tikwalus village. In the end the Nlaka’pamux people stood firm. The miners were forced to flee along this trail to Fort Yale (20km South). They had to return to formally plead with the Nlaka’pamux people to be allowed to prospect in this area.
This section of the walk may have the darkest history, but the views from the Black Canyon viewpoint are perfect!
You can’t really tell from my photos, but that rock I was sitting on has a long drop down, so you will be treated to views of the Fraser river as it carves its way through Black Canyon. Just around the next bend in the river is Hell’s Gate (one of my favourite spots when you drive through the canyon.) That is the narrowest part of the Fraser Canyon where the volume of water surging through the gap is double the amount of water that flows over Niagara falls. It is a spectacular area.
Once you have filled your eyes with these views, you follow the path back to the Lake route junction. Then you can return the way you came down the steep path back to the trailhead. Hiking down this trail can feel pretty tough on your knees, so if you have hiking poles, don’t forget to bring them. I have mentioned this before, but we find that jogging downhill seems to put less pressure on your knees – so if they start to hurt, try that.
Mushrooms along the trail
We love finding mushrooms as we hike. On this occasion we spotted one of the coolest mushrooms – puffballs. If you squeeze these, they send out a mini jet of mushroom spores into the air. You can see a video of Marc poofing one of these on my instagram here.
If you fancy a teeny bit more history before you head home, you should also make a quick stop at Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park. It is just a few minutes away from the Tikwalus Heritage trail, and it is another lovely area to explore. This is the original road bridge over the Fraser River. It is no longer used by vehicles, but you can walk down to see it and peer into the churning waters of the Fraser River.
I found out about this historical trail by reading the 105 Hikes book. If you like the sound of it, you can buy it here. You can probably tell. but I really enjoyed this mixture of hiking, learning about the Nlaka’pamux history and foraging. This was also the quietest trail we have ever visited near Hope. We didn’t see a single other hiker the whole way.
Extra Links about the Nlaka’pamux:
- Information about the Tikwalus Heritage trail from Hope Mountain Centre.
- History of the trail by the British Columbia Historical Federation
- You can learn about the Nlaka’pamux Tribal Council
As always, if you like the look of this, please click on the pins to save them.