Hiking up Windy Joe Mountain is a great introduction to Manning Provincial Park. This trail follows an old road, so it is pretty wide, with a not-too-crazily-steep gradient. This makes it pretty perfect for snowshoeing, although I have a feeling it’d be a fun walk at any time of year. The trail finishes at a fire lookout with a cool building, a historic fire-locator and epic views.
I had made plans to go hiking with the lovely Lisa from West Coast Hiker Girl and Shannon from Must Hike Must Eat. We had all seen the weather forecast that said we should expect rain and/or snow, so we were expecting the whole weekend to be soggy and cold. However, although we had a few snow flurries on our walk, we were also treated to some unexpected blue skies and warm sun.
Windy Joe Mountain Trail Map
Windy Joe Mountain Trail – the basics
Elevation gain: 677m
Highest Point: 1825m
Time: 5-6 hours. We took 2 hours 20 minutes to go up, and 2 hours to come down.
What to bring:
We used microspikes as the trail was well packed down. Earlier in the winter snowshoes might be better.
The ten essentials (as always)
There is loo at the top as well as the beautiful fire lookout building.
Dogs are allowed on this trail if you keep them on a leash.
How hard is it?
Moderately hard. It didn’t feel too exhausting at the time, but I was pretty knackered by the end of the day. I need my end-of-summer-legs back!
This trail is listed in the 105 Hikes In and Around Southwestern British Columbia book (you can read my review of 105 Hikes here.)
Windy Joe Mountain – Getting started
The hike (or snowshoe) starts by the side of the road at the trail head for the Pacific Crest Trail on Gibson Pass Road. You’ll see the sign for the start (or end) of the Pacific Crest trail (which Shannon and Lisa have both hikes massive sections of!) There are some great views of the Similkameen River before you get going.
The snow started to fall as soon as we left the car, so the first part of this walk was a bit of a winter wonderland. However as it was early April, the path was more packed down and icy than snowy. Still, we all wore our microspikes right from the start of the walk.
Windy Joe Mountain Trail
As I mentioned earlier, the trail follows an old road. This means it is never particularly steep, and there is plenty of light through the trees. It is very easy to navigate.
Just follow the signs to Windy Joe!
Blue Skies over Windy Joe Mountain
Although the weather forecast had predicted rain all day, as we made it half way up the switchbacks, we started to see shadows. Then when we reached the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, we were treated to a blue sky! Yay!
The blue sky didn’t last very long, but it made the trail look extra beautiful.
Windy Joe Lookout
The fire lookout on Windy Joe Mountain (and others like it) were used as the main way to locate fires all over British Columbia for decades. This one was built back in the 1950s, and was named after an awesome sounding bloke called Joe Hilton, who worked in Manning Park from 1946-75. He laid out lots of Manning Park’s hiking trails, so had this mountain named after him.
Fire lookouts always have amazing views of the surrounding mountains, so even if they are no longer in use, they are great places to hike to. This one is extra cool because it has a second story with a fire-locator, and signs with names of all the surrounding mountains.
If you like this, we recently walked up to another beautiful fire lookout with views of the Tantalus mountain range.
Windy Joe Mountain Views
It looks like you can get some fantastic views from the lookout. We did get to see Castle Peak and Frosty Mountain, before the mist started to descend and the snow started to fall.
Still, the lookout is a pretty good shelter so we put all of our clothes on and warmed up. This is us, warm and ready to head back out into a snowstorm.
Windy Joe Mountain – Snowshoeing tips
If you don’t have your own snowshoes, it is possible to rent them from Manning Park Resort for $25 a day. Although if you live in Vancouver, it is normally cheaper to rent some in town and bring them with you.
Snowshoes are very easy to use. The snowshoes then strap over your shoes, and you can then just walk normally. I have other posts about snowshoeing if you’d like to see photos of snowshoes and more about walking with them.
Snowshoes vs Microspikes or crampons
In spring, when the snow is hard-packed, it is often easier to hike with micro-spikes rather than snowshoes. Marc and I always carry microspikes in our bags, and slip them over our hiking boots whenever paths look icy. They are incredibly easy to walk in. If possible, I prefer to walk in microspikes compared to snowshoes.
The problem is, if the snow starts to melt (like it did on our walk up Windy Joe Mountain.) Your feet sometimes sink into the snow, creating large post-holes. We had to walk in single file along the middle of the path, as this was the only way to avoid sinking into snow up to our knees! This is often worse in the afternoon, so in spring, always hike early in the morning if you can!
Heading back down
We were much faster on our return journey compared to hiking up the mountain; So in no time at all, we were back wandering along the Similkameen River.
Once we’d finished our walk, the sun really started to shine and the surrounding mountains emerged from the clouds. We may not have seen the best possible views on Windy Joe Mountain, but it was a fantastic introduction to Manning Park. Now I can’t wait to go back with Marc and show him how pretty this area can be!
So, that was my first ever wander in Manning Park aaaaand I got to chat and catch up with two of my favourite hiking bloggers. It was a good way to start my epic April!
- You can read Shannon’s description of our adventure to Manning Park.
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