If golfers can golf, hikers can hike. And both have been going at it for the past two weeks above the shores of Lake Windermere in the Columbia Valley. While the landscape is fairly brown and the lake ice-covered (for a few more days), most of the lower valley trails are dry and snow-free. And the first poplar leaves should appear in the next week or two. Here are some of my early-season favourites, with photos of Swansea Slopes and the Dutch Creek Hoodoos taken this week:

Swansea Slopes Hiking Trail—2.5 km one way


Swansea Slopes is a 1300-m bluff overlooking much of the upper Columbia Valley. This is a steep trail with panoramic views throughout the ascent, but grades have been much improved by newly constructed switchbacks over the past year.  And always check for wood ticks when you’re done.

Columbia Wetlands Viewpoint Trail—1.6 km one way


The Columbia Wetlands Viewpoint Trail leads through open grassland and poplar groves to a viewpoint overlooking river channels and marshland south of Lake Windermere. The trail is flat with just a bit of down-and-up near the end. A bench at the overlook provides an excellent observation point for spring birds (bring binoculars or a spotting scope).

Dutch Creek Hoodoos Hiking Trail—2.5 km one-way


The Dutch Creek Hoodoos Hiking Trail climbs for one km on an old roadbed to the top of the hoodoos then follows sandy trails along the crest of these dramatic erosion features for another 1.5 km (it’s a miniature version of Utah’s Bryce Canyon).

Old Coach Hiking Trail—9.0 km one-way

Old Coach

Old Coach Trail leads from the Dry Gulch trailhead on Hwy 93/95 (south) to the Visitor Centre in Radium (north). This rolling hike follows the roadbed of the first motor road through the valley in the 1920s. Today it is a near-wilderness experience with fantastic views of the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area. Well-marked trailheads at both the south and north ends make this ideal for hikers with two vehicles.

By clicking on Old Coach Trail Guide, you can download the brochure for that hike. And for maps and precise directions to all of these trails, stop in at the Visitor Centre in Radium.

Photos by Brian Patton