Mount Revelstoke National Park is one of my favourite Canadian National Parks since it doesn’t get crazy crowded and it has incredible hiking. It’s also the only place in Canada’s National Parks where you can drive to the top of a towering mountain. I like it so much I’ve actually been there three times in the last few years. The location is also a bonus: right next to Revelstoke, BC’s cutest mountain town. In this post, I’ll give you my picks for the best things to do in Mount Revelstoke National Park.
Hey there: Thanks so much to Tourism Revelstoke for hosting me in Revelstoke. All opinions in this post are my own. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thanks -Taryn
Hey there: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thanks -Taryn
Mount Revelstoke National Park Basics
Where is Mount Revelstoke National Park?
Mount Revelstoke National Park is located along Highway 1 northeast of the town of Revelstoke. It’s a 4.5-hour drive from Calgary and a 6-hour drive from Vancouver. It sits in the middle of British Columbia in the Selkirk Mountains.
How to Get Around Mount Revelstoke National Park
There are several trailheads in the eastern part of the park along Highway 1. But you can access the majority of the park from Meadows in the Sky Parkway which leaves Highway 1 just east of the town of Revelstoke. There is no public transit to the park so you will need your own car.
Mount Revelstoke National Park Fees
You must purchase a National Park pass to visit the park. Day passes cost $10 per adult or $20 for a family of up to 7 people travelling in the same vehicle. If you plan to visit other National Parks, the annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass is a great deal at $69.19 for one adult or $139.40 for a family.
When to Visit Mount Revelstoke National Park
The park is high in the mountains. You can visit the lower parts of the park year-round and some of the roads are plowed in winter. The lower part of the park is snow-free between late May and early October. The snow doesn’t melt in the rest of the park until July, making July, August, and early September the best time to visit Mount Revelstoke National Park.
Visiting Mount Revelstoke National Park With a Dog
Due to problems with wildlife, most areas of Mount Revelstoke National Park are off-limits to dogs. You can bring your dog to the Giant Cedars Boardwalk, the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk, the Snowforest Campground, and lower mountain trails below the Columbia Viewpoint on the Meadows in the Sky Parkway but they must be on a leash. See Parks Canada’s website for more details.
Mount Revelstoke National Park Weather
Since it is located amongst several high mountain ranges, Mount Revelstoke National Park has unpredictable weather. Expect lots of snow in the winter and rain at any time! In general, the summer months of July and August are fairly sunny but afternoon thunderstorms are common. Expect it to be much colder at the summit of Mount Revelstoke compared to the valley bottom.
Mount Revelstoke National Park Map
Like all Canadian National Parks, Mount Revelstoke is well signed and easy to navigate. However, it can be helpful to look at a map to plan your trip. This Mount Revelstoke National Park map shows all the major landmarks and hiking trails.
I also made you a custom Google Map. It has everything I mention in this post. There’s no cell service along parts of the Meadows in the Sky Parkway, so be sure to download the offline version before you start the drive.
Where to Stay Near Mount Revelstoke National Park
You can camp in the park at the new Snowforest campground (more info below). If you would rather stay in a hotel, the town of Revelstoke is just a few minutes away. For an upscale hotel, I recommend The Regent Hotel, which is family-owned or The Explorer’s Society Hotel, a cute boutique property. If you’re on a budget, check out The Cube Hotel or the cute cabins at Boulder Mountain Resort. For more info, see my guide to the town of Revelstoke.
Bear Safety in Mount Revelstoke National Park
Mount Revelstoke National Park is home to both black bears and grizzly bears. Carry bear spray and make noise while you hike to reduce your risk of a negative bear encounter. Keep a clean campsite and store all food and toiletries inside your car or a bear locker. For more info about hiking in bear country, read my post about bear safety for hikers.
Mount Revelstoke National Park Indigenous Context
The Revelstoke area is the traditional territory of the Sinixt First Nation. The Secwepemc, Ktunaxa, and Syilx First Nations also have traditional land use in the area. When European settlers arrived in Revelstoke in the 1800s, they did not respect Sinixt territory. Most of the Sinixt people were pushed into the southern part of their traditional territory in Washington and were unable to return to Canada and the Revelstoke area. The Canadian government declared the Sinixt extinct, but a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2021 declared that they do still exist and have the right to hunt in their traditional territory.
Things to Do in Mount Revelstoke National Park
Hike in the Rainforest
The easiest part of Mount Revelstoke National Park to visit is the two rainforest trailheads along Highway 1. Both locations have a picnic area, washrooms, and short interpretive hiking trails.
Giant Cedars Boardwalk: Located 30 km east of Revelstoke on the north side of Highway 1, this is an easy 15-minute loop through an old-growth forest with giant cedar and hemlock trees. The entire hike is on boardwalks and stairs. Signage along the way will help you learn about the ecosystem including 500-year-old trees.
Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk: Located 28 km east of Revelstoke on the south side of Highway 1, this interpretive loop trail winds through rare Columbia Mountain wetland habitat on a series of boardwalks and bridges. Unfortunately, the trail is closed for maintenance in 2021 but hopefully, it will reopen soon.
Drive the Meadows in the Sky Parkway
The main draw at Mount Revelstoke National Park is the Meadows in the Sky Parkway. The 26km-long road climbs 1600 meters from the valley bottom to the summit of Mount Revelstoke.
The road is open from May until October, but depending on snowmelt, you will not be able to drive all the way to the summit until July. The road has many sharp hairpin turns so buses and RVs over 26 feet long and trailers are not allowed. Allow about 1 hour (without stops) to drive from Highway 1 to the top since the road is so curvy that you can’t drive very fast. There are several scenic viewpoints along the road.
Revelstoke Viewpoint (KM5): A great view of the town of Revelstoke and Mount Begbie across the valley.
Monashee Viewpoint (KM8): Look down at the Columbia River and across to the Monashee Mountains and Eagle Pass.
Columbia Viewpoint (KM12): See the Selkirk Mountains and Columbia River Valley. Heads up: This is the furthest you can go if you have a dog with you.
Eagle Pass Viewpoint (KM13): Views of Eagle Pass and the Monashee Mountains.
Bridge Creek Viewpoint (KM16): Look south to the Revelstoke Mountain Resort atop Mount Mackenzie.
Panorama Point (KM24): Unlike the other viewpoints, this one involves a short walk (less than 5 minutes), but the views of the Illecillewaet and Columbia River valleys are worth it.
Wildflowers (last few kilometres of the drive): Look for beautiful wildflowers lining the road. Peak flower season is late July and early August.
Explore the Summit of Mount Revelstoke
The Mountains in the Sky Parkway ends at Balsam Lake, near the summit of Mount Revelstoke. It’s a really unique experience to be able to drive almost to the top of a 1933m mountain! Keep in mind that dogs are not allowed in this area. There are a few different things to do at the summit area.
The parking area is about 1km downhill from the true summit. The easiest way to reach the summit is to take the free shuttle bus. It runs every few minutes during the snow-free season (July to September) from 10 am to 4 pm. Unfortunately, the shuttle is not running in summer 2021 due to the pandemic.
Hike to the Summit
If you don’t want to take the shuttle or it isn’t running, you can hike up. The best option is the Upper Summit trail that winds through sub-alpine meadows. The one-kilometre trail gains 91m and takes most people about 20-30 minutes. You can also hike up the shuttle road which has the same stats.
I prefer to hike up the trail, then down the road. Heading uphill on the trail is nicer since it’s a bit more shaded in hot weather. There are often beautiful wildflowers along the road and it has a great view in the downhill direction.
Visit the Historic Fire Lookout
Don’t miss the historic fire lookout which sits right on the summit of Mount Revelstoke. Built in 1927, it is almost 100 years old. The building is no longer in use, but for decades a tower person lived here full time, peering out the elevated windows with a telescope to watch for fires in the surrounding mountains.
Follow the short Fire Lookout Trail from the shuttle parking lot. Don’t miss the side trails to the nearby South Parapet and North Parapet Viewpoints. Allow 10-20 minutes for the 0.5 km walk.
Hike the Summit Area Nature Trails
Besides the Fire Lookout, there are a few other short, easy, and nearly flat nature trails around the summit area.
Koo Koo Sint Trail: This short trail rambles through sub-alpine meadow and forest just north of the summit. Interpretive signs along the way explain settler history of the area including info about geographer David Thompson, who the Salish nicknamed Koo Koo Sint, meaning stargazer. The 1.5km-long trail takes about 30 minutes to complete.
First Footsteps Trail: Enjoy Secwepemc, Ktunaxa, and Okanagan First Nations culture through sculpture and artwork along this easy walking trail. It makes a loop through subalpine meadows and stops at a viewpoint where you can gaze down at “The Icebox”, a rocky cleft in the mountain that holds snow all year. Plan to spend 30 minutes on the 1km loop.
Heather Lake Trail: Follow the shoreline trail around tiny Heather Lake to admire the wildflowers. It’s only 400m long and will take about 10 minutes.
Hike at Balsam Lake
While most visitors make a bee-line for the summit, there are also great nature trails right next to the Balsam Lake parking lot.
Balsam Lake Trail: Make a gentle loop around Balsam Lake, stopping to enjoy the wildflower meadows along the lakeshore. On my last visit I took my mom to Balsam Lake and she loved the flowers here. The 0.5km loop takes 10 minutes.
Eagle Knoll: Follow trail east from Balsam Lake to quiet Eagle Knoll. There’s a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the Columbia Valley. Allow an hour for the 1.5km round trip hike.
Hike to Eva, Jade, and Miller Lakes in the Backcountry
If you’re up for a longer hike, I think the best trail in the park is the trip to Eva, Jade, and Miller lakes set deep in the backcountry of Mount Revelstoke National Park. The route starts at the Mount Revelstoke summit area and heads northeast into the mountains, passing through wildflower meadows.
You can reach all three lakes from branch trails off the main trail. There are only 200 meters of net elevation gain between the trailhead and Miller and Eva Lakes, but it will feel like a lot more since there are tons of small ups and downs.
Miller Lake is the closest at 11km round trip.
Eva Lake is next at 12km round trip. It’s also easy to combine the two since they are a few minutes walk from each other. Allow 4-6 hours for the hike to Eva Lake and Miller Lake.
Jade Lake is a bit further away as you climb over Jade Pass into treeless alpine tundra. It’s an 18km round trip with 428m of elevation gain. Plan to spend 6-8 hours on the trail.
Both Eva and Jade Lakes have backcountry campsites if you want to spend the night. They require advance reservations online. Eva Lake also has an old historic cabin that makes a great place to eat lunch during a rainstorm. (Ask me how I know!)
Camp at Snowforest Campground
Opened in 2020, Mount Revelstoke’s Snowforest Campground is the only front-country campground in the park. It has 63 campsites, and 2/3 of those are reservable. There are a mix of drive-in sites, RV sites, and walk-in sites.
I stayed in a walk-in site in August 2020 and have to say that it has some of the nicest campground bathrooms I have ever seen. There is a huge building with individual toilet stalls, showers, and a communal sink area.
The campground is located on the lower part of Meadows in the Sky Parkway so it’s easy to go into the town of Revelstoke or to drive up the mountain to explore more of the park. If you want to hike right from your campsite, explore the Soren Sorenson loop trail which connects to the Inspiration Woods trail and the Nel’s Knickers Trial. You can even walk or bike to Revelstoke using the 23 Connector Trail or a combo of the Soren Sorenson and Mount Revelstoke Trails.
Visit the Historic Ski Jump
Mount Revelstoke has an important place in Canadian skiing history. Up until the 1960s, Revelstoke was the ski jumping capital of Canada. Norwegian-born Nels Nelson is credited with popularizing the sport in Revelstoke and setting world records for distance.
Parks Canada has done an amazing job of turning the old ski jump into an outdoor exhibit with info plaques, old newspaper clippings, and replica signage. But the best part is the Nels Knickers sculpture that lets you experience what it’s like to stand at the top of the hill, ready to ski jump. It’s also a fun (and goofy) photo op.
It’s an easy walk to the top on the Nels Knickers Trail from the Meadows in the Sky Parkway. But if you want a longer (and steeper!) hike, park at the Nels Nelson Historic Area lower down the mountain, then follow the Nels Nelson Ski Jump trail from the bottom of the jump to the top.
Go for a Bike Ride
Mount Revelstoke National Park has a few options for different styles of biking.
Mountain Biking: Explore cross-country-style trails on the lower mountain. Start at the Nels Nelson Historic area and tackle the green-rated lower Soren Sorenson Loop or the blue-rated upper Soren Sorenson Loop. You can also bike there directly from the town of Revelstoke on the 23 Connector or Mount Revelstoke Trails.
Road Biking: Challenge yourself by tackling a full ascent of the Meadows in the Sky Parkway on your road bike. You’ll gain 1,400m over 26km on the way to the summit. But with an average grade of 5.5%, it’s never very steep and there are lots of viewpoints to stop and catch your breath. My husband wants to bring his road bike on our next visit so he can say he biked to the top.
Kids Bike Park: The Beaver Lodge Kids Bike Park is a great destination for families. Kids will love the whimsical sculptures, fun teeter-totter, bridges, and looping pathways.
Hike the Quiet Lower Mountain Trails
Since most hikers focus on the summit trails or the highway-accessed rainforest trails, you might have the lower mountain trails all to yourself. I haven’t had time to hike these trails yet, but I hear they are pretty and very quiet.
Inspiration Woods: This beautiful forest walk features cedar and hemlock trees draped in lichens and a carpet of moss and ferns underfoot. It’s a great option for spring and fall when the higher elevation trails are snowy. Allow an hour for the 2.5km hike.
Soren Sorenson Loops: With both a 2km and a 5km loop to choose from, the Soren Sorenson trails are a good option if you are staying at the Snowforest Campground. Originally built as winter cross-country skiing trails, they are also open to mountain bikes. Allow 30 minutes for the shorter loop and 1.5 hours for the longer one.
Broken Bridge: This short forested walk ends at a ruined bridge that makes a great photo location. Since it’s very shaded, it’s a good option for sunny days. Allow 40 minutes for the 2km trip.
Hike from Valley Bottom to Summit
If you want a real challenge, skip the drive to the summit and hike there instead. Before the Meadows in the Sky Parkway was built, trails were the only way to get to the summit. There are two hiking options:
Summit Trail: Start at the Nels Nelson parking lot to hike the original route to the summit, gaining 1353m. It crosses the Meadows in the Sky Parkway several times as it works its way uphill through several ecosystems. The trail is 10km one way and should take 4-5 hours.
Lindmark Trail: This alternative route to the summit starts a little higher up at the Monashee Lookout. It gains 982m over 8km. Since it never crosses a road, it has a better wilderness feel than the summit trail. Plan to spend 3.5 hours on the hike uphill.
Go Cross-Country Skiing or Snowshoeing
Mount Revelstoke National Park has a long history with winter sports, especially skiing. If you visit in winter, the road into the park is plowed as far as the Nels Nelson Historic area. From there you can snowshoe on the Soren Sorenson Loop trails or cross-country ski on the upper part of the Meadows in the Sky Parkway. I haven’t visited in winter yet, but I’d love to snowshoe here.
So that’s everything you need to know to plan a trip to Mount Revelstoke National Park. Have questions about the best things to do in Mount Revelstoke National Park? Ask me in the comments.