By Joe Lucas
Summit Trail Makers Society
Mount Swansea is one of the more popular hiking trails in the Invermere region, being close to town with fabulous views of the Columbia Valley. It is one of the first hikes to be free of snow in the spring. The main trail to the upper parking lot has a fairly constant grade on a well-defined trail, which makes it suitable for most family members. This trail is also used by mountain bikers as an “up track” to access numerous ‘downhill’ mountain bike trails. You may encounter bikers riding up this shared trail, but never down. Hikers of course can use the trail up or down. Weekends, as you would expect, are the busiest especially with the mountain bikers.
The main trailhead is accessed from the Windermere Loop Road but please use caution when crossing the active mine road. The trailhead is 100-120 metres on your right past the mine road. There is a rough 4-wheel drive road that goes almost to the top where you will find a small parking area. From here, the summit trail is a short 10-25 minute hike to the peak.
There are a few variations that can be done on Swansea rather than an up-and-back hike: the loop to the communication towers and the south ridge trail. Both of these trails will loop back to the main trail. The communication towers makes for a shorter 6 km round trip, and if you are going to the peak on the main trail it is approximately 13 km round trip and a 745 meter elevation gain. Taking the south ridge will add a kilometre and the trail is much rougher. Allow 3-5 hours for a round trip to the peak.
There are numerous vantage points along the way that provide spectacular views of Invermere and the Columbia Valley. Keep your eye open for grouse and wild flowers on the way. Once at the top you may be lucky enough to witness a paraglider launching to catch the thermals from the valley below.
While this is close to town, you should be aware of a few things: advise someone of your hike, wear suitable footwear and clothing, have a pack with food and water (there is no water on Mount Swansea), always check for ticks (tick season is March to June), and for your safety never hike the mountain bike downhill trails. Enjoy your time in the mountains.
Summit Trail Makers Society maintains various hiking trails in the Invermere area. For a list of these trails and information about them, please visit www.summittrailmakers.ca.