To reach the trailhead drive east on Highway 5 past Hope. Take exit 177 onto Highway 3, which you follow for 67 km (42 mi) to Manning Park Lodge. Turn left opposite to the lodge and inmediately turn left and drive uphill for 17 km to the very end of the road. You can start the hike one kilometre before at Blackwall Peak parking lot as well. Do not forget to pay the $3 parking fee.
From the upper parking lot you need to follow Heather Trail.
1. TOP. Microwave station and end of the road
2. BOTTOM. Three brothers mountain
It was this beautiful area that led to the creation of this provincial park. The meadows present in this area were threatened with overgrazing by domestic sheep, but the urging of many concerned and foresighted citizens led to the creation of the Three Brothers Mountain Reserve in 1931.
After you have passed Buckhorn Camp, the trail rises through an old burn and meanders across rolling country, skirting the west side of Big Buck Mountain.
A great variety of flora can be seen along this trail from late June through to August. When the snow is still receding, in late June to early July, the spring bloom is at its peak. The meadows are covered by the creamy crocus-like flower, Western Anemone, tiny white spring Beauty and bright yellow Glacier Lily.
Now, the climbing begins. The trail winds through a skeleton of a forest, the result of a fire in 1945. Watch for Bluebirds and Hawk Owls. This climb from Buckhorn Camp to the Bonnevier ridge is fairly strenuous. Take breaks and enjoy the views. The burn area is particularly scenic when the flowers are in bloom. The contrast of blue sky, charred trees and green foliage and brilliant flowers is exceptional.
1. TOP. Bonnevier ridge
2. BOTTOM. Three brothers mountain
Heading towards the Brother, the trail is often covered by snow patches and tiny seasonal lakes where Water Pipits can be seen. However, after descending approximately 50 m, you will enter a very dry area. Dwarf Lupine and other plants that are much smaller than the same species at lower elevations are clues that you are approaching the alpine zone.
There is a tiny lake 10 minutes before reaching the junction to the summit. It was very difficult not to resist the temptation to go out of the trail and have a short break
Three Brothers Mountain Reserve was included in a new game reserve in 1936. In 1941, the meadows and several thousand more hectares of land were declared the "Ernest C. Manning Provincial Park". Mr. Manning, a Provincial Chief Forester, was dedicated to the preservation and conservation of Canadian wilderness.
Keep going north to reach the path that climbs up to the summit (2272 m). Here you are on true alpine tundra; most of the plants grow very close to the ground in order to stay out of the constant wind.
Junction to Nicomen Lake and Three Brothers Mountain
The bright pink cushion plant, Moss Campion, is only found here, and on Mt. Frosty. As the growing season is so short, it spends up to ten years growing a long tap root to secure itself and to capture water before it flowers.
Up! Up! Up!
This area offers a fine example of stunted forests better known as krummholtz usually found in an alpine zone. There have been several attempts at quantifying what constitutes an alpine climate. For example, climatologist Wladimir Köppen demonstrated a relationship between the Arctic and Antarctic tree lines and the 10°C summer isotherm; i.e., places where the average temperature in the warmest calendar month of the year is below 10°C cannot support forests. See Köppen climate classification for more information.
Reaching the summit
From the top, look west and you will see the Second and Third Brothers. To the south, Blackwall Peak, your starting point and now your point of return rising in the distance. In reality Three Brothers Mountain is a triple summit with the three sub-peaks being unofficially named First, Second and Third Brother Mountains. Fourth Brother Mountain is separate from, and some distance north of, the other three. The highest point (2272 m) is the First Brother.
Blackwall Peak and the microwave station (not visible due to the low resolution)
The 1km ascent of the First Brother is a climb/scramble over rocky sections and loose rocks. Good footwear and caution are recommended to reach the peak.
Short hike from the summit
From the top, it is very easy to reach the two slighly junior companions of the Big Brother. I asked Victor if he wanted to give it a try to the Second Brother as well.
Second Brother is very easy to reach, just return on the ridge and before you start your descent go right and walk 300 metres.
To reach Second Brother turn right and follow the ridge
Second and Third Brothers
Glaciers scoured off the tops of these mountains less than twenty-five thousand years ago. The earliest well-documented ice age, and probably the most severe of the last 1 billion years, occurred from 850 to 630 million years ago (the Cryogenian period) and may have produced a Snowball Earth in which permanent ice covered the entire globe. This ended very rapidly as water vapor returned to Earth's atmosphere. It has been suggested that the end of this ice age was responsible for the subsequent Ediacaran and Cambrian Explosion, though this theory is recent and controversial.
Reaching Second Brother
Back to today, hiking this side of the mountain offers views of the north side of the Three Brothers including couple of lonely lakes on the bottom.
Three Brothers Mountain (a.k.a First Brother)
Backpackers wanting to spend two or three days in the meadows may want to continue west to Kickinghorse wilderness campsite (3.5 km) or to Nicomen Lake wilderness campsite (11 km), however the ascent of the first peak may be sufficient for a day trip.
It is possible to reach Nicomen Lake in one day, but unless you have been many times before, it would be somewhat tiring and a pity to rush through one of the most scenic trails in the province. Take the time to fully enjoy and absorb the incredible panoramas and floral display that the Heather Trail offers.
On our way back, we did a quick stop in Buckhorn Peak where we had some fun playing with the Gray Jays. The Gray Jay is well-known for its bold, almost tame, behavior around humans. In logging camps, at mountain resorts, and at backwoods cabins, the "Camp Robber" or "Whiskey Jack" will brazenly raid campsites or cabins, even taking food from human hands.
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1. 49.1028 - 120.7595 Elev 2014m - Trailhead
2. 49.1416 - 120.7620 Elev 2039m - Junction with Bonnevier Trail
3. 49.1660 - 120.7677 Elev 2272m - Three Brothers Mountain
4. 49.1664 - 120.7780 Elev 2246m - Second Brother
Roundtrip length: 20 km (12.5 miles)
Allow 6 hours
Elevation gain: 450 m (1476 ft)
Driving distance from Vancouver: 235 km (146.8 miles)