Nakusp to Summit Lake Rail Trail

Nakusp to Summit Lake Rail Trail

Rating: Easy 
Distance: 12 km one way 
Time: Mode-dependant 
Surface: Gravel railbed 
Modes of use: Hiking, biking, dirt biking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, ATVing

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Trail Description

Formerly the railway for the Nakusp Line, the railbed climbs gently from Nakusp to Summit Lake. The rail trail is ideal for cycling, cross-country skiing, jogging, or simply walking in surroundings both stunning and soothing. 

As with many railways, it was built along the valley bottom corridor and travels through extensive natural habitat for birds, fish, deer, rodents and larger mammals, including bears and moose. 

From Nakusp, the railway climbs at a 2% grade up to Summit Lake, with the first six kilometres situated along the edges of the town of Nakusp, rural acreages and the Nakusp Centennial Golf Course. As the valley narrows, the trail climbs above Box Lake, affording the traveler a superb view of the Box Lake marsh. The trail passes through recent logging blocks that demonstrate current forest practices of smaller clearcuts to reduce the impact on the ecosystem. Much of what was logged is second growth timber following logging in the valley bottoms early in the 1900s. 

On approaching the shores of Summit Lake, at 765 metres elevation, the surroundings change. The ancient mountains around the Lake are home to mountain goats, bears, deer and elk herds. Summit Lake is stocked with rainbow trout and provides great fun for sport fishers from May through September. The view across Summit Lake to the range known as Three Sisters is spectacular. 

The Historic Nakusp and Slocan Railway continued on past the current trail, through Rosebery, past New Denver, and through Three Forks to Sandon. 

From Rosebery, it is possible to continue on the Galena Trail to Sandon, and further railbed may be explored between Sandon and Kaslo.

Access

The rail trail may be accessed from many points where it crosses local roads or Highway 6. The trail begins at the junction of Highway 6 and Highway 23 (GPS Point 1 on the map), follows Highway 6 to Government Road (GPS Point 2), then switches to climb the grade out of town. GPS Point 4 shows access at the Nakusp Centennial Golf Course, while GPS Point 5 indicates where the railbed crosses Highway 6, just south of Brouse Loop Rd. There is a parking lot on the west side of the crossing. The rail trail is also accessible from Wilson Lake Rd. (GPS Point 6), Highway 6 (GPS Point 7). The Galena Trail begins in Rosebery; upgraded and mapped in the 1990s, it extends to Sandon.

Modes of Use

Railways are ideal for biking, jogging, cross-country skiing, horseback riding and walking. The section of trail from Government Road south is designated as multi-use, to include motorized off-road recreational vehicles.

History

Many hundreds of years ago, the railway corridor was a traditional trade and hunting route of First Nations people traveling between the Arrow and Slocan Lakes. 

In 1893, the Nakusp and Slocan Railway Company Act was given royal assent by the BC Southern Railway Act, and about one thousand CPR workers began construction of the track from Nakusp to Three Forks (above New Denver). It was completed in 1894 and shortly thereafter extended to the mining mecca, Sandon. Upon completion in December of 1895, rival Great Northern Railway crews racing to build the railway in from Kaslo to Sandon promptly attacked the CPR personnel and property, sending bunkhouse cars rolling down the winding mountain tracks to Kaslo in the middle of the night, cutting telegraph lines, and demolishing the Sandon station house by wrapping a cable around it and attaching it to a moving train. The race to reach Sandon, the lucrative endpoint of the two lines, turned out to be unnecessary, as in those boom days, both lines operated at full capacity. As a remnant of bygone days, a small station house still stands at Hunter Siding (GPS Point 10). For further information, visit the Nakusp & District Museum, the Silvery Slocan Museum in New Denver, the Sandon Museum. 

In the 1960s and 70s, the train still ran a few times a week, transporting poles and cedar shakes from Nakusp mills south to the main rail line.The last train left Nakusp in 1989 and the tracks were removed a few years later, and the railbed started to be used for recreation.

Trail & Access Condition as of February 24, 2024

The Nakusp to Summit Lake rail trail is accessible from various access points and crossings along Highway 6. The trail conditions vary from wet and soft near Nakusp and Brouse Loop to ice and snow covered near Summit Lake. Check back in May for an updated trail report.

If You Liked This Trail

If the Nakusp to Summit Lake Rail Trail appealed to you, try the Hot Springs Trail or Wensley Creek for other day hikes or winter skis.

Stay Safe Out There!

  • Familiarize yourself with Leave No Trace principles 
  • Check the weather forecast and trail conditions, and plan accordingly
  • Be prepared to be in areas without cell service
  • Stay on designated trails and share with others
  • Cyclists and ATVs yield to everyone and hikers yield to horses
  • Be prepared for hiking – have solid walking shoes/boots, water and nutritious food, first aid supplies, comfortable clothing (including layers) that’s appropriate for the weather
  • Prepare for the unexpected
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return
  • Make noise (sing, talk, clap) to alert wildlife
  • Travel in pairs or groups and keep kids in sight at all times
  • Keep pets under control, keep them at home if not allowed on certain trails, and be aware they may pose a hazard with backcountry wildlife

Use this information at your own risk. Trail users assume all responsibility for personal injury or damage to equipment. 

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Credits:

The Trails of Nakusp brochure series was originally produced for the Nakusp & District Chamber of Commerce, by Hailstorm Ridge Environmental Services & Kootenay Virtual Tours, who jointly retain copyright.

Project funding came from a 2003 Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives Grant. 

Many thanks to True North Forestry Consulting Ltd., Pope & Talbot Ltd., Slocan Forest Products and the Ministry of Forests for their various contributions to the project.

Nakusp & District Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre, 92 – 6th Ave NW

Box 387, Nakusp, BC V0G 1R0 

nakusp@telus.net

2023 Updates provided by the Nakusp and Area Community Trails Society

info@nakusptrails.ca