Saddle Mountain Lookout Trail

Saddle Mountain Lookout Trail

Rating: Moderate 
From lower trailhead: Trailhead to the Upper is 2.2 km by road. The Upper Trailhead is 2.2 km further up the road past the Lower Trailhead.
Distance: 5.3 km one way 
Time: 5 hrs return 
Surface: Dirt, rock 
Modes: Hiking

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Trail Description

The trail ascends Saddle Mountain to a rocky knob above the treeline. The knob was chosen as a Forest Service fire lookout because of the panoramic view of the surrounding peaks and valleys, also making it a fantastic alpine hike. The first part of the trail winds through moist, mature cedar/hemlock forests, typical of the area, which, with its substantial rainfall and fertile soils, is often called BC’s interior rain forest. Under the tall trees’ dense canopy, shade-loving plants flourish: mosses, devil’s club, thimbleberry, lady fern, foamflower, and ginger. This section of trail also shows the results of logging after a major windstorm and blowdown in 2018.

On approaching the old helicopter landing pad (GPS Point 1 on the map), more spruce and balsam trees indicate a transition to the subalpine zone (GPS Point 2). The underbrush also changes, with an abundance of wild rhododendron and huckleberry. The trail climbs to large rock bluffs (GPS Point 3) from which views of the valley far below and the destination Lookout high above are seen. From here, trees become smaller and more sparse until they cease growing completely below the Lookout. 

Just over half-way to the top, there is an old cabin (GPS Point 4). From there, the final ascent criss-crosses the open meadows below the knob. Patches of stunted trees grow here and there; evidence of marmot, deer, grizzly and black bear abounds in the burrows, tree rubs, and digs in the ground. Near the knob at the top, the trail heads up the right-hand side of the slope. It becomes obscured by some large rocks near the top, leaving hikers to climb amongst the boulders to reach the bottom of the knob, where the trail again becomes obvious as it crosses left in front of the knob. 

From the bottom, left-hand side of the knob, a short path leads up a steep slope to the Lookout. The views are spectacular here in all directions and scrambling the last few feet to the top is well worth it. The Monashee Mountains stretch out on the west side of Arrow Lake and the Selkirks on the east. Mosquito Lake is nestled in the hills to the northwest, while Whatshan Lake peaks from its valley to the southwest. Check out the features of the Lookout, including the names of past fire lookout scouts carved into the stone, dating back to the 1930’s (see if you can find the backwards N). Enjoy the vista and feel the history before beginning your descent. 

Alpine flowers are usually in bloom in July!


From Nakusp, travel southwest on Highway 6 toward Burton for 21 kms. Take the Arrow Park cable ferry across the lake, making note of return crossing times. Turn right and follow the good 2wd Saddle Mountain Road for 9 km. Turn left onto Lookout Road, marked with a brown, wooden signpost, and follow the rough road (high clearance vehicle recommended) for 8 km to the Branch 75 fork (GPS P???). Park to the side, as the road is well used. The lower trailhead is 20m further up the road. The upper trailhead and parking lot is  2.2 km further up the logging road.

Modes of Use

Saddle Mountain Lookout is an alpine hiking trail suitable for summer travel when the snowpack is diminished. Although adventurers have trekked up with snow touring gear, this requires extensive knowledge of back country travel.

Past & Future

Beginning in 1923, fire scouts periodically manned Saddle Mtn. Lookout tower, keeping a lonely summer watch for forest fires. Once satellites usurped the task, the Forest Service established hiking trails to some historic Lookouts. The Nakusp & Area Trails Society restored the lookout building in 2017, installing sleeping platforms, peak and geographical identification and historical signage.  Duplicate signage can be viewed at the Nakusp Marina, which also affords a clear view of Saddle Mountain.

Trail & Access Condition as of February 24, 2024

The Saddle Mountain Lookout Trail and access road is snow-bound and inaccessible. An updated report will be posted as soon as we make our first trail survey at the beginning of the season. Due to warm conditions we expect the trail to be open earlier than usual this year. An update should be available by late June.

If You Liked This Trail

Summer alpine ascents include Kuskanax Mountain Trail, Idaho Peak Lookout, near Sandon. Lower elevation day hikes include the Nakusp Hot Springs Trail and Kimbol Lake Trail.

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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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

2023 Updates provided by the Nakusp and Area Community Trails Society