Jutting up from the Southern Purcells, Haystack Mountain is the highest point in the Southern Purcell Mountains. From the summit you can see past Creston to the South, Mount Loki to the North, and even Fisher Peak and the Rocky Mountains to the East. These sights attract locals and visitors alike but it is not uncommon to be alone in the area.
The hike from the trailhead at the end of Sanca Creek Forest Service Road takes 5-6 hours round trip for most people. It could be done faster, and it could be done slower. The bottom of the trail is well kept and includes beautiful forest with small wetlands areas, and a few creek crossings that are well bridged, providing opportunity for some nice photos. The first half of the trail takes maybe a third of time that the second half does. Its a lovely gradual ascent with a few steeper points until you reach the basin (roughly 10-20 minutes from the Kianuko Park Boundary).
The ponds in the basin are quite scenic with Haystack Mountain as a backdrop, and this is an excellent place for a snack and some exploration. Well worth the trip as a destination in its own right. But you can only stand below Haystack for so long, before the urge to see the world from the top gets the feet moving again.
From here the trail becomes somewhat less apparent, as it winds across wetlands, sub-alpine trees, and across small creeks. The snow stays in some areas well into the Summer, making even the faint wisps of trail unlocatable. The main thing is to head West towards the cliffs and avalanche chute in that directions (as shown above). Once you come out of the trees below the chute you will be facing a steep slope. From here you can head left rather than straight up to gain the easier ridge, but if you’re up for a challenge, head straight up that chute all the way to the top. Either way, once you get to the ridge and onto the saddle head north towards the peak.
Crossing the saddle to the mountain is a welcome gentle hike. Things get a bit more technical from here, the final ascent of the mountain takes you up its southwest side, over scree and boulders. The scree is fairly stable, all things considered, though a few loose rocks are sure to be found.
The scramble up takes about half an hour, and while challenging, it is not as intense as one might expect. The top is worth every bit of the energy used to get there. The expansive views of the Central Kootenays are truly epic. Lakes dot the landscape between snow capped peaks, rocky outcrops, and serene forests. The winds blow strong.
For more information visit Trails for Creston Valley Society.