Hiking Kelowna's Black Mountain

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Spring has sprung and the warm sunny days the past couple weeks has me wanting to get outside more. Through the winter months I had been less adventurous than I would usually be, spending a lot of time working away on business planning, branding, marketing, research and other elements that go into launching a successful business. Nothing revitalizes like spring though!

Joshua Elliott and Sarah McIntyre are all smiles after an 11km hike to the top of Black Mountain in Kelowna, BC with views of the Okanagan Valley and Okanagan Lake below.

Joshua Elliott and Sarah McIntyre are all smiles after an 11km hike to the top of Black Mountain in Kelowna, BC with views of the Okanagan Valley and Okanagan Lake below.

Sarah and I cleared our calendars and decided that today we would go for a hike. Little did she know, our first hike of the year was going to be a roughly 3-hour journey taking us a total of 11 kilometres (round trip), with a 500m elevation gain as I wanted to show her the view of Kelowna from the top of Black Mountain.

Black Mountain, officially Black Knight Mountain, is named for its topography being reminiscent of a medieval knight laying on the ground with shield in hand. The rocky but tree covered, rounded, peaks are a Kelowna landmark. What you don't see until you head out Highway 33 is the scenic Okanagan grasslands that surround it. You'll often find heards of deer grazing here. 

The hike begins at Pyman Road just off the Highway and ends at an elevation of 1286m at the telecommunication tower built on the summit of Black Mountain. The first 2km is a relatively steep walk but it levels out a bit as you get into the forest; a mosaic of cedars, fir, and tamarack trees.

Sarah McIntyre stopping for a pose along the snow covered trail on our first Kelowna hike of the year.

Sarah McIntyre stopping for a pose along the snow covered trail on our first Kelowna hike of the year.

What we weren't expecting on a sunny spring morning was snow, after all the Western side of the mountain hasn't had snow in weeks, but suddenly there it was. As we walked the trail, it soon became completely snow covered except a few spots where that lacked tall trees and the sun shone brightly. It wasn't long before we came up on a large clearing, home to a pond that's usually lush with vegetation and wildlife. We will have to come back as the temperatures were too cool still and the brush had not livened up yet.

Looking ahead we could see water rushing down the trail and down into the pond. The meltwater from the higher elevations must have breached the edge of the trail and was carving its own path. We tip toed around this impromptu creek as if we were actually going to keep our feet dry. Eventually the trail became dry, well either dry or snow covered. However, that didn't last long and before we knew it we were hiking through knee deep snow leaving our toes a little chilly. Meanwhile, the hot sun on our faces was he beginning of our Okanagan summer tan! 

The Okanagan Valley, City of Kelowna, viewed from the top of Black Mountain showing Black Mountain neighbourhood and  Kirschner Mountain in the foreground , vineyards and orchards of Southeast Kelowna, Okanagan Lake, and mountains in the background.

The Okanagan Valley, City of Kelowna, viewed from the top of Black Mountain showing Black Mountain neighbourhood and  Kirschner Mountain in the foreground , vineyards and orchards of Southeast Kelowna, Okanagan Lake, and mountains in the background.

The snow and ice made slowed us down a little but it also added to the adventure. We tossed a few snowballs and jokingly threatened to tackle each other into the snow. Two and a half hours later, we walked upon the absolutely stunning 180-degree view of the Okanagan Valley below. Big White framed in the view to the East and the mountains tree line to the West. In between you can see Scenic Canyon where Mission Creek has carved its way between the Okanagan Highlands and Kirschner Mountain,  the many orchards and vineyards that run Kelowna's South slopes, the sprawling City of Kelowna, the vast Okanagan Lake and the mountains bordering West Kelowna and beyond.

The hike back down to the road goes by quite quickly. We arrived to 24-degree Celsius warmth and soaking wet feet and the rest of an afternoon ahead of us. This is a great hike for anyone that wants to get a decent climb in and see the city from a different vantage point. Children may have difficulties if they are not accustomed to a hike like his. Given what we learned about the snow, you may want to wait at least a few more weeks too before giving it a shot.