Since 2009, dramatic progress has been made in re-opening this historic fur trail over the Cascades. Hikers and horseback riders can now enjoy a continuous wilderness trail that spans 74-kilometers between Hope and Tulameen, following the same route taken by the HBC horse brigades.

Support the HBC Heritage Trail

Your kind donation will help keep this trail open. It will support volunteer maintenance work, cover equipment expenses and makes matching grants possible. Thank you!

HBC Historic Background

HBC History Flag

These two images represent the shared history of the HBC Trail. Grizzly bear paw: this First Nations image appears at pictograph (rock painting) sites from the Fraser to the Similkameen. It is used here to represent the long-standing traditional use of this area for food gathering and trade. Original flag of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC): established in 1670, the HBC is the oldest private corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world.

BC’s First Link Between Coast and Interior

BC’s First Link Between Coast and Interior

Originally a First Nations route for hunting and trade, the HBC Trail played a key role in British Columbia’s early development. Completed in 1849, the HBC Trail was built by the Hudson’s Bay Company with the help of local First Nations.  They built the trail to link the Fraser River at Fort Hope with Fort Kamloops and other important fur forts farther north to Stuart Lake.  For more than a decade, the HBC’s fur empire in Western North America depended on this trail.

Photo Right: Hundreds of pack animals and men crossed the Cascade Mountains on this trail from 1849 to 1860.  Hudson’s Bay Company “Brigades” were essential for getting valuable furs to world markets, and for re-supplying HBC Forts in the BC Interior and far North.  BC’s early economy developed around this trail and the fur industry it supported.

HBC History Horse Train

Ancient Pathways

The HBC Trail falls within the traditional territory of three First Nations. The Stó:lo, Nlaka’pamux (Thompson), and Similkameen used trails over the Cascade Mountains to gather plants, hunt, and trade with each other. Coastal and Interior groups each had resources the other needed. Coastal villages traded dried salmon, sockeye oil, rare shells, and cedar products. Interior groups traded valuable plants, including tobacco, sage, and Indian hemp — a critical plant for making fishing nets, rope, and clothing. When Hudson’s Bay Company explorers arrived in search of a new fur trade route over the Cascades, they hired First Nations guides to lead them. A respected Similkameen chief named “Blackeye” showed his hunting route over the Tulameen Plateau to A.C. Anderson in 1846, and this became the inspiration for the HBC fur brigade trail of 1849. There was much collaboration between First Nations and European fur traders in the years that followed, and in general, this early relationship was beneficial to both.

A network of mountain trails have enabled First Nations to gather plants and hunt for centuries.  Women used “tumpline baskets” like this to carry berries, bulbs, and medicinal plants from local mountains back to their villages.

HBC History Women used “tumpline baskets” like this to carry berries, bulbs, and medicinal plants from local mountains back to their villages.
HBC History - irst Nations horse packers in the 1890’s.

First Nations horse packers in the 1890’s. Stó:lo, Nlaka’pamux, and Similkameen members worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company along the trail as trappers, cooks, packers, guides, and postal carriers. Many First Nations also traded directly with HBC forts, gaining access to valuable goods such as hunting rifles, cooking pots, and steel tools.

Fur and Politics

HBC History - Alexander Caulfield Anderson was the HBC employee

Alexander Caulfield Anderson was the HBC employee tasked with finding a new trail that would rescue the company’s business in Western North America. He succeeded, thanks to the help of First Nations guides.

The HBC Trail was a product of international politics. In 1846, when Britain and the United States agreed on the 49th parallel as the new international boundary, British fur traders were blocked from using their existing forts on the Columbia River. A new fur trail was desperately needed to bring HBC furs to world markets.

Original HBC Trail Routes Map

Map information courtesy of Charles Hou.

HBC Fort Hope

Fort Hope was established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1848, beside the Stó:lo village of Ts’qó:ls. The new fort would function as the HBC’s key transfer point between mountain fur trails and Fraser River boats. Its name reflected the company’s desperation to replace trade routes lost to the Americans in 1846. This new fort was their best hope.

he original Hudson’s Bay Company Store on Water Street in Hope

The original Hudson’s Bay Company Store on Water Street in Hope.

The “Brigade Trail” of 1849

In the summer of 1848, HBC surveyor Henry Peers and a company of 10 men built the trading post at Fort Hope while also frantically building the “Brigade Trail” from Fort Hope to Fort Kamloops. The trail had to be ready by the spring of 1849, to enable HBC furs from the BC Interior to reach the Coast. The previous year had been a disaster when 70 packhorses perished while trying to negotiate the deadly Fraser Canyon. Peers’ trail was a success, and for the next decade, brigades of up to 400 cattle, pack horses, and men regularly pounded the rugged trail between Otter Lake and Hope.

Photo: HBC brigades typically crossed these mountains during spring and fall. Horses had to contend with rugged terrain and turbulent river crossings.

HBC brigades typically crossed these mountains during spring and fall. Horses had to contend with rugged terrain and turbulent river crossings.

Death on the Trail

HBC History - An overnight camp on the Brigade Trail.

An overnight camp on the Brigade Trail. Camps were typically located a day’s ride (20 miles) apart.

HBC History - A grave along the HBC Trail.

A grave along the HBC Trail. Date and location unknown.

Horses of the HBC Brigades had to cross mountains and rivers with heavy loads. Each horse carried two 90-lb “pieces” containing everything from fur and gold to mail and tools.  Many pack animals died from extreme weather, injury, and physical stress.  In his 1859 account, Lieutenant Palmer of the Royal Engineers describes his horse becoming spooked by the bleached bones of horses that had died by the dozens during an autumn snow storm a few years before. Life was hard on the men too.  Some died on the trail, and the average life expectancy of an HBC employee was 45 years.  Most famously, an HBC Chief Trader named Paul Fraser was killed at Campement du Chevreuil (Deer Camp) when a tree fell on his tent.  The tree had been felled by his own men.  Fraser was widely despised, and historians have speculated that it was no accident.

Decline of the HBC Trail

The Brigade Trail declined in use when better trails were constructed during the 1860’s.  By then, gold fever had eclipsed the fur trade, and routes such as the Dewdney Trail and the Cariboo Wagon Road offered better access to the Interior.  However, the HBC Trail continued to be used for several decades by First Nations, trappers, miners, and hunters.

Photo: Horse brigades were a unique feature of the BC fur trade. While the rest of Canada used canoes to transport furs, BC’s wild rivers often made canoe travel too difficult.

HBC History - Horse brigades were a unique feature of the BC fur trade.
Trail Work Party - HBC Heritage Trail

Trail Work Completed

The HBC (1849) Heritage Trail is now officially open for non-motorized recreation. Ten overnight camps have been completed and regular maintenance of the trail and its facilities will continue in the years ahead.

PHOTOS FROM THE GRAND OPENING, MAY 21-22, 2016. Thanks to Ray Daws and other photographers for the excellent pictures.

Photo: Trail work party

Funding Sources

Funding has come a variety of organizations including:

  • Recreation Sites and Trails BC
  • New Pathways to Gold Society
  • National Trails Coalition
  • Backcountry Horsemen of BC
  • Okanagan-Similkameen Parks Society
  • Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning
  • Similkameen Valley Planning Society
  • Wildcat Helicopters
  • Valley Helicopters
  • Heritage BC
  • Teal-Jones Group
  • Passionate citizens and volunteers
Harley Hatfield - HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: Harley Hatfield

Volunteers

Special thanks must go to the dozens of volunteers who have given hundreds of hours of hard work to improving the HBC Trail for public enjoyment. In particular, Penticton resident Harley Hatfield deserves special recognition for the work he did during the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s to relocate the trail and have it protected from disturbance. Many members of the Okanagan-Similkameen Parks Society have worked on the trail, as well as members of the Okanagan Historical Society. In recent years, trail enthusiast Kelley Cook and the Backcountry Horsemen of BC have restored eastern sections from Horseguard Camp to Palmer’s Pond and approached Hope Mountain Centre to help restore the western sections (Palmer’s Pond to Peers Creek). Many Hope residents and citizens from across the Lower Mainland have joined with Hope Mountain Centre to complete the work begun by Harley Hatfield in the 1960’s. The HBC Trail has captured the imaginations of many people, attracting a team of passionate stewards who will take care of this historic route for years to come.

1973 Volunteers HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: Young and old trail blazers during a work party to re-open the HBC Trail in 1973. Pat Wright, John Hatfield, Harvie Walker, Les Gibbard, Chris Hatfield, Rick Jacobson, Harley Hatfield, Neil Smith, Peter Hatfield, Todd Hatfield, and Eric Jacobson.

Trail Work Party - HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: Trail Work Party

Kiosk Under Construction - HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: Kiosk under construction

Peers Creek Work Party - HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: Peers Creek Work Party

Installing Directional Sign - HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: Installing directional sign

Work Completed To Date

2009

  • Route relocated and flagged with ribbon from Palmer’s Pond to Peers Creek (25 km).
  • GPS mapping from Whatcom Trail to Peers Creek (50 km).
  • Removal of hazard trees, fallen logs, and brush.

2010

  • Directional signs installed at trail and road intersections.
  • Campgrounds, outhouses, and interpretive kiosks constructed at Peers Creek and Sowaqua Creek Trailheads.
  • Kilometre markers installed from Peers Creek to Palmer’s Pond.
  • Heritage Context Study completed, assessing human history and natural values of the trail.
  • Web site enhancements to promote the trail.

2011

  • Kilometre markers installed from Palmer’s Pond to Whatcom Trail Junction.
  • Wildcat Helicopters donated flying time to bring materials to Conglomerate Flats and Campement du Chevreuil, in preparation for new campsite construction.
  • A new foot bridge built over Peers Creek, with staircase and approach trails built by Katimavik volunteers.

2012

  • Construction of three new campsites at Conglomerate Flats, Campement du Chevreuil, and Manson’s Camp. Improvements included tent pads, bear-proof food cache, toilet, fire ring, and benches at each camp.
  • Interpretive kiosks explaining First Nations and European history were installed at historic camps.
  • Directional signs installed at camps and key trail junctions.
  • Debris on Peers Creek Forest Service Road was cleared by contractors and volunteers, allowing for easier passage by hikers, horses, and mountain bikes.
  • Valley Helicopters flies in a (donated) sling load of construction materials to Campement du Chevreuil.

2013

  • Construction of new facilities at Horseguard historic camp, including bear-proof food cache, toilet, fire ring, benches, and interpretive kiosk.
  • Three new foot bridges built — one on Peers Creek FSR and two in the Upper Sowaqua.

2014-2015

  • Clear and flag the trail’s eastern end, connecting the town of Tulameen to Lodestone Lake.
  • Add kilometre markers from Whatcom Trail Junction to Lodestone Lake, and from Lodestone Lake to the eastern trailhead near Tulameen.
  • Build interpretive kiosks at Tulameen and Lodestone Lake.
  • Build new campsites in the Upper Sowaqua, Tulameen Plateau and Olivine Mountain.

Future Years

  • Continue promoting and marketing the trail.
  • Continue improving and maintaining the trail and campsites.
HBC KM Marker - HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: HBC km marker

HBC Directional Sign - HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: HBC Directional Sign

Bear-Proof Food Cache - HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: Bear-Proof Food Cache

Outhouse Construction - HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: Outhouse construction

Trail Work Party - HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: Work party

Picnic Table - HBC Heritage Trail

Photo: Picnic table

Historic kiosk - HBC Historic Trail

Photo: Historic kiosk

Trail Access and Distances

Cross the Cascades on Foot or Horseback

Restoration work has re-opened this historic fur trail and you can cross the Cascades from Hope to Tulameen on a continuous 74-km wilderness route. The trail offers hikers and horseback riders stunning mountain scenery, rolling wildflower meadows, and clear blue tarns. You can still find 160-year-old blazes on the trees and thousands of HBC pack animals have left a visible impression upon the land. Please respect the trail’s non-motorized status and “Heritage Trail” designation.

Heritage Designation

The HBC (1849) Heritage Trail is legally protected by the Province of British Columbia. A 200-metre-wide buffer zone centered on the trail (100 metres on either side) protects most of the route, however some sections east of the Whatcom Trail junction still await protection.

Come Prepared!

The HBC Trail crosses rugged wilderness and you should have previous experience with mountain travel.

  • Very few bridges exist on the trail, so be prepared to cross streams and rivers by wading across, just as the “Brigades” of 1849 did.
  • It is best to travel the trail from July to September, when snowpack is largely melted and streams are running low.
  • The trail route is cleared and marked, but a detailed topographic map and compass are recommended.
  • Bring a water purification system such as tablets or a hand pump.
  • Carry adequate food and first aid.
  • Prepare for changing mountain weather.
  • Tell someone your route and when you plan to return.

Warning to Equestrian Users

Horseback riders should have previous experience with steep mountain terrain. There are steep, slippery sections on both sides of Manson’s Ridge. The trail up the west side of Mount Davis is also very steep in places. The first 6 kms of Peers Creek offers easier terrain, being a deactivated logging road. Jacobson Lake offers the nicest staging area for horses, with corrals and good road access, plus scenic sections of the HBC Trail that are moderate in terms of terrain.

Day Trip or Multi-Day

You can travel the HBC over several days, or in a series of day hikes and overnighters. Several major Forest Service Roads (FSRs) intersect the trail, creating access points along the route.

Hiking out of Deer Camp - HBC Historic Trail

Photo: Hiking out of Deer Camp.

Backpackers on Mount Davis - HBC Historic Trail

Photo: Backpackers on Mount Davis.

Manson's Camp - HBC Historic Trail

Photo: Manson’s Camp.

Peers Creek Access (Western Trailhead)

Just a 10-minute drive east of Hope on Highway-5, take Exit #183 and drive across the Coquihalla river, following the Peers Creek FSR for 1.5 km (gravel) to the parking area. Peers Creek is “kilometre 0”, and there is a bathroom and campsite here. From the trailhead, you can travel 2 km east and find a picnic table and waterfall. At km 6, you’ll find Manson’s Camp with overnight tenting pads, bear-proof food cache, toilet, fire ring, benches, and interpretive kiosk. At km 8, you gain the summit of Manson’s Ridge (walk south along the ridge for stunning views in all directions!). Note that the first 6 km of Peers Creek is deactivated logging road, so you have the option of riding a mountain bike up this road, allowing for a nice “bike and hike” daytrip with a fast ride back to the car.

Download Map

Hikers on Mount Davis - HBC Historic Trail

Photo: Hikers on Mount Davis.

Sowaqua Creek Access

Drive east of Hope on Highway-5 for 20 kms, take Exit #192 and follow the Sowaqua Creek FSR for 20 km (gravel) to the parking area. On your right, you’ll see a red-roofed interpretive kiosk with a bathroom and campsite. Park here, and you can hike the HBC Trail east or west. West leads over Sowaqua Creek (with new pedestrian bridge) and through old-growth forests of the Upper Sowaqua (11 km to Manson’s Ridge). East takes you steeply up Mount Davis to Camp du Chevreuil (Deer Camp), a 4-km hike with spectacular subalpine meadows and views in all directions.

Download Map

Palmer's Pond - HBC Historic Trail

Photo: Backpackers at Palmer’s Pond.

Jacobson Lake Access

Drive east of Hope on Highway-5, take Exit #228 (Britton Creek) and the Tulameen FSR for 50 km (gravel) to Jacobson Lake Camp. Tulameen FSR is well-maintained, but be alert to oncoming logging and mining trucks. At Jacobson Lake, there is a bathroom, horse corral, interpretive kiosk, picnic tables, tenting area, and fire rings. You can travel the HBC Trail in two directions from here — east to Horseguard Camp (11 km) and beyond to the Tulameen Plateau and Lodestone Lake (17 km) or west to Conglomerate Flats (2.5 km), Palmer’s Pond (3.5 km), and Deer Camp (5.5 km).

Download Map

Olivine Camp

Photo: Overnight camp on Olivine Mountain.

Tulameen Traihead

The HBC’s eastern trailhead sits beside the Tulameen River, 5 km west of the town of Tulameen. From here, you can hike to Olivine Camp (9 km), the first overnight stop on the HBC for travellers moving west.

Directions: Drive to the town of Princeton via Highway-3, then take the Coalmont Road from Princeton to the town of Tulameen (19 km).  As you enter Tulameen, look for 2nd Street, turn left, and follow 2nd St. out of town. Come to a Y-junction and stay left. Continue on Tulameen River Road until you see the red-roofed kiosk on the left. Park here. You must access the trail by wading across the river!

Download Map

Trail Distances & Elevation Changes

Total trail distance across the Cascades from Peers Creek trailhead  to Tulameen River trailhead = 74 km

Trail distances and elevation changes between camps in both directions (PDF download)


Quick View:

Peers Creek Trailhead to Manson’s Camp 6.0 km; elev gain 620 m

Manson’s Camp to Colvile Camp 5.0 km; elev gain 500 m, loss 530 m

Colvile Camp to Sowaqua Road Camp 7.75 km; elev gain and loss 100m

Sowaqua Road Camp to Campement du Chevreuil (Deer Camp) 3.75 km; elev gain 725 m

Campement du Chevreuil (Deer Camp) to Conglomerate Flats Camp 3.0 km; elev gain 225 m, loss 200 m

Conglomerate Flats Camp to Jacobson Lake Camp 2.5 km; elev loss 190 m

Jacobson Lake Camp to Horseguard Camp 11.5 km; elev loss 215 m

Horseguard Camp to Blackeye’s Plateau Camp 6.25 km; elev gain 605 m

Blackeye’s Plateau Camp to Lodestone Lake Camp 9.75 km; elev loss 40 m

Lodestone Lake Camp to Olivine Camp 9.5 km; elev gain 200 m, loss 300 m

Olivine Camp to Tulameen River Trailhead 9.0 km; elev loss 900 m

Leave No Trace!

  • Pack out all garbage.
  • Cook with a portable stove and avoid using campfires.
  • Protect bears by never leaving human food scraps behind.
  • Stay on the trail and don’t trample sensitive meadows.
  • Use outhouses when possible, or bury human waste in topsoil at least 100 m from water.
Manson's camp fire ring - HBC Historic Trail

Photo: Manson’s Camp Fire Ring.

Tents at Deer Camp - HBC Historic Trail

Photo: Tents at Deer Camp.

Horseguard Camp - HBC Historic Trail

Photo: Horseguard Camp.

HBC Trail Maps and GPS Data

Day Trip or Multi-Day

You can travel the HBC over several days, or in a series of day hikes and overnighters. Several major Forest Service Roads (FSRs) intersect the trail, creating access points along the route.

Peers Creek Access (western trailhead):

Just a 10-minute drive east of Hope on Highway-5, take Exit #183 and drive across the Coquihalla river, following the Peers Creek FSR for 1.5 km (gravel) to the parking area. Peers Creek is “kilometre 0”, and there is a bathroom and campsite here. From the trailhead, you can travel 2 km east and find a picnic table and waterfall. At km 6, you’ll find Manson’s Camp with overnight tenting pads, bear-proof food cache, toilet, fire ring, benches, and interpretive kiosk. At km 8, you gain the summit of Manson’s Ridge (walk south along the ridge for stunning views in all directions!). Note that the first 6 km of Peers Creek is deactivated logging road, so you have the option of riding a mountain bike up this road, allowing for a nice “bike and hike” daytrip with a fast ride back to the car. Download Map

Sowaqua Creek Access:

Drive east of Hope on Highway-5 for 20 kms, take Exit #192 and follow the Sowaqua Creek FSR for 20 km (gravel) to the parking area. On your right, you’ll see a red-roofed interpretive kiosk with a bathroom and campsite. Park here, and you can hike the HBC Trail east or west. West leads over Sowaqua Creek (with new pedestrian bridge) and through old-growth forests of the Upper Sowaqua (11 km to Manson’s Ridge). East takes you steeply up Mount Davis to Camp du Chevreuil (Deer Camp), a 4-km hike with spectacular subalpine meadows and views in all directions. Download Map

Jacobson Lake Access:

Drive east of Hope on Highway-5, take Exit #228 (Britton Creek) and the Tulameen FSR for 50 km (gravel) to Jacobson Lake Camp. Tulameen FSR is well-maintained, but be alert to oncoming logging and mining trucks. At Jacobson Lake, there is a bathroom, horse corral, interpretive kiosk, picnic tables, tenting area, and fire rings. You can travel the HBC Trail in two directions from here — east to Horseguard Camp (11 km) and beyond to the Tulameen Plateau and Lodestone Lake (17 km) or west to Conglomerate Flats (2.5 km), Palmer’s Pond (3.5 km), and Deer Camp (5.5 km). Download Map

Tulameen Traihead (eastern trailhead)

Drive to the town of Princeton via Highway-3, then take the Coalmont Road from Princeton to the town of Tulameen (19 km). As you enter Tulameen, look for 2nd Street, turn left, and follow 2nd St. out of town. Come to a Y-junction and stay left. Continue on Tulameen River Road until you see the red-roofed kiosk on the left. Park here. You must access the trail by wading across the river! Download Map

Heritage Context Study

The Sto:lo Research and Resource Management Centre, in collaboration with the Upper Similkameen Indian Band, have completed a detailed study of the trail corridor, including First Nations history, European history, and natural history.  The report makes recommendations for the long-term management of the trail and its resources, as required by the BC Heritage Branch. PDF file of Heritage Context Study (74 pages) File size: 27 megabytes

HBC Heritage Trail

Trail Partners Hope Mountain Centre works in collaboration with government, First Nations, NGO’s, private donors, and a team of passionate volunteers to build and maintain local trails.

HBC Partners