When – Saturday, August 18, 2013, 9:30 am
Distance – 5.5 kilometer loop.
Difficulty – Advanced.
Quick Impressions – A short but very challenging trail, climbing almost 500 meters over the first 2 kilometers. It’s a tough initial climb, but the summit of Carrot Mountain offers spectacular views of Mount Boucherie, West Kelowna and South Central Okanagan Lake. Budget more time than you think you would normally need.
Kid Friendly? – No. The trail is too steep, with a number natural hazards, including shale rock and steep embankments.
Animal sightings – Very little animal life, although I did see a black, white and red woodpecker and a hawk.
Traffic – None. I did not come across anybody else on the trail.
What to Pack – A day pack with plenty of water, a snack, and a cell phone. This trail is not sneaker friendly, so bring a good pair of hiking boots. I also highly recommend walking poles on this one, and I would bring a small first aid kit.
Hazards – Very steep in places, both ascending and descending. Shale rock in part makes for uneven and sliding footing. Very little or no traffic, so if there is an injury, there may be no one to help. I do note that there was cell phone coverage during the entire hike. While I hiked this trail alone, I recommend company.
Getting there – The trail head to Carrot Mountain is located in the subdivision of Shannon Woods, in West Kelowna. Travel time from downtown Kelowna is approximately 20 minutes. Arriving at the trail head can be a little bit tricky for first time hikers of the Carrot Mountain trail. I strongly recommend printing directions.
The trail begins at the top of the Shannon Heights Place Cul-de-sac. There is a small parking area next to a gate. From here, the trail begins just inside of the gate and to the right. The trail immediately begins to take on elevation and climbs quite steeply.
After about 150 meters, you will come to a water reservoir. The trail snakes alongside the reservoir, and eventually right on top of it. The first time I hiked the Carrot Mountain trail this confused me, as the trail is not visible on the other side of the reservoir. Walk across, and you should easily find it.
On the west side of the reservoir the Carrot trail begins in earnest. My initial impression was that the trail was somewhat overgrown with underbrush. However, it was still easily identifiable and easy to follow. When I hiked this trail in the spring, I noted that it followed a fairly lively creek and included a number of water crossings. This was not the case this time around, as the creek was almost entirely dry.
At approximately 1.1 kilometers into the hike we come across a waterfall. During the spring run-off past May these falls were quite the spectacle. This time around, however, they are little more than a trickle. Regardless, there was an abundance of bird and insects gathering at this water source, allowing for interesting viewing.
Shortly after the waterfall, we get our first view of West Kelowna and Lake Okanagan. From this point, the trail zigzags steeply up the mountain side. At this time, the trail turns to a loose shale rock in some spots.
1.5 kilometers into the hike there is a fork in the path. The right path leads up a very steep dirt trail which will require some scrambling. I prefer to take the trail to the left, however, as this will lead to a creative set of steps someone has cut into a fallen log. The trails reunite at the top of the log.
Approximately 1.7 kilometers into the hike, the steep climb begins to slow. At the higher elevation, the forest thins with far less underbrush. There are numerous outstanding look-outs over the valley.
We come to the summit at approximately 2.1 kilometers into the hike. This took me approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes, although I would have climbed approximately 500 meters over this time. At the summit there are a number of signs of activity, including inukshuks and a Canadian flag standing proudly. Many people decide to turn around at this point and to follow the trail back down to the parking area.
At the summit, I had a quick water break to take in the views and to rest my pounding heart rate. I then continued hiking over the spine of the mountain summit, continuing along the Carrot Mountain loop trail. At the apex of the mountain, there is little vegetation and the trail is far less visible. Fortunately, someone has tied orange or red survey tape along the trail to mark the way.
We walk on the summit for approximately 0.5 kilometers before we notice the trail starting to make its descent. The trail eventually moves from mountain top rocks and mosses and returns to forest. At 2.7 kilometers, we come across one of the only views we have over the city of Kelowna.
3.3 kilometers into the hike, the trail becomes somewhat difficult to follow. The path is heavy shale and very loose. There are, thankfully, flags of survey tape tied to tree branches, and sometimes this is the only indication of where the trail is. The shale rock also presents for difficult footing, and is a clear natural hazard.
Because the trail is less well-marked on the second half, it is important to keep a close eye on the survey tape markers. There are moments where the trail seems to disappear. At these times, take a few steps back and look for your marker. There are other times where the trail appears to make a very steep descent, almost to the point of being dangerous. If it seems dangerous, it’s probably not the trail, and more likely a rock slide. Again, take a step back, find your marker, and carry on cautiously.
At the 4.9 kilometer mark, we are arriving at the base of the mountain. At this point, the trail arrives at a “T” intersection, with another trail heading north. To complete the loop, however, we turn south towards Shannon Woods subdivision. At this point we are walking on an elevated trail, which continues 350 meters back to the main road.
Eventually, the trail meets up with Shannon Heights Road again, although we are approximately 300 meters down the road from where the car was parked. A short walk up the road and the loop is complete.