The Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area is known for its excellent snow conditions from late fall to late spring. It makes it an excellent destination to initiate friends and family to snowshoeing or backcountry skiing. Of all the trails in the area, the Zoa Peak Trail is perhaps the best place to do it. This outing takes you on a quick snowshoe up a mountain that offers fantastic views and winter scenery.
The hike starts at exit 221 on BC-5, about 35 minutes north of Hope. Parking is available along the exit on the north side of BC-5. In summer, there’s a parking area on a dirt road, but it’s not usable in winter, which adds 2 kilometers to the round trip distance.
The trail first goes to the Falls Lake summer trailhead on a snow-covered road for 1 kilometer. It then goes up a hill to the left, ascending another snow-covered old road for 1 kilometer, gaining 250 meters of elevation. Turn around once in a while to enjoy the great views of the mountains south of the highway, including Needle Peak and Coquihalla Mountain.
After following the old road for 1 kilometer, a trail identified by orange flagging goes left into the forest. The trail has occasional flags, but it should be easy to follow due to traffic and terrain. It ascends 250 meters over 2 kilometers to the false summit at 1,828 meters. From there the views are excellent, especially of the north face of Yak Peak. This can be the end of the outing for those who are tired.
To continue to the true summit (1,869 meters), retrace your steps about 100 meters and then head west. This section sees less traffic in winter, so trail breaking may be necessary. From there, descend 50 meters to the col and ascend 70 meters over a total one-way distance of about 800 meters. The col is in a possible avalanche zone, so be careful.
Whether you stop at the false summit or continue on to the true summit, this will feel like a winter wonderland, with beautiful trees covered by a pristine snow. You will score many nice views of the surrounding peaks, most notably of Needle Peak, Thar Peak, Nak Peak and Yak Peak, all of which are avery photogenic mountains. If this doesn’t convert winter-sceptics, nothing will!
Return to the parking are via the same trail. To add some winter goodness, consider a side-trip to Falls Lake. It adds 2 kilometers round trip from the summer trailhead with minimal elevation gain. The lake is snow-covered in winter, but the view is nice, especially of the north face of Thar Peak.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.