Mount Swansea is located in the Columbia Valley, overlooking the Upper Columbia River, Lake Windermere, the Columbia Wetlands and the town of Invermere.
At an altitude of 1,727 m (5665 ft), it’s a mere bump compared to the towering Canadian Rocky Mountains in the distance. Mount Swansea is just high enough, however, to provide outdoor enthusiasts with a 750 m elevation gain for lots of challenges. There are unbelievably great rewards just waiting at the summit too.
You don’t have to be an experienced hiker to see the 360˚ view, though. If you can get to the top parking area, you can hike to the summit of Mount Swansea in only 15 minutes! Here’s 3 really great videos about Mount Swansea!
Yesterday and Today
Mount Swansea wasn’t always known by its present name. In 1801, it was known to all as Windermere Mountain. The initial trail was constructed to reach a copper mine at the summit. In the first year, pack-horses carried 50 tons of copper ore down the mountainside in ordinary pack loads. From the Salmon Beds in Athalmer (lower Invermere), the ore was shipped by barge to Golden, then on to Vancouver by train and across the ocean to Wales, where it was concentrated and sold, bringing a tidy profit to the owners of the mine.
In 1891, one of the mine’s owners named the location Mount Swansea since supposedly, the original name given by the Vikings to Wales was Sweyne’s Eye. True or not, it makes for a good story and it kind of also makes some sense.
In 1924, the BC Forest Service established the mountain as a fire look-out. In 1952, they constructed a look-out hut filled with the latest fire-detecting equipment and a metallic telephone line that was strung on trees along the old pack trail. The look-out person kept records of sky conditions, wind direction, velocity and humidity. He then sent the information each day to the local forest service by telephone (later by radio).
In 1992, the BC Forest Service disbanded the site as a fire station and removed the hut.
Today Mount Swansea is a favorite spot for hikers and mountain bikers. Because of the spectacular thermals, the mountain is also an internationally-renowned location for hang-gliding and para-gliding. For the past 40 years, it has been the launch pad for the annual Lakeside Event, the longest running light aviation meet in the world.
Those who reach the mountain’s summit are rewarded with an indescribable panoramic view of the Columbia Valley, 1000 m below. You will see the Columbia Wetlands and Invermere to the west. In the east is the Stanford Range, of which Mount Swansea is a part, and further in the distance, the wild peaks of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. If you are one of those hardy folks determined to reach the summit, bring a snack with you in your backpack – you will also find a picnic table and toilet at the summit.
Mount Swansea is also a great place to view the fireworks display at midnight on Canada Day; however, camping is not permitted.
The trails on Mount Swansea are operated by the Summit Trail Makers Society.
There is a network of 7 trails on the mountain. Some are single-use and others are shared between hikers and bikers. For the best views of the valley, many hikers recommend that you veer to the left whenever you come to a fork in the trail, thereby keeping to the west ridge.
- Dirty Monkey – 3.5 km (Advanced to Expert)
- Booty Call – 1.2 km (Advanced)
- Steeps – 970 m (Advanced)
- Hula Girl – 1.7 km (Intermediate)
- Gravy Train – 1.4 km (Advanced)
- Autobahn – 540 m (Advanced)
- Meat Grinder – 340 m (Intermediate)
We will be adding more detailed information about these hikes soon. For now you can learn more about each of the trails on Mount Swansea by clicking here.
Not far from the upper parking area, there are the remains of that long ago copper mine. It’s hidden in plain sight, so to speak, and countless hikers have missed this treasure over the years. The mine is safe enough for children and most kids find that exploring the two tunnels is fun and exciting.
The secret gets even bigger, though, for deep within this ancient mine there is a Geocache. If you are a geocacher, here’s what you’ll need to do.
- If you have a high clearance 4WD vehicle, you can drive the rough road to the upper parking area and proceed on foot but if you don’t, you would be wise to park at the trailhead parking area and hike the trail.
- The trail down to the mine’s entrance starts at N50 30.503 W115 57.026 (it’s a little bit down the road from the parking area and well marked)
Note: You will need a headlamp or a powerful flashlight to find the Geocache. The light on your cell phone won’t be enough. And the caves are pretty chilly, so grab a sweater before you head out.
Getting to the trailhead [N50 28.967 W115 57.062] is about a 20 minute drive from Invermere. Travel south from the Invermere crossroads on Highway 93/95 approximately 2.7 km to the Windermere Loop Road (just past the Valley Alley Bowling sign).
Turn left at Windermere Loop Road and continue until you reach Mount Swansea Forest Service Road. Just moments later, you will find the parking area and marker for the trailhead.