The Enderby Cliffs are iconic in the North Okanagan and can’t be missed. Not only can you see the Cliffs for miles around, the panoramic views from the summit are absolutely stunning. When you reach the top, you’ll have a breathtaking view of the valley as it stretches for over 60 km and of the Shuswap River as it twists peacefully through the endless fields. Locals love the Enderby Cliffs hike and it’s a must-do when you’re in the Okanagan.
The Enderby Cliffs is one of our favourite hikes and we try to hike it at least once a year. Even though we’ve hiked it many times, the views never cease to amaze us.
Enderby Cliffs Provincial Park
The Enderby Cliffs were established as a provincial park in 2006 and are an icon of the North Okanagan-Shuswap. The Cliffs tower roughly 1,200 meters above the valley floor and offer breathtaking panoramic views.
The 50-million-year-old lava field that formed the Enderby Cliffs was carved by glaciers and is a sacred area to the local Splatsin First Nations. The hike is known as the Tplaq́in Trail in Secwepemc, the local First Nation language. Tplaq́in means “cliff” and is how they refer to the important geological landmark. The Splatsin First Nation have a rich history in the area and still use it for hunting, gathering wild mushrooms, and to access the mountain beyond (Hunter’s Range).
In 2010, the Splatsin First Nations, BC Parks, and the Shuswap Trail Alliance improved the trail by lessening the grade and reducing erosion. The new trail is easier and offers more vistas but is much longer than the original. The trail is hiking-only and dogs should be kept on leashes, especially at the top near the cliff edges. You’ll hike through lush wilderness, volcanic rock, and fossil sites on your way to the top.
What to expect
Hiking the Enderby Cliffs isn’t for the faint of heart but with enough stubbornness, even someone who doesn’t hike can reach the top. It’s a 14 km round trip and usually takes between 4 to 6 hours. The trail was recently upgraded which removed the difficult parts of the hike and while the trail isn’t often steep, it’s long and rarely flat.
The large parking lot at the trailhead rests in the shadow of the Enderby Cliffs. When you gaze up at it, it’s hard to believe you’ll be at the top in only a few hours. The trail runs parallel to a private driveway and you’ll pass through a fence that marks the park boundaries. After squeezing through the tiny opening, you’ll enter the forest and come to the first reminder of the old trail.
You’ll hike through groves of beautiful birch and aspen that transition into cedar, hemlock, and fir trees and you’ll likely have to climb over fallen trees every once in a while. The trail is well maintained and thanks to kilometer and orange trail markers, you’ll never worry about losing your way.
Between the two and three kilometer markers is the Shrine. Years ago, the Shrine was home to a crucified Jesus statue but it has since been removed. However, there is a bench here and marks the beginning of the numerous switchbacks that will bring you up the mountain. When you come down, the Shrine is a breath of fresh air that lets you know your hike us almost at an end.
The Shuswap Lookout
After leaving behind the Shrine, you’ll begin a steady uphill climb. If you hike in the spring, you’ll be surrounded tiny wildflowers that are just beginning to bloom. Not long after leaving behind the Shrine, you’ll come to the Shuswap Lookout, the first viewpoint.
The Shuswap Lookout is just over 2 km from the trailhead and is a great place to take a break and enjoy the gorgeous view. You’ve gained just over 200 meters and the cars in the parking lot are tiny. The Okanagan Valley stretches before you, dotted with fields and patches of forest. The Shuswap Lookout is nothing more than a break in the trees though and there isn’t much room to sit without blocking the path.
Continuing your hike
After the Shuswap Lookout and just before the three-kilometer marker, you’ll pass by a few huge boulders that are fun to try to climb! Just don’t fall because the hike back down wouldn’t be good.
Small streams occasionally trickle over the trail and you’ll have to carefully navigate the muddy disasters. A few small ponds peak out from the trees and are often full of swarms of mosquitoes. You likely won’t encounter any large animals because the trail is well trafficked, but deer, grizzly bears, moose, and cougars do live in the area. Always bring bear spray and practice bear safety, just in case.
Larch Hills Lookout
The second lookout you’ll reach is the Larch Hills Lookout which is 338 meters above the trail head.
The view from here is phenomenal and is a great place to take a break to refuel. If you sit near the edge, you can enjoy the view, eat your snacks, and let the cool breeze wash over you. This lookout is well-trod and is often the end point for people that don’t want to hike to the summit.
Hiking to the summit
After resting at the Larch Hills Lookout, the trek to the summit is another 3.7 km. The trail continues through the trees, constantly ascending and winding its way up switchbacks. It’s a tiring climb and you’ll likely need to stop for breaks along the way.
The top of the mountain will sneak up on you. One moment you’ll be hiking along the never-ending mountainside trail and the next you’re surrounded by treed meadows with the mountain nowhere to be seen. You haven’t reached the summit yet, but the panoramic views that peek through the trees along the way will give you an extra burst of energy.
The trail comes uncomfortably close to the edge of the Cliffs in some areas and in recent years parts of the trail have tumbled away. Don’t walk near these sections because they’re quite unstable.
You’ll come to various viewpoints before reaching the summit. Our favourite is the first because it sits eye-level with the iconic Enderby Cliffs and offers an amazing view of valley and foot-shaped cliffs.
The Enderby Cliffs summit
When you finally reach the summit, the feeling is indescribable. Somehow, the pain of the last 6.5 km briefly disappears as euphoria takes over. You can see for miles up and down the valley and you feel like you’ve reached the top of the world!
You’ve gained almost 900m of elevation and the views from this height are breathtaking. Cars scurry below like tiny ants, moving about their busy lives. The Shuswap River winds leisurely along the valley floor as it connects Grindrod, Enderby, and Ashton Creek. In the summer, it’s a popular float for locals and tourists. Fields create a gorgeous patchwork quilt and you can watch birds joyride on the updrafts created from the Enderby Cliffs. Enjoy your snacks as you marvel at where your feet have carried you.
Once you’re done enjoying the gorgeous views, you’ll return the same way you came. The trek down is always faster, but be prepared for tired legs.
What to pack
Make sure to pack lots of water! Hydration packs are much better than standard water bottles because you’re able to have a steady stream of water available at all times. Plus, depending on the size of your pack, you can carry liters of water easily on your back.
We always carry bear spray on our hikes. The wilderness is full of wild animals and it’s always more important to be over-prepared than under. In BC, bears, cougars, and other large animals call the mountains home. While our bear spray helps us feel secure when we explore, it’s important to remember that there’s a lot more to bear safety than just carrying bear spray.
Hiking all day can really wear on your feet. It’s important to make sure your feet are prepared because there’s nothing worse than realizing you have a blister at the top of the mountain. Simple blister prevention goes a long way.
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The Enderby Cliffs are one of the most popular, yet difficult, hiking destination in the North Okanagan-Shuswap. It offers spectacular views that you won’t find anywhere else and truly rewards you for your perseverance. While difficult, all ages frequently hike the trail.
It’s one of my absolute favourite hikes that we do year after year!
|Distance||~16km (10mi) return|
|Duration||~4 – 6hrs|
|Notes||The hike is quite strenuous and some sections of the trail come quite close to the edge; keep children well back. Bring plenty of food and water, stay on the designated trails, and be alert for wildlife. There are outhouses at the trailhead, but nowhere else.|