Kathleen Lake on Knox Mountain is a small, marshy water basin that’s more pond than lake-like. However, just because it doesn’t have the same beauty as Okanagan Lake doesn’t mean it should be overlooked! It’s usually very quiet and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot some of the wildlife who rely on it. You’ll even get to enjoy panoramic views if you explore around the lake.
There are many trails on Knox Mountain, some of which are more well-known than others. Kathleen Lake is visited pretty infrequently; perhaps because it’s still relatively unknown or perhaps because it’s not nearly as majestic as Okanagan Lake. Either way, it makes for a fun afternoon adventure and you’ll likely have the trail to yourself (which is uncommon for Knox Mountain!). Other great trails on Knox Mountain are Lochview and Paul’s Tomb.
5.5 km // 2hrs 15min
Woodwind Entrance // Apex Entrance
Searching for Kathleen Lake
There are numerous entrances to Knox Mountain and the most popular is on Ellis Street. However, to explore Kathleen Lake it’s best to start at either the Knox Mountain Apex parking lot or the Woodwind Entrance in Magic Estates.
The Woodwind Entrance, which is where we usually start, is nothing more than a deer trail that rapidly climbs the mountain. The trail winds through a gorgeous sparsely treed forest and quickly leaves the neighbourhood behind. In late April the hills are covered in yellow Arrowleaf Balsamroot which is Kelowna’s official wildflower.
There are many forks in the trail which can make navigating a little difficult. One such fork gives you the option of ascending to the summit for amazing views or exploring further into the forest. If you decide to go to the summit, a small section of the climb turns into a scramble over rough rocks before presenting you with a large plateau high above the city.
A stunning view of the Okanagan
From the summit, the neighbourhoods below are nestled safely in the mountainside. The Okanagan Valley stretches for as far as the eye can see, from Rutland to downtown Kelowna, all the way to Westside and beyond. Except for a small patch of trees that block your view of northern Okanagan Lake, you can enjoy a beautiful 360° view.
We always enjoy settling onto a rock near the edge of the plateau and drinking in the beauty of the Okanagan. While taking in every tree and every drop of water, we always marvel that this is our backyard. As is common of your home, we sometimes forget to appreciate the beauty of where we live. Moments like these serve as a stark reminder.
Maze of trails
To resume your search for Kathleen Lake, just head back the way you came and take the other fork into the forest. The path branches often, though, so we recommend using a GPS to keep you on track. We used the Trails app to track our progress.
Knox Mountain is a favourite for mountain bikers and you might wander upon a bike path lined with numerous cairns. As a hiker, you should stay off bike trails so that everyone stays safe.
Finding Kathleen Lake
Kathleen Lake is usually marked on maps, so if you consult a GPS you should have no trouble finding it even with all the crisscrossing trails.
Kathleen Lake is a small lake and a geographically isolated open water basin. It has no outlet and is completely surrounded by upland. It’s a very dynamic habitat and is rich in plant and animal life. During the summer, it provides essential water and cool temperatures for the mountain’s wildlife. Many mammals, birds, and reptiles nest and forage around the lake.
As you enjoy the lake, you’ll likely hear a woodpecker high in the trees or watch a deer wander down to the lake. Coyotes and mule deer are known to frequent the area, so always keep your eyes open. The lake is a peaceful, secluded hideaway from the bustling city. Be sure to stick to the paths because the ecosystem is very fragile and dry which makes it highly vulnerable to erosion and deterioration.
Completing your exploration
The trail winds its way around Kathleen Lake, along a large retaining wall, and back into the thinly treed forest. If you’re lucky, the sun will sparkle through the leaves and create a dreamy landscape. There’s a wonderful viewpoint that overlooks Okanagan Lake, too.
The trail eventually meets up with Knox Mountain Drive, which is the road that climbs to the summit of Knox Mountain. The upper half of the road is closed to vehicles early in the year, which makes for an easy climb for hikers and bikers alike. Come mid-April, the road is open to vehicles from 9:30 am – 9:00 pm, Monday to Saturday. On Sundays, it’s open noon to 9:00 pm.
If you don’t want to hike on the pavement, there’s a trail that runs parallel to the road. A sharp curve in the road marks the Woodpark Entrance which will bring you back to the Woodwind Entrance.
Knox Mountain is riddled with trails which will make your hike to Kathleen Lake a “choose your own adventure”. To follow in our footsteps, begin from Woodwind Entrance and make your way over the mountain where you’ll eventually find Kathleen Lake.
A shorter and more direct route starts from the Apex Lookout.