Junction Hill is an ideal shoulder season objective. With a lower elevation, Junction dries out fairly early in the year. However, wind is definitely a factor. I was blown off twice last fall (well, to be accurate, I refused to even leave the car on the second attempt as the wind pushed the car from side to side), so keep an eye on the weather.
Junction Hill is a natural loop. According to Spirko, the ideal rotation is clockwise (hike up west ridge, and come down on the east ridge), however the two groups of hikers we saw were all traveling counter-clockwise. The west side requires some fiddly route finding, and I prefer to do that in the morning when I’m fresh. The descent down the east ridge is straight-forward but absolutely beautiful.
The east facing slopes of the west ridge tend to hold snow that cannot be seen from the road. On an earlier wind-swept attempt, we found deep snow and had to turn back. Even in mid-May, we found one deep section of snow.
Hiking boots, poles and regular daypack kit. If attempting in shoulder season (when the trail is dry), then gators and spikes are a good idea.
Park at the Winter Gates on highway 541/highway 40 south. Head towards the west ridge. Find the old road, and follow that to the end. Gain the ridge, follow a forest path down then up. Follow a forest path to hit the large talus slope. At the top of the talus, gain the open ridge on the left, and follow it to the final summit point. Return the way you came, or better, follow the narrow east ridge down. At the Spirko Spot, descend off the ridge, and walk down through grasslands back to the highway.
Parking and Trail Head
When the winter gates are closed, park on either side of the road. When the gates are open, make an effort to pull off the road. Or, you can park at the Highwood House on the corner and walk over to the trailhead.
Take the prominent trail starting right at the winter gates, heading west. This trail will quickly peter out. Keep your eye on the main west ridge heading to the summit. You can aim for that and head straight up, but the nicer way is to find a narrow ridge prior to the main ridge. This leads to the old exploration road.
The trail is large and obvious on the exploration road.
When you get to the top of this small ridge (shown above), the trail heads down hill to a small saddle. It will then head back uphill, and will continue up until the summit.
If you keep to the main trail on the talus slope, when the rocks end, you will find yourself here. This is a small ridge to get across and over. The other side will magically deliver the final summit trail.
Distance to the summit of Junction Hill is approximately 4.4 km. Time was 2 hours, 25 minutes. Elevation gain is 719 m.
Interestingly, the Junction Hill summit is just a tiny bit of land. We shared the top with Jim, who hiked up the east ridge. There was just enough room for the three of us to stand up there. It is so tight, that when one of us took a 360 degree video, the other two had to walk in a circle behind them to stay out of the shot.
Junction Hill Return
From the summit, you can return the way you came, but the full meal deal is to continue the loop, heading down the east ridge. This is a much more straight-forward route, as the trail is confined to a narrow ridge. What the trail lacks in route finding, it more than compensates in epic beauty. I could have included a dozen photos of this beautiful ridge, but I figured I’d let you discover it all for yourself.
From the summit, go back up the short downclimb. From there, head left (mainly south) to pick up the east ridge. Continue down until you hit the turn off to the right that leads you off the ridge and down into open meadow. From the meadow, keep angling south west, aiming for the Highway 40 / Highway 941 junction.
Junction Hill is an enjoyable hike that has it all. Fun route finding, forests, bare hills, a large rock slope, a very small scree section, a long and stunningly beautiful ridge, and open, grassy slopes. For such a small hike, I am impressed with the varied terrain and views.
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Totals – Tracked on Strava
Date: May 14, 2021 Group: Two (Alisen and Sonya) Distance: 8.5 km Elevation: 719 m (2,373′) Time: 5 hours (includes lunch & breaks)
Some of those photos are just epic. I had no idea. Also, thank you for introducing me to the concept of “shoulder season.”
I wrote that article because it seemed like Shoulder Season was a new concept to all kinds of people. In the past, only seasoned mountain folk were out and about and everyone just knew to stay away during these times. Now? It’s whoever can destroy the trail first.
I remembered specifically a Boy Scout camp my son and I attended in winter. Some of the trails looked exactly like some of the ones in this post. Overused, muddy, puddles of water, and getting wider by the day. I know it wasn’t shoulder season, but it’s a good reminder to maintain trails, even the ones in camps. Next time I have a chance, I will bring up the need to abandon that trail long enough to let it re-establish.
Yes! Once a trail is mud, it will be mud forever more. These mountain trails just don’t get enough of a growing season to get repaired on their own.
I like your idea to rotate trail usage, and allow some trails to go fallow until they dry up, and start growing vegetation again.
Another option is to install stone pavers or wooden walkways on high traffic trails. In Peru, ALL the trails, no matter how remote, have stone paths on either side of the water crossings. This way, no matter how much rain they get, the trail will stay protected and mud free. Good luck with the Boy Scouts camp trails. I sincerely hope you are successful.
Glad to hear that the wind didn’t keep you from reaching the summit this time. The views of the snow capped mountains at the peak looked like they go on forever in your video. I’m with you, I’d rather get the tough terrain out of the way at the start so that the return journey home is easier.
It was actually getting comical how many attempts I had. My hiking buddy’s husband actually asked “why does Alisen keep going back there?” It’s done now and that’s all that matters 🙂
Ha! Gotta love your persistence and dedication. I’m sure it felt so rewarding to (finally) complete this hike after a few failed attempts.
Thanks! I appreciate your adjectives. Insane and stupid could also been used 🙂 🙂 🙂
Wonderful ‘off the beat’ photos and adventures of your hiking, walking, nature trips, bird watching and Junction Hill summit reaching!
Thank you! I love seeing these adventures through other people’s eyes. Glad you enjoyed it!