June 2022 Vancouver Hike of the Month: Kw’okw’echíwel Stl’áleqem (Dragon’s Back) Trail

View from the Dragon's Back Trail in Hope

Photo: Mike Garson/All Trails

This year, snow is lingering in the mountains so it’s a good time to tackle a lower elevation hike. The new Kw’okw’echíwel Stl’áleqem (Dragon’s Back) Trail near Hope has incredible views, Indigenous culture, old-growth forest, and huge boulders to explore.


Trail Info: Moderate, 5.8 km round trip, 3-4 hours, 437 m elevation gain.

Safety First: AdventureSmart recommends bringing a backpack with essential safety and first aid gear on every hike. Check the forecast and pack extra clothing for the weather. Leave a trip plan so someone knows where you are going and when you will be back.

Getting There: From Vancouver, take Highway 1 east. Take exit 168 onto Flood Hope Road. Two minutes later, turn right onto Silver Skagit Road. About 1 km later, turn onto a gravel road on your right. It ends in a large parking lot.

History and Indigenous Context: This trail climbs a hill that locals call Dragon’s Back since it looks like a sleeping dragon. When the volunteers from the Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning planned the trail, they worked with the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre and decided the best name for the trail was Kw’okw’echíwel Stl’áleqem, which means “Lookout of the Two-Headed Serpent” in Halq’eméylem. Stó:lō hunters and travellers used this hill as a safety lookout to help guard their villages below on the river. The Hope Mountain Centre built the current trail in 2019 and it opened to the public in 2020. Stó:lō archaeologists, a Stó:lō artist, and the Hope Mountain Centre are working together to develop interpretive signs with information about Indigenous culture and history along the trail.

The Trail: The hike is well-marked and easy to follow, with signs at junctions and points of interest. This trail map shows the route. The trail climbs fairly steeply in places but has a few flatter sections where you can catch your breath.

Find the trailhead at the end of the parking lot next to a large info sign. Follow the trail for a few minutes, then take a small path to the right to discover a fun rope swing. Back on the main trail, continue for a few minutes to another trail sign. Follow the trail as it begins to climb, sometimes with the aid of wooden staircases or stairs made of natural rocks. Watch for a small waterfall as you cross the bridge.

A wooden bridge and stairs on the Dragon's Back Trail in Hope, BC

Photo: Hope Mountain Centre

About 1 km from the start, reach a viewpoint where you can look across the valley to Hope Mountain and Wells Peak. A few minutes later you’ll pass Tent Rock, one of many boulders left behind by retreating glaciers. Shortly after that, arrive at a viewpoint of Silver Creek as it empties into the Fraser River. Next, pass through Stone Garden, an area with lots of huge boulders. Take a minute to explore the nooks and crannies, but please don’t climb on the rocks as they have cultural and historical significance.

A child explores the Stone Garden along the Dragon's Back Trail in Hope

Photo: Hope Mountain Centre

Reach a junction about 2 km from the trailhead. This is the start of the loop section of the trail. Turn right to climb towards the summit. In a few places, fixed ropes make your ascent easier. Take time to admire the beautiful forest in this section which includes lots of moss and some large old-growth Western Red cedar and Douglas fir trees. The summit viewpoints have beautiful views south down Silverhope Creek towards the American border as well as east to the town of Hope and the mountains behind it. Use care at the viewpoints as there cliffs below.

View from the Summit on the Dragon's Back Trail

Photo: Hope Mountain Centre

Continue along the trail to reach the West Lookout, which has a great view of the Fraser River. Stay on the trail to return to the junction and retrace your steps back to the trailhead below.

View from West Lookout on the Dragon's Back Trail in Hope

Photo: Hope Mountain Centre

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