Zoa Peak

Weary of the hot weather in the West Kootenays during our recent road trip, Zosia Zgolak and I ventured further west to the Coquihalla Pass region of British Columbia in hopes of finding cooler temperatures.  We also had intentions to stick around for a few days to bag a few easy peaks in the vicinity.  After a lengthy drive which consumed most of the morning of 19 August 2020, we decided to squeeze in a quick afternoon hike up Zoa Peak near Falls Lake.  A well-maintained trail runs all the way up the peak and is described in the guidebook, 103 Hikes in Southwestern British Columbia by Jack Bryceland and David & Mary Macaree.

From Highway 5, take exit 221 65 kilometres south of the junction with Highway 5A/97C or 44 kilometres north of the junction with Highway 3.  If coming from the south (Hope), take the underpass to get to the west side of Highway 5.  Follow the paved Falls Lake Road westward for 1.1 kilometres to a large parking lot.

Ironically, the hot weather Zosia and I were trying to avoid was still present when we set off from the parking lot to hike up Zoa Peak.  After immediately passing the junction with the trail to Falls Lake, we hiked up the road for about another 200 metres before turning left at a signed junction.  This short connector trail leads to a pipeline right-of-way where we turned right and gained about 185 metres of elevation over a distance of 800 metres to yet another signed junction.  Ripe huckleberries were in abundance all along the right-of-way, and it was difficult to resist stopping every few metres or so to stuff our faces.  At the second signed junction, the trail leaves the right-of-way and rises steeply through the forest.  Eventually, the angle of the slope relaxes, and the trees thin out a bit giving way to some pleasant sub-alpine meadows.  The main trail skirts around a false summit before climbing up the final summit block, but surprisingly, it does not go all the way to the top.  Instead, the trail bypasses the true summit and officially ends at a semi-open meadow with some respectable views to the northwest.  We stopped here for a short break before backtracking a bit to find the true summit.

Disappointingly, the true summit is completely covered in trees.  Zosia and I even ascended the false summit on our way out hoping that there would be better views from there, but sadly, the false summit is also a scenic zero.  Perhaps we were a bit spoiled by the far-reaching views we had on all the West Kootenay peaks that we climbed recently, but I felt a bit ripped off by the hike up Zoa Peak.  Even the bountiful sweet huckleberries that we collected on our hike out could not remove the bitter disappointment I felt as we returned to the parking lot.  A refreshing rinse in Fallslake Creek and dinner at a nearby rest stop helped to alleviate my sullen mood a bit.  At the rest stop, we were able to check the weather forecast, and with a rainy front moving into the region, we ironically drove out of the area and headed back east.
Off to a good albeit late start! The trail to Zoa Peak is signed and well-maintained.
We should have scrambled up Thar Peak instead! Thar Peak rises behind Sonny as he hikes up the trail.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Probably easily doubled our round-trip time! There is an overwhelming abundance of ripe huckleberries along the section where the trail follows a pipeline right-of-way.
This first part was steep enough to be a scramble. Zosia leaves the right-of-way and climbs the trail into the forest.
Looks promising at first... The trail eventually breaks out of the forest into sub-alpine meadows.
I thought we were done with the trees! Ahead is the summit block of Zoa Peak.
Turns out this was the best view of the day. A gap between the summit block and the eastern outlier (false summit) grants this view of Yak Peak.
It's okay, but this is not the summit. The official trail ends shortly before this meadow west of the true summit.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Will come back for these two in the future!

Here is a closer look at Vicuna Peak (left) and Guanaco Peak to the northwest.


Looks fun, but there's an easier way to reach the summit. Zosia scrambles up some big blocks to reach the true summit of Zoa Peak.
Worst...summit views...ever! Zosia proudly stands on the viewless summit of Zoa Peak (1861 metres).
Double the disappointment! Zosia retraces her steps along the trail and would head up the false summit at centre.  Unfortunately, the views from there are no better than from the true summit.
It didn't take long to fill up the bag! As a consolation prize, Sonny collects a whole bagful of ripe huckleberries during the hike out.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

No summit views makes this one a dud. Don't do it! Total Distance:  9.4 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  5 hours 44 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  619 metres

GPX Data