I’ve always wanted to camp at Idaho Peak, so a few days ago when smoke from forest fires cleared I decided to go for it. The ease of access to this hike is incredible. You drive up the highway from New Denver in the Slocan Valley and turn off to the old mining town of Sandon. The drive into sub alpine and the short 30-minute walk delivers the stunning view, which is why it’s one of the most popular hikes in the area. Idaho Peak’s view is great from the ground but I wanted an even better vantage point.
I climbed up on the old watch tower and took a look inside. To my surprise, the amenities in the old fire tower were not too bad, except for the limited space. There was a single bed, lots of counter space and even an oven! We weren’t able to get inside as it was locked up but I could imagine a spotter spending their days watching for fires. I bet they loved being able to cook a real meal at 2300m with a 360° view…sounds good to me. The days of fire watch towers are now done as technology has changed the state of firefighting in BC. The legacy still lives on as this fire tower doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.
Idaho Peak’s view is one of the best in the Kootenays and is the reason why a fire watch tower was built there in 1947. The 360° view allowed watchers to spot new fires in the region in the days before satellite and radar imaging. It must have taken a person who was hardened and incredibly patient to constantly scan the horizon and live by themselves. Unfortunately, the original tower was burnt down by vandals in 1999 but it was rebuilt again and still stands today.
It’s always good to see the fire tower at Idaho Peak but we came for the view. My friend Jess and I waited patiently as the sun dipped toward the horizon. Clouds began to move in and we thought that the sunset wouldn’t materialize like we wanted, but it changed for the better very quickly. The sun poked through a break in the clouds and lit up the sky. It was one of the best sunsets I have seen in awhile and made the trip that much more successful. Idaho Peak’s view never disappoints.
I feel fortunate that I live in a place that affords such amazing scenery with few people around. I must pay homage to all those who made this possible. There are the communities that worked hard to build trails, the forest service for opening up access to backcountry areas, the logging companies who built the roads and the fire spotters who spent their time watching for fires. All of them contributed to the recreation infrastructure that we all enjoy today.