Gorman Lake: Golden BC’s signature hike

Gorman Lake is one of Golden BC’s defining local hikes. It’s also a bit of a metaphor for Golden living; fantastic for families and spectacular in so many ways. It’s just navigating the darn access road getting there....

The first time we made our way to Gorman Lake to hike, bumping along in an old truck with near bald tires, we turned around before we even made it to the trailhead. The access road, a 45 minute, 16 km gruel of a drive up a dilapidated old forest service road, which in some spots hugs close to the edge of a high cliff, was decidedly unnerving -- especially when we faced oncoming traffic right at the cliff part. There is, of course, only a single lane of access ‘road.’ Yes, the journey to the trailhead fully lives up to its goldenhikes.ca ‘moderate difficulty but rough’ access rating.

Hiking at Gorman Lake abarrettphotography.com

Hiking to Gorman Lake abarrettphotography.com

And to think it used to be worse. Reading the history of the access road on goldenhikes.ca reveals that community efforts have gone into making improvements and to keeping the access passable over the years. It seems we are once again at a point where improvements are needed, especially for those last few kilometers, which includes the cliff-hugging bit I dislike so much.

A local family at Gorman Lake. abarrettphotography.com

A local family at Gorman Lake. abarrettphotography.com

That said, our excursions to Gorman Lake since that first aborted attempt have all been successful, as we are now armed with the knowledge of what to expect and have a decidedly more trustworthy truck in which to undertake the journey. When we headed out the other day, a gorgeous Sunday in early July, we made it to the trailhead in 40 minutes without incident. Well, other than the dog throwing up. It seems she enjoys the drive about as much as the rest of us. Maybe next time we’ll try the road by quad (parking, of course, at the trailhead).

Once the journey to the trailhead is out of the way, the actual hike is another story altogether. It’s lovely; not too hard, and with stunning views. The terrain is nicely varied – including a boulder field you have to cross over (look for the cairns to find the easy path through the boulders) – but simple enough to be navigable for hikers of all abilities. It’s just long enough for an enjoyable family day (especially if you have surly teenagers like we do), being a manageable 3.5 kilometers to the lake with just under 300 meters of elevation gain.

Gorman Lake in July

Gorman Lake in July

We like to give ourselves about 5 hours for the whole excursion. This includes the time it takes to get to and from the trailhead, to do the hike itself, and to enjoy some time at the lake -- picnicking, fishing, and just taking in the mountain beauty.

Fishing at Gorman Lake

Fishing at Gorman Lake

Despite the challenge of the access road, we always see a number of other people on the trail. When we hiked it last, there were two other vehicles in the parking area when we arrived, four or five others when we left. In fact, I feel like there is just the right amount of people on the trail – not so many that it reduces the specialness of the experience, but enough to know that the trail is being steadily used and enjoyed.

Which brings me back to the metaphor thought.

Golden is a spectacular place, but its a bit of a diamond in the rough. The splendor of this place isn't obvious to everyone just by looking at it on the surface. Yes, the Gorman Lake trailhead needs improving, just as our empty store fronts need populating. But at the same time, one of the things that characterizes the culture of this place is a sense of pride in the fact that reaping the amazing benefits of living here – the strong sense of community, the world class outdoor lifestyle, the easygoing pace and snob-free character of the place – means living with some rough edges.

Its kinda like an 'earn your turns' philosophy writ large.

Because at the end of the day, we have all chosen to live here because we love it. Exactly as it is. Rough edges and all.

Family hike to Gorman Lake

Family hike to Gorman Lake


For more information about hiking trails in and around Golden BC, check out the following:

  • Goldenhikes.ca provides a comprehensive list of hikes in all directions of Golden BC, including detailed descriptions of the trails and how to access them.

  • Tourism Golden recently put out a hiking trails map. Download a copy of the Golden BC hiking map or pick one up at the Visitor’s Centre or many other locations around town.

  • Hikescanada.com is a project of Ken Chilibeck, one of the owners of the gorgeous Vagabond Lodge up at the ski hill. We stayed there our first time skiing at the resort. It was an amazing first impression! So great, in fact, that five years later we moved to Golden BC to live full time. Ken’s blog as well as the hikescanada.com site has information on all kinds of great hikes in the area, including Gorman Lake. His posts include lots of photos and YouTube videos too.

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