Sunflower Hill is located just west of Kimberley and Marysville in the East Kootenays of British Columbia. It is in the southern portion of the Kimberley Nature Park, an 800 hectare (1975 acre) forested piece of land adjacent to Kimberley and within its city limits. Hiking to the top of Sunflower Hill is not difficult in any sense, but I have chosen to post it because of its great views and its function as one of several entry points into the Kimberley Nature Park. Kimberley and Sunflower Hill are situated in the southern Purcell Mountain Range.
The hill aptly takes its name from the yearly explosion of Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) that grows on its exposed southern slopes each April and May. The southern exposure combined with the lower elevation supports a bunchgrass and ponderosa pine ecosystem. Historically, the ecology of the area was significantly dictated by fire. As with most places, fire suppression has interfered with this natural cycle. In light of this, several prescribed burns have been conducted in the area, including on Sunflower Hill.
Sunflower Hill Presribed Burns (click on April 2008 link)
The landscape of the area was largely shaped by glaciers coming down both the Rocky Mountain Trench and the St. Mary River Valley. It really is a wonderful area to explore. Sunflower Hill is most easily accessed from St. Mary's Lake Road. As the name suggests, this road leads on to St. Mary Lake, but can also can provide access to Mary Ann Falls, Alki Creek and Murphy Pass, Meachen Creek Falls, White Boar Lake, the Hourglass Lakes, Haystack Lake, Mount Evans, Gray Creek Pass and the West Kootenays, Hall Lake, St. Mary's Alpine Provincial Park, and the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. Many of these are accessed using roads adjoining with St. Mary's Lake Road and aren't found further down the road from Sunflower Hill.
As one hikes up Sunflower Hill, they are treated to incredible views down the St. Mary River Valley to the west and across the Rocky Mountain Trench to the east. Across the trench, you can see the Hughes Range of the Rocky Mountains with Mount Fisher (more commonly referred to as Fisher Peak) towering above it. One might expect even better views upon reaching the top, but instead you find a treed plateau for a summit. Take in the scenery while hiking up! The trail through these trees at the top is still very picturesque in any season and leads on to connect to Duck Pond Trail and Jimmy Russell Road, from which one can carry on into any other part of the park.
Kimberley Nature Park
With a size of 800 hectares (1975 acres), the Kimberley Nature Park is one of the largest municipal parks to be found in Canada. Trails access nearly every section of the park and are perfect for hiking, biking, skiing, and snowshoeing. The trails are used quite extensively all year round. In addition to Sunflower Hill, the park also is home to Myrtle Mountain, Bump Mountain, and Bear Mountain. To the north, the park adjoins with the Kimberley Nordic Club trails and to the west the park is adjacent to Horse Barn Valley. Trails connect the park to these two other areas. Dipper Lake, in the western section of the park is one of the more popular destinations to go to.
The Kimberley Nature Park Society does an amazing job in maintaining the trails and signs within the park as well as organizing various events and outings throughout the year. Maps of the park can be purchased for $5 in Kimberley.
Some interesting information regarding the park can be found in these links:
Flora & Fauna of the Park
Trees of the Park
Geology of the Park
Getting There, Route
Sunflower Hill is most commonly accessed from taking Saint Mary's Lake Road west from Highway 95A, just north of Marysville. There is a turnoff approximately 2.2 km (1.3 miles) down Saint Mary's Lake Road on the right hand side, or you can carry on approximately another 0.5 km (0.3 miles) and park by the Kimberley Riverside Campground on the south (left) side of the road. From here, you simply access the trail on the opposite side of the road.
From the turnoff at the 2.2 km mark, simply walk up the trail and turn right onto the double tracked Sunflower Hill Trail, which will take you up to the top and beyond into the park. From the campground, follow the trail that begins on the other side of the road until you reach its intersection with Jimmy Russell Road. Turn right on Jimmy Russell Road and follow it for approximately 300 m (0.2 miles) to where there will be the first of two trails leading left onto the Sunflower Hill Trail. After following Sunflower Hill Trail to the top, you can continue on and eventually reach a junction with the Duck Pond Trail. If you turn left (south) here and then turn left (east) upon reaching Jimmy Russell Road, you can make a loop of the outing which is about 3.5 km (2.2 miles) long. From Saint Mary's Lake Road, it is a mere 115m (375 feet) elevation gain to the top.
Although these are the simplest ways to access Sunflower Hill, it can also be reached from hiking in from park trails to the north.
When to Hike
Sunflower Hill is hiked at any time of the year. The Kimberley Nature Park is used extensively all year round.
Environment Canada Weather Forecast
Kimberley Riverside Campground
Nearby towns include Cranbrook, Kimberley, and Marysville. All have several options for accomodations.
Kimberley Nature Park
Columbia Valley Information