The Heather Trail is one of EC Manning’s most popular through-hiking trails. The whole journey is approximately 43km and many choose to backcountry camp 2 or 3 nights along the way.
The easiest route to hike is from north to south because the elevation generally decreases in this direction. As with any through-hike some shuttling is required. For the full experience, one vehicle should park at the start (Blackwall Peak) and other at Cayuse Flats. Warning: Cayuse Flats has been targeted in the past for car break-ins as thieves know there are often cars parked for several days unattended.
There are several designated campgrounds along the route with the first being Buckhorn Camp. This is the most developed camp with 20 or so tent platforms and a group shelter. Due to overwhelming popularity, this campground now requires a reservation through BC Parks. Since it is only an hour hike from the trailhead, some choose to continue on to Kicking Horse Campground (another 8km down the trail). Kicking Horse is the least desirable of the campgrounds but does have several locations to set up tents and a small river to collect water. The next campground is Nicomen Lake, another 10km down the trail. There are only 2 tent pads at Nicomen but the lake and surroundings are scenic.
The Heather Trail officially ends at Nicomen Lake but since this is still in the middle of the wilderness it is necessary to continue on via Grainger Creek Trail to Cayuse Flats. Alternatively, there are other routes north via Hope Pass Trail and Nicomen Lake Trail but these all lead further into the wild. The final campground on the route is Grainger Creek and it is pleasantly located beside a river with a nice fire pit.
The Brother’s Mountains are one of the highlights of the route and a diversion to hike to the summits is highly recommended. First and Second brother mountain requires an approximate 1-2 hour diversion and Third and Forth brother mountains each have their own separate offshoot trails. Third or Forth brother mountains are nice options when staying at Kicking Horse Camp.
Heather trail is not the most rewarding or beautiful through-hike in EC Manning. It feels a bit set back from the real mountains and is generally an arduous walk through meadows and forest with some scenery but always a bit too far away. When compared with other trails in the park, Frosty Mountain and Skyline I + II trails are clear winners.