One of the Slocan Valley’s most popular tourist attractions is going to remain closed until further notice.
“The Idaho Lookout Forest Service Road will remain closed for this field season. There is no alternate route of vehicular access to the trailheads,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has told the Valley Voice.
The spokesperson said FLNRORD has not completed any work on the Idaho Lookout FSR since June of 2020 and the road remains barricaded and closed to the public.
Visitors and locals alike were very disappointed when a violent thunderstorm last May 31 washed out a stretch of the 12-kilometre road to the two trailheads to the lookout, one of the easier-to-access viewpoints in the valley.
Last year, road inspectors said an overwhelmed culvert was plugged and stormwaters swept away the road surface in a number of spots along a half-kilometre segment of the narrow, winding road.
The disaster immediately closed the road for the season, though eventually a mining company working in the area managed to re-open a segment of the service road for its use. The vehicle path to the lookout, however, remains closed while initial assessment work continues.
The May 31, 2020 thunderstorm plugged the culvert inlet and forced the stream flow onto the road surface, scouring the road for approximately 375 meters. — Facebook photo John Matthews
“Selkirk Resource District is currently seeking capital funding to complete the preliminary field assessments from last season. This will determine the best course of action,” the departmental spokesperson said.
“Works this field season will include survey and design of the suitable repair/relocation options and will then follow up with a completed project budget request.”
Loss for tourism
Idaho Peak is one of the most photographed viewpoints in the Arrow Slocan region due to its panoramic views, endless alpine flowers, and an ease of access alpine that is rare to find locally. It is a very popular spot for both residents and visitors to the region.
Located at over 2100 meters, the views offered from both parking locations are stunning.
“This was a place where visitors had opportunity to experience the magnitude of the region’s incredible mountains without a multi-hour hike,” said Megan Chadwick of Arrow Slocan Tourism. “It was certainly a tourism draw and when coupled with a stop in at the ghost town of Sandon, made for a full day adventure that appealed to a wide range of visitors.”
Another tourism official in the Slocan Valley says they receive calls inquiring about the lookout every day during the summer.
“This is a major tourist attraction. Many people come here specifically to do Idaho Peak,” says Melanie Bodry, the New Denver Visitor Centre manager. “I believe the loss of access to this site, coupled with the closures on Galena Trail we had last season, are detrimental to local hot spot hikes. These are by far our most-hiked trails by visitors.”
There are one or two lookouts similar to Idaho Peak in the area, says Bodry, but none have the ease of access for tourists of all ages and physical condition that made Idaho Peak special. And she reminds people to be prepared if they plan to seek out other viewpoints in the valley.
“Many travellers cannot access hikes off of forestry roads due to the rough terrain,” Bodry says. “Last season we saw several stranded tourists on back roads trying to access hikes. It can be really dangerous to send anyone up to these off-road hikes… especially if they’re not equipped to deal with four flat tires!
“Nothing is really comparable to our beloved Idaho Peak.”