Hike to Semaphore Lakes + Waterfall, Pemberton, BC.

June 13, 2015

Trip Report: Ryan and I headed up the Hurley on Friday night and car-camped at the trail head. Goal was to poke up to Semaphore Lakes and beyond.


  • Total distance: ~8.81km
  • Cumulative elevation gain: 460m
  • The hike to the lakes offers quick access to surrounding summits including Locomotive, Tender, Caboose, Handcar, Face, etc.
  • Pros: quick access to alpine, range of scrambles from beginner to advanced levels, water sources along the trail.


To get to the trail head from Pemberton:

  1. Drive through Pemberton and head up the Pemberton Valley via Pemberton Meadows road.
  2.  After ~20km, turn right onto the Lillooet FSR. Reset your odometer here.
  3. At the junction (~8.7km from the start of the Lillooet FSR), turn right onto the Hurley FSR.
  4. Continue up the switchbacks, look down towards the valley for decent views.
  5. The trailhead is located at 22k on left, just after you pass a small trickle/waterfall on the right of the road. There is room in the pullout for 4-5 cars.

Note: The Hurley FSR is 2WD-able and it is in excellent shape. For updated conditions, check out http://isurvivedthehurley.com/


We headed out late on Friday afternoon and arrived at the trailhead for our car-camp.

The next morning, we packed up and started for Semaphore Lakes. Due to Ryan’s recent ankle injury, we were thinking of heading to Semaphore Lakes for lunch, and I would decide if I want to head up Locomotive or poke around the lakes. Not knowing current conditions, I packed microspikes and an iceaxe – though, I was sure the lakes would have little snow by now.

The hike up was easy enough, aside from a few steep sections, as the trail followed a creek outflow from the lakes. Before the meadows, the trail had mud of epic proportions. We were constantly weaving and balancing along the sides and through shrub to avoid stepping into inches of thick, soupy mud. We hit patches of snow right from the start; we hit consistent snow about half way through the meadowy area.

Beyond the meadowy area, the trail crossed the outlet of a large tarn and turned uphill towards the final slope. The snow was soft and compact, microspikes weren’t necessary and this made for easy travel to the lakes, which were just beyond the final slope.

When we arrived to the lake, we found plenty of snow. The open water on the lake may have frozen overnight and was just starting to melt out when we arrived.

I’m on an ‘underwater picture’ kick right now, so we attempted dipping our hands into the frozen lake for some shots – it was way too cold and almost impossible to hold a camera under water for more than a few seconds! We had some difficulty making our way out to the lake, as we could not see the shoreline and could not tell where the shore ended and the lake began. Ryan punched through once or twice and just missed getting freezing cold water into his boots.

Feeling motivated by the views, we decided to keep going and make our way further up the valley towards the peel-off for Locomotive. I would decide there if I want to head up the summit or just hike up a nearby ridge.

As we continued past other small lakes, I picked up the sound of a roaring waterfall.

When we gained sight of the falls, my plans went sideways and we decided to check out the base and see if there’s a way to scramble up. The falls themselves drained from the train glacier and cascaded down an impressive rock wall. The route to the base of the falls was straightforward – over a moraine and across mostly flat terrain until we were closer to the cliff face.

We were able to get across the stream by careful rock hopping and use of solid snow bridges. We walked up towards climbers right of the falls and decided to scramble up a short ways. The rock had good hand and foot holds.

As we turned around to head back down, we noticed a group of 5-6 hikers heading towards Face mountain.

We dropped back down to the Semaphore Lakes valley and found a nice, dry, sheltered spot out of the wind for a break. Ryan had packed up a small lightweight camp chair (while I sat on my pack :P) and lounged as we prepared lunch.

The clouds started rolling in as we packed up and headed back down to the car. We ran into 2 more groups on their way up, 1 for a day trip and 1 for an overnighter, carrying an impressive 24-pack up the trail.

My first impressions of this area: ‘WOW!’ We’ll back back here in Summer to loop the railroad group and further explore hikes along the Hurley.

Hope everyone’s enjoying the weather!


– Ashi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *