View from the top of Montrose Antenna Trail. Photo: Jonny Regnier

View from the top of Montrose Antenna Trail. Photo: Jonny Regnier

COVID inspires record number of hikes up West Kootenay trail

A popular hike up Montrose trail grows in popularity during pandemic year

The best view comes after a hard climb, and the hike up Montrose’s Flag Pole and Antenna Trail definitely offers that.

Since 2013, over 23,000 climbers have signed the guest book at the top of the 1,000 foot hike, and for the exact total just ask Kootenay Columbia Trail Society members Art Benzer and Gord McAlpine.

The two Montrose men know this because they have helped maintain the trail since its development in 2004 and painstakingly tabulated the monthly sign-in account. As of Mar. 13 the number was 23,705.

“We’re up to over 23,000 and counting with this year,” said McAlpine. “And you can see it’s increasing month to month. It’s mostly repetition, but basically it gives everybody an activity, and the people that do do it, they bring friends and it just carries on from there.”

When COVID hit in 2020, travel restrictions were implemented and indoor activities curtailed, so more people started recreating outdoors. The trails were actually busier in 2020, with 2,528 signatures, than any other year.

“We had more hikers this year, but there were more local,” said Benzer. “So that part has been very good. I’ve been up a few times, and people have been very good along the trail. Everybody moves off the trail when you pass by, so it’s been really good.”

The trail caretakers decided to put the sign-in book at the top of the trail, after meeting up with some hikers from New Zealand that told Benzer: “‘In New Zealand, when we climb a mountain, we tell the world we’ve climbed a mountain,’ so how can we tell people that?”

Many hikers comment on the beautiful view, the weather, or celebrating an occasion, while others like Larry Plummer include the time it took to make the ascent and the number of times he has completed it. In Plummer’s case, he set a personal goal of 1,000 trips, and according to the book was at 578 and counting as of Mar. 17.

To date, the trail has welcomed hikers from every province and territory, as well as several U.S. states. Visitors from Europe include the countries of England, Italy, Ireland, France, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Russia, Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain, and Wales, not to mention those from Mexico, Belize, Bermuda, Columbia, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia, Palestine, Australia, China, New Zealand, Turkey, Israel, India, Uganda and the Philippines.

Originally built in the 1950’s to access television towers, the trail has since grown and developed into a wonderful loop trail with spectacular views of the Beaver and Columbia Valleys, as well as the Seven Summits towering above Rossland.

“The best thing about it is the view,” said McAlpine. “You get a 270-degree view that is absolutely amazing.”

The trail has numerous benches, so hikers can rest along the way and tackle the trail at a comfortable pace. In addition, a number of interpretative signs map out the view in front of you with information on the respective mountains, and Columbia River valley.

The main trailhead is located near 5th St. in the Village of Montrose, with interpretive signs of the flora and fauna, and two large maps of the trails. Just point yourself in the right direction and climb.

Read: Montrose man makes daily trek up Antenna Trail

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