If you’re looking for an adventure with rewarding views at top, look no further than the Sam McGee trail near Conrad Campground past Carcross. This trail goes from roadside to alpine following the tram line of a silver mine from the early 1900s.
To find the trailhead from Whitehorse, take the South Klondike Highway towards Fraser. Past Carcross, keep your eyes open for the Conrad Campground sign. Just after the campground there is a gravel road on the left side of the highway before the road bends right. You can park on this gravel pit road.
From the makeshift parking lot, walk back to the highway and cross the road into the ditch on the other side. Follow the bottom of the ditch to the right and you will soon see a trailhead sign on your left going into the trees. The Trailhead sign says Mountain Hero – this is a bike trail that goes all the way over Montana Mountain and can also be accessed up Montana Mountain Road in Carcross as well.
The trail is well-trodden and easy to follow. Your hike begins winding through the forest alongside the old mining tram line, the first structure of which you will walk under while still in the trees. There are a few spots later on where the trail splits but the main trail is fairly obvious the whole way.
As you continue up, the trail incline increases, but it is solid footing. As long as you are moving your feet, you are making progress.
There are three milestones I count as I go. The first is a spot right on the trail where the trees open up, offering a peek of the valley below. There’s a lovely wooden bench to sit on while you take a minute to regroup before continuing upward.
The second milestone as you continue on is less obvious but similarly marked by less trees. A ways up from milestone one, you will notice as the trail takes a sharp right turn there’s a bit of a clearing you can see through trees if you were to continue walking straight ahead. If you venture off the trail towards the sparse coniferous trees you step out onto a cliff that has great views of the valley and the far corner of Tagish Lake below you so you can mark your progress while you take a breath.
Finally, the third milestone is when you hit the tree line you can see another mining tram tower still standing above you. From this tower above the trees, you can explore in any direction continuing further upwards to see more remnants from active mining days. The trail into the Alpine is steep but achievable. If you continue to climb up further, the view of the valley and Tagish Lake become less striking the further up you get as the ridges of the mountain begin to block some of the view.
If you’re feeling ambitious, as mentioned before, you can stay on the Mountain Hero trail as it does continue along the mountain top, eventually leading you through the alpine to the other side of Montana Mountain. Please note this trail doesn’t loop, it’s one side to the other, so if you do want to hike across you may want to leave a vehicle on the other side, or you’ll be staring down a long walk back.
Overall, the trail is totally worth it – stunning views, good workout without feeling intimidating (no rock climbing or shale to scramble over) and it’s doable year-round. Though, we learned the hard way last winter that you will definitely want snowshoes for the last bit up to the alpine in the winter months.