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Hiking to French Mine Near Hedley in British Columbia’s Okanagan

While recently camped at Stemwinder Provincial Park we were searching for a hike in the region. A quick search on AllTrails brought up the Nickelplate French Mine Loop, a 6.3km circular trail near Hedley BC.

We departed Stemwinder early in the day to avoid the heat as best we could and headed east to Hedley. Hedley is a very small community located between Princeton and Keremeos along Highway 3. Hedley has a rich mining history, and from the highway you can see the remains of the old Mascot Gold Mine stretching up the mountainside. Visiting the Mascot Gold Mine has long been on my bucket list, and thanks to an $800,000 grant from the province as part of a COVID relief program, the mine is slated to reopen to visitors in 2023. In the meantime, however, we thought we would head into the backcountry to explore the French Mine.

Access Road to French Mine | Kim Walker

To access the French Mine site, head east past Hedley and turn off on the Hedley Nickel Plate Road after about 3 kilometres. The Nickel Plate Road, sometimes called the Corkscrew Road, is aptly named. As we wound our way up the mountainside, we enjoyed spectacular views of the valley below.

Eventually we reached our designated start point and parked our truck and headed out on foot. We chose to hike to the Lower French Mine site first, which turned out to be a beautiful walk along an old road. As it turned out, the access road to the lower French Mine could probably be considered vehicle accessible. However, I was happy we decided to park the truck and walk in as it gave us the opportunity to really enjoy the views.

Lower French Mine Ore Chute | Kim Walker

When we arrived at the Lower French Mine site we spent some time looking at the old mining infrastructure. An old ore chute and a concentrator are on the main level, and a short walk up a trail just past the concentrator takes hikers to an open shaft that heads back into the mountainside. When we visited, I was shocked by the serious wind tunnel effect when I stood in front of the mineshaft as ice-cold air poured out of the tunnel around me.

Lower French Mine Entrance | Kim Walker

AllTrails indicates that there is a loop hike, and all we needed to do was head uphill and we would come to the Upper French Mine. I 100% do not recommend the scramble between the two mine sites unless you are an experienced scrambler or are part mountain goat. Alas, we did not know this, so as we climbed upwards, I was crossing everything I have that this was the correct trail, and I wouldn’t have to turn around and go back the way we had come up.

Upper French Mine Entrance | Kim Walker

Fortunately for me, after 20 or so tense moments, we re-emerged on level ground, scooted along a couple narrow ledges, jumped down a small cliff, and arrived at the Upper French Mine Site. As it turns out, this site is also vehicle accessible. Seriously – skip the scramble linking the two sites and from the Lower French Mine, just walk back the way you came then drive up to the Upper French Mine and save yourself the stress!

Anyway, at the Upper French Mine I was amazed to discover a massive network of tunnels and mineshafts in the mountainside. These shafts have a completely different feel than the one at the lower mine site. The main entrance is enormous, and shafts branch off in every direction imaginable. We stayed in the enormous central cavern, but I’m sure people more adventurous and better equipped than us could spend a lot of time exploring the area.

Lower French Mine Water Tower | Kim Walker

Since we were parked at the bottom and there was no way I was going back the way we arrived, we returned to our vehicle by hiking out the access road to the Upper French Mine, then down a portion of the Hedley Nickel Plate Road. All in all, our hike was around 7km and took about two hours. Both the Lower and Upper portions of French Mine are worth visiting, but as I have emphasized above, I would do it as two separate trips and not try to link them via the scramble described online.

I am always fascinated by the marks humans leave on the landscape and the French Mine area is a perfect example of this, making it a worthwhile daytrip in the Similkameen area.

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Published: April 13, 2023
Last Updated: April 13, 2023

Kimberly Walker by Kimberly Walker

Kimberly is a Special Education, Elementary School teacher in Hope, BC. Previously having worked ten years at the Hope Visitor Centre & Museum promoting tourism in Hope and British Columbia, Kimberly worked on many local history projects in the museum as well as researching and writing articles for the local newspaper. Kimberly loves travelling with her husband Dale and their dog Alpine. In the fall of 2014, they spent the first 78 days of married life travelling and camping their way across Canada - just the two of them and the dog - travelling in a Hyundai Elantra! Kimberly loves various outdoor recreation types and exploring our beautiful province.