Giant's Head Mountain
Elevation: 845 m
Elevation Gain: 350 m
Giant’s Head Mountain was named for its profile which resembles that of a face when viewed from the southeast. The peak, which stands some 500 m above Okanagan Lake, is the remnant of an ancient volcano which was shattered in a large eruption about 50 million years ago. This event produced a variety of “lava bombs” which can be found strewn about nearby. The town of Summerland, BC at the base of Giant’s Head Mountain resides in what remains of the ancient volcano’s caldera. This volcano is now long extinct and in the many years since the catastrophic eruption which produced Giant’s Head Mountain, repeated cycles of glacial erosion of significantly altered the shape of the peak and the Okanagan Valley surrounding it.
July 23 2015.
With a baby (very much) on the way, Brianne and I decided to escape to the Okanagan for one last vacation while we were still DINKs. As we left “Tornado Alley” behind us, we succumbed to the relaxing powers of our lakefront campsite. Of course, I soon grew restless with all of this R&R and suggested that we explore some of the local topography. To her credit, my mommy goat agreed to explore the hillsides with me despite the heat and her “condition.” After a relaxing first night of vacation, we got off to an alpine start the next morning (because someone forgot to set his watch to Pacific Time - whoops) and were soon searching the streets of nearby Summerland, BC for a mountain to climb!
Found my mountain! Giant’s Head Mountain is a Summerland landmark that’s obvious from almost anywhere in town. What was less obvious was how to get to the hiking trail which leads to its summit! After blindly driving around for a while (whoops), Brianne suggested that we stop to look up directions (typical!).
Thanks to Brianne’s Googling prowess, we soon knew to make our way to Giant’s Head Park at the intersection of Milne Road and Giant’s Head Road.
As a result of some confusing signage, we ended up parking at the intersection of Milne and Giant’s Head and walking up the road to the actual trailhead. This little error led to the addition of an unnecessary 50 m elevation to our little excursion. Fortunately pregnant women love unnecessarily walking up steep roads while cars effortlessly pass by (whoops!).
The actual trailhead at the top of Milne Road. You can apparently drive up most of the remaining 300 m elevation, however, the road which switchbacks its way up the mountainside was closed at the time of our visit. Fortunately, this same road made for a very pleasant trail to the top!
Early views of Summerland perched atop an ancient volcanic caldera over the Okanagan Lake.
The road/trail to the summit features a preponderance of well-spaced benches which provided nice lookouts and convenient resting spots for the one of us that was carrying around the weight of an extra human.
No route-finding issues on this peak! The obvious road will take you, pretty much, all the way to the summit!
Mom (and Baby’s) first summit of the year!
A beautiful Okanagan summit panorama towards Mount Nkwala (right) and Mount Campbell (center). Penticton lies at the south end of Okanagan Lake between the two. Click to see larger.
The whole family on top of Giant’s Head. :-)
Orchards, vineyards and rolling hills to the west. Click to see larger.
Looking down on one of many local orchards.
TRAIN! A historic steam engine choo choos along the last active section of the Kettle Valley Railway below.
Brianne uses one of many makeshift telescopes on the summit to peer out towards Brent Mountain. These simple little tubes were engraved with names and welded onto posts pointing in the direction of various local landmarks. They allowed us to check out anything noteworthy that could be seen from the top. Definitely a cool idea (nice work Summerland)!
One last summit photo before starting our gentle hike back down.
Matt: “Hey Boss, I’m just going to step off trail to grab a quick picture of Summerland and the lake.”
Brianne: “Okay – I’ll keep heading down. You can catch up.”
What could possible go wrong…
Hmmm. There's our car. Where's my wife?
After taking some pretty photos from an off-trail clearing, I hurried down to catch up to Brianne as discussed. As I continued further and further down, I was amazed that I hadn’t caught up to her yet. Still, I figured that she might be motoring since I knew that she had to pee (pregnant women ALWAYS have to pee). Once I reached the car, however, it became obvious that I must have unknowingly passed her somewhere along the way (we weren’t supposed to take shortcuts going down?). WHOOPS!
At first I figured that she’d catch up to me any minute but as more and more time passed, I grew more and more concerned. After calling out, searching around the trailhead and trying to phone her for about an hour, I started to run back up the mountain! I soon bumped into a couple who had been on the summit with us; they somewhat amusedly informed me: “There’s a very angry pregnant lady up there looking for you. She’s started back up to the summit to find you. If I were you, I’d run the other way!” WHOOPS!
Fortunately, all’s well that ends well. After the biggest WHOOPS yet and some more unnecessary elevation gain for both of us, Brianne and I were soon reunited as I jogged up the road and found her descending.
Despite the unnerving finish to our outing, Giant’s Head Mountain proved to be a lovely hike for us to enjoy together as a family (although if I had to do things over, I’d probably try to eliminate a couple of whoopses)!