The remote location of the old Lille townsite is testament to the energy and risk-taking of the turn-of-the-century coal entrepreneurs. Originally called French Camp, Lille was renamed after the mine owner’s home town in Belgium, and thrived for ten short years from 1902 to 1912. Lille was originally served by a trail, then a wagon road, and eventually the Frank and Grassy Mountain Railway line up Gold Creek from Frank that included several switchbacks and twenty-three wooden trestles across Gold Creek. After the mine failed in 1912, all the buildings in Lille were eventually dismantled or moved to other locations in the Pass. The railway trestles were also removed, and by 1937 the last of the rails were gone.
In 1978 Lille was declared a Provincial Historic Site, primarily to protect the impressive ruins of the fifty-bay Bernard coke ovens. These ovens were designed and constructed in Belgium, then shipped to Lille in 1903 or 1904 where each numbered brick was reassembled. Other signs of Lille townsite include the massive stone foundation of the hotel, the outlines of smaller foundations, a few fire hydrants, and heaps of coal slack. The ruins of a large power house are encountered on the hike in. Please do not disturb any of the ruins or artifacts.
The 6.3km moderately difficult Lille Mines and Townsite heritage trail closely follows the original wagon road, and in places crosses the roadbed of the old Frank and Grassy Mountain Railroad. Access is via the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre paved access road. At the hairpin turn, drive over the cattleguard onto the gravel road, and turn left after about 0.25km and park in the meadow. Hike on the rough road into the forest and turn left after about 1.5km where you rejoin the main Lille access road and follow it up the Gold Creek valley. A crossing of Green Creek brings you to an interpretive and directional sign just before the Gold Creek crossing, where you can visit the powerhouse at the No. 1 mine site. A second crossing of Gold Creek and a final crossing of Morin Creek brings you to the open meadow of the old townsite and another interpretive sign. Return the way you came.
The trailhead for the Lille Mines and Townsite Trail is a short distance from another heritage trail, the Frank Slide North Rim Trail that in part follows the 1903 Frank-Bellevue wagon road.