Print Edition: June 18, 2014
I have wanted to climb Elk Mountain for well over a year now, after hearing from a friend that it was somewhat difficult but absolutely gorgeous. After volunteering to contribute a hiking article to the sports section, I pulled up my very willing socks and finally did most of it. Since then, I have been looking at photos of the summit and its view, vowing to return.
The drive to Elk Mountain is simple and lovely. Before the pavement turns to gravel, the hills give way to expansive acreages and meadows under the dominating Canadian Border Peak, Mount McGuire, and Mount Baker. You might also want to drive slowly to take in the fantastically rustic sight. The gravel road widens into a parking area at the trailhead. Park here, and set out. Make sure you bring water with you, as there are no streams on the hike.
The first bit of trail doles out its inclines mercifully: flat bouts lead to moderately steep inclines, which become flat again. The hike gets more intense as it progresses, however, and the compact dirt path becomes steep and gravelly. Things get real at the 2.5-kilometre mark, where steep switchbacks zigzag up the mountain, but the path is accompanied by a few wooden stairs here and there. The surrounding hemlocks grow sparser as you climb the path, and the trees give way to wildflowers and a constant, delicate breeze as you begin to climb the 35° incline to the rocky bluff. Take your time, as the steep, loose path can make you slip.
Elk Mountain has nearly everything one could ask of a moderately difficult hike that takes less than five hours. It is no wonder that it has remained a popular trail — with very polite hikers, to boot. One man, having joined me at the bluff to eat an apple, boasted that he had snow-shoed up the mountain last winter.
“The clear view of the valley in the summer is something else, though,” he added, smiling and nodding energetically as he bit into the apple and stared at the angular, rocky shape of a nearby mountain crowned in permanent snow.
Finally, after climbing the most difficult part of the mountain, you have made it to the first viewpoint: a breathtaking panorama stretching from Baker in the south, to the huge fields of Chilliwack, with Cultus Lake and the Fraser River in the distance. From here the path meanders back into the forest, where the grassy summit of Elk Mountain awaits — indeed frustratingly close for the time-constrained hiker who must turn around at the bluff.
Directions to Elk Mountain
After taking the Prest Road exit (123) off the Trans Canada Highway, just outside of Chilliwack’s centre, head south until you reach the Bailey Road intersection. Take a left there. After about a kilometre, the road will fork gently. Take the right road onto Elk View Road, and continue to follow it until the smooth asphalt turns to rougher road, then finally gravel. Drive slowly — the road winds constantly and has a fair number of hairpin turns as it manoeuvres among the wooded hills.