Elk Mountain trail to Mount Thurston

Elk Mountain trail to Mount Thurston

Sometimes our walks do not go to plan! We did not expect to walk along the Elk Mountain trail to Mount Thurston last weekend, but it was a truly gorgeous walk, so I am glad we ended up there. This hike starts with a steep trail through woods, up to the top of Elk Mountain. It then levels off and becomes a gorgeous ridge-walk along to Mount Thurston. This was my first hike near Chilliwack and the mountains near the US border. I blooming loved it! Clazz from the blog An Orcadian Abroad joined Marc and I for this one; So I got to chat the whole way too – yay!

Our original plan was to climb Cheam Peak, which is less than 10km, and has something like 700 m elevation gain. However the road up to the trailhead was just so, sooo bad that our poor car couldn’t make it up there! We damaged the front of our car in the attempt, so I don’t recommend even trying that hike without 4×4 AND very high clearance! Luckily, I had my 105 Hikes book with me, so we changed our plan and headed over to the Elk Mountain trail to Mount Thurston. I was also really keen to do this walk but it was much longer, and had far more elevation gain than our original plan, so we were not sure if we could manage it.

Elk Mountain trail to Mount Thurston – the basics

Distance: 17km (although my phone thinks it was 19km!)
Elevation gain
: 990 m
Highest Point: 1620 m
Time: 6-7 hours (It took us 6 hours including a few breaks)
What to bring:
Walking boots. Hiking poles. Plenty of water and food. The 10 essentials.
There is a loo at the start of the trail.
The Elk Mountain trail is dog-friendly! We met a really cute Corgie (named Porgie) at the top!
How hard is it?
The harder end of intermediate. BUT once you’ve made it up to Elk Mountain, the walk to Mount Thurston is really easy, so if you don’t mind long walks, keep going. The ridge walk is spectacular!
We weren’t planning to do this walk, so we managed with *just* the map from my 105 Hikes book. I obviously wouldn’t recommend hiking without a map, but the trail is really obvious, so on a clear day, we were okay without one.
Extra note: This month there is a voluntary detour on the drive to the start of this hike, to protect toadlets.

Elk Mountain trail to Mount Thurston Map

Chilliwack’s version of the Grouse Grind?

The start of the hike was through forest. It had some steep sections (especially near the top) but I found it much easier and more pleasant than the Grouse Grind! The main differences between the two walks, were this had fewer steps, and as it ascends along a ridge-line, there is much more light, even when you’re under the tree canopy. You can’t walk dogs on the Grouse Grind, so it was nice to see lots of pooches on this hike!

Elk Mountain Viewpoint

Around half way up Elk Mountain there was a bit of a view point… but to be honest, it’s best to wait for the viewpoint at the top! You reach a small ledge that is a bit like a Stegosaurus’ spine. This is a perfect place to stop, have a break and a snack.

There are some really cute chipmunks who popped out as soon as we opened our bags to find food. Just remember, part of the ‘leave no trace’ philosophy means you shouldn’t feed the wildlife! Look at that face! Then…resist the urge to give it all your fruit!

Elk Mountain’s summit

The viewpoint isn’t actually the top of Elk Mountain. For that, you need to keep going for a teeny bit longer, up some steep, dusty stairs. This was probably the steepest and toughest section of the walk (and the least fun to descend!) But keep going because it doesn’t take long!

Wild alpine flowers on the Elk Mountain trail

The walk between Elk Mountain and Mount Thurston is perfect for looking at flowers! There were a huge number of indian paintbrushes, columbian lilies, heather, tree blossoms and a whole bunch of alpine flowers that I cannot name. It made the hike bright and cheerful! Just be careful to keep to the path so you don’t trample them.

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On to Mount Thurston

As you can see, the walk over to Mount Thurston is gooorgeous. The elevation gain is minimal (an extra 150m-ish) and the path is easy to follow. Last weekend had perfect hiking weather, so most people were continuing on to this second peak.

The views are spectacular! I loved the look of Tomyhoi Peak, which seemed like a giant ice-cream cup, holding a huge amount of snow! If you click on the photo below you might be able to see it (it’s the claw-like mountain to the right.) The two spiky peaks to the left are the imaginatively named Canadian border peak and American border peak!

Mount Thurston’s Cairn

Mount Thurston has a fake summit, and a real summit! The first summit has a cairn and gorgeous views in all directions. Most hikers seemed to stop at this point.

Look at this view of the Chilliwack Valley and surrounding mountains! We had a pretty good view of (half of) Mount Baker, but it is hard to make it out in the clouds.

You know what has to be done when a view is this pretty!? Jumping photos!! Clazz and I jumped and Marc caught it in one take, as always!

Mount Thurston’s true summit

The real summit for Mount Thurston was an extra kilometer away. You need to hike up two extra bumps to reach it. If you look hard in the photo below (to the right) you can just see Marc disappearing into the trees. The path was a little less maintained in this section, so you need to push aside tree-branches and bushes to make it through!

Once you’re back in the trees, they are COVERED in lichen! This area must have no pollution at all! We also found the husk of a wasp’s nest…but luckily, no wasps.

Where did the view go!?

There are more amazing views before you reach the trees. This view shows the pointy Slesse Mountain on one side, as well as the twin border peaks. However, once you make it to the actual summit, you are surrounded by trees, with no views at all!

We did get a small glimpse of another mountain through the trees. But while Marc and I were on the top of Thurston Mountain, the mist came down and hid everything from us! Clazz was happy with the epic views by the cairn, so she waited for us there, and said we quickly disappeared into the mist, even though she could still see off in the other direction!

We didn’t want to keep Clazz waiting, so we zoomed back to the Mount Thurston cairn, just as the mist lifted!

Views back to Elk Mountain

This is the view back to the start of the walk. You can see, it was basically downhill the whole way, so we had an easy (if slightly long) hike back down.

By the time we made it back along the trail to Elk Mountain, there was a para-glider in the air above Chilliwack. Whoever that is was winning at life with such a pretty views down below them! I feel like we were winning at life too! The Elk Mountain trail to Mount Thurston may not have been my first plan for the day, but it turn out to be a perfect day!

As the elevation gain was almost 1000m, this was the biggest elevation gain for Marc and I since our trip to New Zealand. This meant my legs were a little sore the following day when Marc and I went for a bike ride. BUT I think it actually made us stronger! We did an even bigger, more epic walk 2 days later with my friend Shannon, to Elfin Lakes. I’ll write about that soon too as it was even *more* amazing than this walk!! Somehow British Columbia keeps getting better and better, so I hope you all like joining me for these walks!!

If you like the look of it, please pin it!!


28 thoughts on “Elk Mountain trail to Mount Thurston

  1. Finally did some hiking last weekend – but our Illinois hikes (Matthiessen and Starved Rock State Parks) are kind of pathetic compared to your mountains! Oh well – the temps finally came down from the upper 90s (fahrenheit, not celsius!) so we were at least able to get out and DO something!

    1. Yaaaay!! It’s never pathetic to get out and walk!! You have to remember Marc and I started feeling tired with 200m elevation back in the UK!!

      I just googled Matthiessen and Starved Rock State Parks, it it looks looovely! Did you see waterfalls?

      1. Yes, we did see some waterfalls! They weren’t too big, as we haven’t had much rain lately. But that makes it possible to walk the shallow creeks via stepping stones, which is fun too. As you say, it is lovely – but not nearly as impressive as mountain views. Then again, maybe my knees are thanking me! 🙂

        1. Lol yes! You were far kinder to your knees than I was last weekend! Being near water was probably much cooler too! 😀

    1. Thanks Ritu! I have one more to write up, that beats all of them so far…last weekend was soooo amazing! I can’t wait to share it all with you!

    1. No!! I was wondering if we’d see some (I spent ages looking for goats on Goat Mountain, and I wanted to eat crumpets on Crumpit mountain!! He he!!)

      Also, you don’t need to worry if 6 hours sounds too long. We’d planned to stop at Elk Mountain if we were tired…so that’d be more like 3 hours walk. It’s just hard to stop when the views are so pretty!!

  2. Omigoodness! That chipmunk is a whole hellavalot braver than me! As a person who is terrifically afraid of heights, I appreciate being able to enjoy this hike without actually having to do it (!)

    1. Heh, yeah, this would not be a good one for you Alice (and nether will my upcoming post!) You’d better with a hike to a lake!

    1. Lol you might be more likely to complain for the first hour (that is when it was hard work, with no views!!)

      After that, it’s sooo pretty, you sort of forget that your legs are walking!

  3. I hadn’t heard of this hike, but it looks really nice. It’s funny how when sometimes things don’t go your way you discover a real gem

    1. Eep. Sorry Anisa! I just found your comment in my spam folder. 🙁

      Thank you so much for the comment. It is awesome when things go wrong, but you manage to have a blast anyway! We ended up walking a lot further than our original plan, but I think that made the day even more epic!!

    1. Thanks Teresa!!

      Yeah, it was really lucky that I knew about another walk so close by (especially as none of us had been to that area before!!) Phew!!

    1. Yeah! I’ll try to get back there at some point, or else, just camp there so it’d be okay to walk up the whole way and not have to drive home afterwards!!

  4. Oops about the car – I’ve planted the nose of ours into waterbars before but have escaped damaging it so far. However, we put a load of scratches on it last week driving through alder and bushes… What did you end up buying?

    Elk is one of my favourites for flowers and views! The little purple flowers are small-flowered penstemon; the white ones are white rhododendron; the little yellow ones are stonecrop (looks like Oregon stonecrop).

    1. We ended up with a Hyundai Tuscon…but it was no match for that road!! Marc is taking it to the shop tomorrow so I’m crossing my fingers that we didn’t do *too* much damage!!

      Those flowers were sooo lovely! It made me even more keen to get to Manning! I’ve bought a map, so I just need Marc to have a free weekend so we can go there too!!

      1. Hope it’s not too badly damaged! Waterbars can be tricky – they’re easier if the road is wide as you can angle in to them to avoid hitting the noise, but sometimes you just don’t have the space.

        You’ll need to be quick with Manning – this dry spell might see the flowers done sooner than expected. Our first visit to Manning was a Labour Day weekend and the flowers were definitely done by then. The Heather Trail to First Brother (aka Three Brothers) is the wildflower classic in Manning but you need to hike a little bit past the turnoff up to First Brother to get the best displays.

  5. I love using all trails when I’m hiking! It’s a great map you’ve included for the hike! This looks difficult but the views look rewarding – especially the colorful flowers!

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