Do you ever have days when you plan to take it easy, but then get distracted by how lovely it is outside…so you keep going and end up doing a really epic walk? Yeah, we do that too sometimes! On this occasion, we’d planned to hike up to West Knob from Whyte Lake. I thought if we still had some energy, we could keep going up to Donut Rock. However once we made it out we enjoyed the hike sooo much that we devised a longer route to the top of Black Mountain, then back to Whyte Lake via the Trans Canada Trail at the base of Black Mountain.
If you live near Vancouver, you probably know about the hike to Eagle Bluffs. Donut Rock is super close to that, on an alternative path. There were hundreds of people hiking that way on the Sunday when we did this hike. However we had the views completely to ourselves at the West Knob aaaand at Donut Rock. We also had the path to ourselves the whole way back until we got close to Whyte Lake. Basically this route is brilliant if you are attempting to stay socially distanced while in the mountains.
Trail map: Whyte Lake – West Knob – Donut Rock
Choose your own adventure. If you’re hiking with little kids, stop at Whyte Lake. If you feel like a mini challenge, stop at West Knob. A teeny bit more of a climb will bring you to Donut Rock… And then you’re just a hop, skip and a jump away from the top of Black Mountain.
Whyte Lake – West Knob – Donut Rock – the basics
Distance: 19 km
Elevation gain: 1250m
Highest Point: 1217m (if you go to the top of black mountain)
Time: It took us 8 hours, with some breaks
What to bring:
Hiking poles (your knees will thank you!)
Loads of water (although there is some on the trail at Nelson’s Creek)
The 10 Essentials
There is water and toilets at the Cypress resort. No toilets, water or facilities along the trail.
Dogs would be fine to Whyte Lake. If they are used to steep trails, they might like all of this.
How hard is it?
Whyte Lake: Easy
West Knob: intermediate
Donut rock and Black Mountain: intermediate-hard
Whyte Lake Trail
The first part of this adventure will take you along a well trodden path to Whyte Lake. The area has some gorgeous old growth trees and is a pleasure to explore. I have a longer post about the Whyte Lake trail here. Whyte Lake itself is pretty nice. When we came past there were a few families with kids and dogs jumping into the lake for a swim.
The trail next to Whyte Lake also has one of the North Shore’s prettiest loos with a view. (as you may know, I love loos with views!) I was feeling brave, so I used the facilities while keeping the top door open so I could see the forest.
Back in 2018 we were given a wild mushroom foraging tour for Christmas, and Marc and I learned that the dew-like drips on polypore fungi are meant to be tasty. The thing is, I never quite got up the courage to taste one. Well, we found a few massive specimens on this walk, so I finally tried the water. It is slightly sweet. I thought it tastes like those small white flowers you find on nettles.
Whyte Lake to West Knob
I knew the trail to Whyte Lake would be busy (it was!) but I honestly thought the trail the rest of the way up Black Mountain would be similar. However as soon as we left the lake, everyone seemed to disappear and we had the forest to ourselves.
The Rock Pile
Once you reach the rock pile, you’ll be at around 550m elevation, so you only need to climb another 200m to reach West Knob. Watch out for a teeny yellow sign (there is a photo at the top of this post) that leads to the viewpoint.
The West Knob
I am still pretty shocked that we had such a lovely viewpoint all to ourselves. Especially one that is so easy to reach and close to Vancouver! Part of the reason we chose this walk, was that we have seen the view before from the top of Black Mountain and from Eagle Bluffs. We thought it was going to be cloudy, but we wouldn’t have minded as we’d seen the view before. To our surprise we emerged from the forest to a perfect blue sky.
The West Knob to Donut Rock
When a day is that good, you sort of have to continue walking don’t you? The hike up to Donut Rock is about 380m higher than West Knob. Plus you have to climb down a bit to retrace your way back to the main path. That sounds easy, but it is actually very steep! I was glad we were climbing up, rather than down it!
We met two hikers who had followed a loop from Whyte Lake, up to Eagle Bluffs, then down via Donut Rock. They were really sweet (they told us they were sad that the rock wasn’t the shape of a donut.) They also mentioned that there were more than 30 people at Eagle Bluffs, even though on this side of the mountain the trail was deserted!
As you climb higher there are a couple of places with ropes to help you pull yourself up. There are also occasional views down to Howe Sound.
I thought the views from Donut Rock were just as good as the views at Eagle Bluffs. We saw eagles souring above us and made friends with a handsome raven. I guess the main difference is that there is less space to sit and enjoy the scenery. That was okay for us, as we only need to share it with the raven.
He seemed slightly annoyed that we know the rules about leave no trace. We didn’t share our lunch with him, despite his pleading eyes.
Donut Rock to Black Mountain
The trail gets much easier beyond Donut Rock. You only need to go around 100m higher to reach the lakes on the top of Black Mountain. The route is far less steep. It soon joins the popular trail that leads to Eagle Bluffs. This was the one super-busy part of our route. Still we know this part of the mountain well, so we wandered past the lakes and made our way to the top of the ski runs. We had a quick wave at one of my favourite mountains, the Lions.
Then we followed the trail down the ski run, down to Cypress Mountain resort where we knew we could fill up our water.
Black Mountain back to Whyte Lake
We had hiked up double the amount of elevation gain (compared to my original plan) so we were keen to find an easy route back to the trailhead at Whyte Lake. It turns out, there is a really pleasant trail that starts at the base of the Raven Ridge ski lift. On our map it is called the West Cypress Creek Trail, but there were signs to say it is also part of the Trans Canada Trail (that crosses the whole country.)
We only saw a few cyclists on this path, but we also found another beautifully built outhouse. It’s a shame so few people venture in this direction.
Further around Black Mountain we followed some really fun looking bike trails down to the Whyte Lake trailhead. Whoever built these trails must have had a blast! There were jumps, ladder-like pathways and trees to balance on. I would be terrified to zoom down this on wheels!
Still, it was shady, gorgeous and incredibly quiet, until we joined up with the trail to Whyte Lake, which was now full of people out for the late afternoon/evening strolls.
I really loved this hike! I was expecting it to be easy, and maybe slightly boring, but the myriad of trails allowed us to create our own route, see some stunning views and really push ourselves with over 1200m elevation gain. If you fancy a quiet (but rewarding) day out near Vancouver, this really was a great day. Or, if you like the views, but don’t fancy climbing the whole way up, hiking to West Knob is also a fun option.
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