For years this trail has been popular with the Chilliwack locals--almost as popular as Mt Cheam further up the Chilliwack River Valley.
The approach is great. You get to drive the first thousand metres of elevation gain, so this makes it a good short foray into the alpine. It's about two hours up to the summit of Elk and an hour or so down. It would be more for Thurston, which is a 15 kilometre (7 hour) return trip from the parking lot.
To begin, expect a nice open forest of second growth hemlock which is refreshingly cool in the summer. The trail gently gains elevation for the first half hour before it starts to steepen. The last few hundred metres are the steepest, about 35 degrees replete with some stairs. The forest below gives way to alpine fir and Sitka Mountain Ash and even wild strawberries. Views will inspire you to hike even higher. To the north you can see Harrison and Kilby Bay and to the west into the lower Fraser Valley.
The final few hundred metres of trail is bluffy and covered with some loose scree. This is over quickly however and soon you are on top of Elk Mountain near 1500 metres. Here you can see across to the Border Peaks, Slesse Mountain and even into United States. Below, the fine line of the Chilliwack River Road runs through the valley. To the southwest Vedder Mountain, and Cultus Lake beckon. Follow the well-worn trail to Mt Thurston (1627 metres), about one hour or so distant gaining a further 150 metres of elevation.
Get out of Vancouver and head east to Chilliwack, (about an hour). Pass the main exit to Chilliwack and continue toward Hope for less than a couple of kilometres to (Prest Rd. Exit 123). Head south toward the big hill with the sub-division on it for about 4 km and turn left onto Bailey Rd and stay right going uphill on Elk View Road. Follow Elk View Road (the main road) gaining elevation twisting and winding up the pavement until it plateaus and starts climbing again as it turns into a gravel road (Chilliwack Bench FSR). After about 500 metres an obvious pullout appears. Park here. The trail marker signpost indicates the beginning of the trail.
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Posted By: AriH
- Fri Mar 24 18:20:57 UTC 2017
UpsideBeautiful halfday hike. Nice views of Slesse, Rexford, Baker. Did this hike yesterday - up to Thurston. Require microspikes or crampons for most of the trail as it is all ice. Past Elk, snowshoes come in handy but you could get away with just the spikes. Weather was warm, not too windy. DownsideTrail is entirely covered in ice past the logging road. Leave early and plan to take longer.
Posted By: CathyJackson
- Mon Aug 08 19:18:18 UTC 2016
UpsideBeautiful hike to spectacular view point on Thurston Mountain. Great workout too. Thanks so much to the kind (and super-fit) hiker who took our picture on Saturday, August 7! DownsideNone, it was perfect!
Posted By: onism
- Fri Jul 24 03:28:12 UTC 2015
UpsideVery Clear trail all the way through. Inspiring views. DownsideSteep, i really had to push myself to get to the first view point on my first trip up. Commenti have hiked elk mountain twice once in February and then again in may. the first hike i made it to thurston but didn't get that far second time around due to starting our spur of the moment hike at 5pm. Easily one of my favourite day hikes. Absolutely stunning views, very clear paths making the hike a breeze. Its safe to say Expect snow and ice at some point along the way... i went on a fairly warm day in February and saw no snow until the mid way point between the second lookout on elk & what my friend called "cairns view point" or something like that... even then it was only 5 cm at its deepest. But when i went in may i saw a dusting of snow all the way to the first viewpoint (where it was super windy and cold at the top) before it got a bit deeper.
I would strongly recommend waking up bright and early for this hike as there isnt any better way to fully wake up to the stunning view at the top. I arrived there around 7am the first time i hiked and felt as though i could have woken up earlier to absorb the beauty.
Posted By: htse
- Mon Jul 06 04:39:34 UTC 2015
UpsideGreat 180 degree view at Elk Mountain DownsideNo water Fully exposed past Elk Mountain Very steep at times
CommentDid this hike today (July 6) at 36C. The heat was bearable until the Elk Mountain viewpoint where it's fully exposed and no shade. View at the Elk Mountain was beautiful and vast (180 degree view only, not 360), with wild flowers blooming everywhere. The hike up to here was quite tough but not undoable, you will definitely feel it at the quads. We continued our way to Mount Thurston and thought that we could relax at the Thurston peak for a lunch break - bad idea! The amount of flies (some black flies as well) was INSANE. They were everywhere and seem to be enjoying the sweat on our bodies and wouldn't go away. I'd say at any point in time we had at least 10 flies resting on us and if you stop walking for 10 seconds the amount doubles. You get numb after a while but it just wasn't a very good experience. The view at Thurston wasn't that much better than Elk either so I wouldn't recommend going there unless you need another 500 calories burnt off. All in all it's a great day hike until Elk, but not any further.
Posted By: Gcruz
- Mon Jun 09 06:34:00 UTC 2014
UpsideWell marked trails, not much obstruction like old grown tree roots and rocks. Hats off to the volunteers (thought it's the Chilliwack Fire and Rescue) who took effort marking the trails. DownsideWish there's a chain to hold on to at the last few meters before reaching the top of Elk. Got dizzy on that part of the hike and can't really look below on my way back. CommentHiked today June 8, 2014 on a perfect weather. Amazing view at the top. Met Joe and his two kids (3year old girl and 6year old boy) and they really motivated me on my way down. Got worried that I might not make it at that narrow and steep part with some loose stones and almost perpendicular cliff on my way back but I did it!
Posted By: joeyhalen2000
- Mon Jun 09 05:34:56 UTC 2014
UpsideEasily accessible. Some nature to experience ie frogs, chipmunks, and birds that will land on your hand at the summitt...whiskey jacks maybe ? Great views, good workout. DownsideNo water CommentGreat day hike. I did this today (June 8/14) with a 3 year old and a 6 year old. Tough, steep climb until the Elk summit. I was pretty amazed at my kids for making it that far so we didn't continue to Thurston but if they can do it...anyone can. Good views...not as good as Mt. Cheam but better than most other hikes in the area.
Posted By: LucasL
- Wed Oct 23 15:39:51 UTC 2013
UpsideBeautiful views almost the whole way from Elk to Thurston. Easy access from chilliwack (Meaning you dont have to drive another 30 km down chilliwack lake road and some logging roads like some of the other hikes in that area) DownsideNone I can think of. CommentWhen you hit Elk you have done the hardest and steepest. So dont give up there keep going beyond along the ridge and you'll get more views of the chilliwack river valley. Once you hit the Cairn after following the ridge its about 15 min to Thurston. And you'll be able to see Cheam and Lady Peak from that point. Well worth it. the best hike for exercise and reward.
Posted By: skypilot172
- Tue Jul 30 21:50:33 UTC 2013
Upsidegreat views and it gets you into shape fast, plus wild flowers and wild strawberries growing up top. Downsidenot many views for the first hour or so and it's kind of on the steep side CommentWe hiked on June 24th the strawberries weren't ready yet. Also take note of the parking area as if you're talking, you likely will miss it and you'll drive much further than neccessary
Posted By: desquared
- Tue Aug 28 20:12:59 UTC 2012
QuestionI've done Elk numerous times and have gone as far as the Cairn towards Thurston a couple times. I understand this is a false peak. How much further is the peak of Thurston and is it worth it? I have read other site comments and I understand the real peak is wooded without a view.ANSWERS are in this forum: beyond Cairn?
Posted By: desquared
- Tue Aug 28 20:10:06 UTC 2012
CommentThis is one of my local favorites as access is so easy and the view from the top is fantastic on a clear day. Can't say I find it an easy hike and I do think I am in shape. It isn't long but the grade, especially on the last third to Elk has is significant and my rickety knees find the tension hard on the way down as well;) I guess the fact that we overnighted and so had backpacks contributes however.
Oh yes...on that note, some great places to overnight...both on Elk and shortly before the cairn by Thurston. Mosquitos can be bad and as indicated, no water sources. Having said that, there is generally snowpack at various places that you can access, or could as late as late July which is when I did it last.
Posted By: MLShoe
- Sun May 27 02:41:11 UTC 2012
UpsideGreat climb to the top, perfectly groomed trails and dog friendly ! Beautiful views, a definite add to any hikers plans! Make sure you go on a clear sunny day, you will be able to see everything. DownsideCan't say anything I didnt like, If you arent looking for a cardio workout, this one wont be the pick. You will be tired ! CommentHave done this hike a couple times now, and for sure would do it again in the future. This past time I went up was May 18th, still snow up at the first lookout point (approx 1 hour 15 up) we turned around and went back down.
Posted By: Mountainzone
- Sun Jul 24 01:06:45 UTC 2011
UpsideVery good road and large parking lot. Wide easy approach, trail very well maintained. Most of trail was sheltered by trees until the meadows opened at the summit, keeping you cool from the hot sun. No snow on the trail or at at the summit, has all been melted away. Was a beautiful sunny day light breeze very few bugs of any kind 20 mile visibility in all directions. Cell phone access at first view point, not sure about on the summit. DownsideNo water available on this trail, make sure you bring enough and some extra recommend at least 1.5 liters, most hikers I saw only brought 500ml...it they were to get hurt they would surely run short awaiting rescue. CommentI left a bit later than I would have liked 1130am so I only went as far as Elk Mt. Took me 1hr 40min to reach Elk at a steady pace with a 22lb pack (I always bring the 10 essentials, especially when hiking solo, can spend the night on the Mt if required), stopping only for short H2O Breaks very 20min or so. Approximately 25 other hikers on the trail at any given time...mostly was hiking solo through the woods. Trail to Mt. Thurston looks easy enough and will do it next time.
Posted By: granolapher
- Mon Jun 20 03:07:48 UTC 2011
UpsideQuick, pretty, and not too far away DownsideThe trail was a little grown in at some places. Poor visibility due to fog. CommentThe trail was pretty dry and well maintained going up Elk Mountain, with small sections of mud near the top. There is still quiet a bit of well consolidated snow near the top of Mount Thurston.
Posted By: Jo_onthego
- Sun May 22 04:42:09 UTC 2011
UpsideLots of uphill with a great view on a clear day. Easy to access the trail head. Downsideboring to start with until the flowers come out probably late june i would guess. Can get pretty busy. Commentwe were up today and nothing much blooming yet so the beginning was pretty boring. That was until we hit the icy sections and had to put on grips to keep from slipping. The challenge was super but the snow uptop is really slushy. We did go too far on the ridge but we did hit the proper view point (the flag). Another day we will do the Thurston run, but we were very socked in today and there were no views but lots of clean fresh air.
Posted By: jeffvm
- Tue Aug 03 02:14:32 UTC 2010
UpsideWide vista from Elk Mountain. DownsideNo water along the way. CommentWe only went as far as Elk Mountain, which was good enough for us. The trail is wide and smooth and easy underfoot. The climb is a little steeper once you break out of the trees, but by then you are not far from the top.
The meadows smelled sweet with all the beautiful alpine flowers- red, orange, yellow, blue, white. That was a real treat. And a fantastic panorama from the top. We could see the clouds swirling as they blew up the face of the mountain. Too bad the views of Mt. Baker were obscured by the clouds.
We completed this hike in 3.5 hours. We also ran like maniacs for most of the way down.
Posted By: docdusty75
- Wed Jun 23 14:12:08 UTC 2010
UpsideGreat potential views! CommentAs of June 22/10 the trail was clear all the way to the cairn before you ascend Thurston. Some snow on Thurston but not enough to deter from reaching the top. Trail markers were a little tough to see on Thurston but I had a map and compass. Bring lots of water since there are no water sources after around 750m elevation. It was foggy/cloudy through my whole hike so I didn't see many of the potential views but still enjoyed the hike. I will do this again on a clear day.
Posted By: jearsy
- Mon Jun 14 03:53:24 UTC 2010
UpsideGreat Views, some nice areas for sub-alpine flowers, and very easy to find DownsideLots of people and the trial can become super muddy if the clouds are passing by or if it rains. CommentI hiked up it today, middle of June, and we did get all the way to the top but it was soaked right in so there was no view even though everywhere else it was clear which was a great shame. The trial itself is in good shape but it is very steep, and is very steep all the way until you reach Elk Peak. Once you are past Elk it gets pretty easy for a few kilometers until you reach Thurston Peak. There were some snow patches that were in some places could go up to your hips but that's about it.
Posted By: jayjardine
- Tue Oct 13 18:32:23 UTC 2009
UpsideLovely fall hike, great views and decent effort required. Eases up after initial Elk summit. Not too busy. DownsideHaving to fight traffic heading back into Vancouver on a Sunday afternoon or long weekend. Trail is well worn, smooth and easy to follow, but so are a couple of dead ends and detours. CommentBrought the dog along and we made it all the way to Thurston and back in under five hours. If a wiener dog can do it, so can you!
Posted By: nbarratt
- Sun Sep 27 04:57:01 UTC 2009
UpsideI Love this Hike. I live In the aria and Hike it often. I'm very dissapointed about the logging. :(
Posted By: pedro69
- Sun Jul 05 06:27:42 UTC 2009
UpsideFantastic trail (once you get past the logging). DownsideLogged !!! CommentThese people claim to be the stewards of the environment and they logged a protected trail. This is in the Environment Minister's home riding. Sickening.
Posted By: K-nut
- Fri Jun 12 22:13:32 UTC 2009
CommentDid they put in the woodlot, e-mail me
Posted By: squirrelbait
- Mon Apr 27 18:45:15 UTC 2009
UpsideMountain-peak scenery! DownsideNot so spectacular in cloudy weather - I'll definitely make sure it's a clear day when I do it again. Quite a slog up throught the forest to the ridge, but pretty nonetheless. CommentThis was my 2nd time of doing this hike - on Apr 25 2009 - and there was so much ice on the trail further up that we turned around after about 1 hr 15 mins. Some of my group made it to the view point, but I didn't even get that far - it was too hairy!
Posted By: tkwedler
- Sat Jul 19 17:25:22 UTC 2008
UpsideNice views! DownsideNo water. CommentIt was a very cloudy day so we could not see much. Other than the blocked view the trail is in really good shape. The trailhead is more than 500m from where the pavement ends but it is less than 1KM.
Posted By: jarcold
- Fri Jul 11 17:51:38 UTC 2008
Upsideeasy enough for the whole family to do. took my 4 and 7 year olds and they hiked the entire way DownsideOnly one little stream on trail less than an hour in. Bring lots of water CommentThis is not an easy climb but there is little risk untill the very top
Posted By: wayne170747
- Mon Oct 22 15:39:00 UTC 2007
UpsideClean Krisp Snow at he top DownsideSlippery! CommentWent up on October 20. For the last few hundred meters we moved through an increasingly thick layer of powder. There was a decent view from the top as we were in between two cloud layers and could see the summits of the nearby peaks.
A good hkle on a sloppy cold fall day.
Posted By: schmoodo
- Sat Apr 14 04:38:36 UTC 2007
UpsideGreat Trail DownsideSLATED TO BE LOGGED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CommentDecision is pending regarding logging early May. Rally on earthday April 22nd at trailhead 9:00 to save this great trail. Check out elkmountaintrail.com for more info
Posted By: RWSHiker
- Fri Sep 01 04:29:23 UTC 2006
UpsideNice hike, if the weathers nice and theres not too much smog. Nice veiws of the valley. DownsideNo water on the way up. CommentGood day hike, only went up elk but want to go to thurston. A Fun run down hill.
Posted By: Pharmer
- Fri Jul 07 21:17:01 UTC 2006
UpsideGood workout, especially going down, even after doing severel hikes early in the season my quads and thighs got a really good workout. DownsideVery little access to water, we were licky and hit the last patch of snow between Elk and Thurston so we had lots of cold fresh water (very refreshing because it was quite hot up top). CommentThe view at the top makes the hike defintely worthwhile, your first view point gives you the Fraser Valley and at the top you get to see Columbia valley and all the Southern Mountains.
Posted By: Sparkle
- Thu Nov 24 23:42:29 UTC 2005
UpsideEasy access to trail, the views at the top are spectacular--friendly furry and feathered creatures may surprise you... DownsideHmmm...I'll let you know if I think of one.
Posted By: Kiwisun
- Fri Aug 05 18:24:50 UTC 2005
UpsideIt is a somewhat steep hike to the summit of Elk Mountain but to Thurston it's not to bad. Great views of Mount McGuire, The American and Canadian Border Peaks and Mount Tomyhoi from both Elk and Thurston. Great beginner hike. DownsideYou only cross one tiny creek so you don't have much water. CommentTo get there, drive from the #1 onto Prest Road follow it until you reach Ryder Lake Road. Turn Right and follow it until you reach a gravel parking lot. A sign says Elk, Thurston Trail. On to the trail and you are on your way. Have a nice hike.
Posted By: edmanvan
- Sat May 21 20:48:13 UTC 2005
UpsideA great starter hike for the beginning of the season, steady uphill grind, snow at the top and in some shady areas. DownsideNone. CommentGo for it! Easy to follow :-)
Posted By: richiep123
- Thu Mar 31 05:41:15 UTC 2005
UpsideExcellent hike, great views and workout. DownsideThis time of year, there was plenty of snow, too much to contiue up to thurston, but able to get to the top of elk, approx 4 inches of snow when you get to the top of elk
Posted By: westons
- Sat Mar 05 22:46:38 UTC 2005
UpsideStaggering views from the peak of Mt. Thurston. Easygoing plateau between Elk and Thurston. DownsideThe first hour of hiking is through some steep forests. CommentStick with the initial hour and one will be rewarded at the two peaks.
Posted By: Derrick
- Mon Jan 03 03:29:09 UTC 2005
UpsideA great workout anytime of year. DownsideHow can there be, this is one of the best hikes in the area, especially when linked with Thurston. CommentI worry that a trail this great will turn into a Grouse Grind, amybe not you have to walk down this one.
Posted By: Outdoor Addict
- Tue Nov 16 04:12:50 UTC 2004
UpsideGreat views, trail is well marked, easy to follow DownsideGetting to the top and having the valley covered in smog CommentI have done this hike approx. 5 times to the Elk summit-once to Thurston. My eldest daughter did the trip to Elk when she was 7 and gave the experience a thumbs up.
Posted By: The Shadow
- Mon Oct 04 08:19:01 UTC 2004
UpsideBeautiful views on a clear day. The Whisky Jacks will eat from your hands! DownsideQuite a trek if your out of shape! No water on trail other than a small creek 10 minutes from the parking lot. No views AT ALL for the first hour or so. CommentThis is a good place to take in the views of the valley! Although it is a bit of a trudge, the rewards outweigh the effort! Come early and stay for a while!
Posted By: sigmet61
- Mon Apr 05 00:18:13 UTC 2004
UpsideEasy to find and easy to follow DownsideCould not see the valley floor due to polution CommentI did not find it easy and I am 40+ and I am not in shape and... oh..maybe that is why.
Posted By: seawallrunner
- Tue Jul 22 19:18:20 UTC 2003
Upsidethe views! an easy-grade trail, beautiful old trees Downsidethere is no water on the trail, or on the ridge - so arrive prepared