June 2023 Vancouver Hike of the Month: Elk Mountain

View from Elk Mountain Lookout.

View from Elk Mountain Lookout. Photo: Tourism Ch’illiwack

Chilliwack’s Elk Mountain is a great hike for June since it is already snow-free. Prepare to sweat as the trail climbs steeply through the forest to a series of gorgeous mountaintop viewpoints.


Trail Info: Moderate/Challenging; 8 km round-trip; 800 m elevation gain; 4-5 hours; Dogs allowed on-leash.


Safety First: AdventureSmart recommends bringing a backpack with essential safety and first aid gear on every hike. Check the forecast and pack extra clothing for the weather. Leave a trip plan so someone knows where you are going and when you will be back. Check out our tips for safe summer hiking in Vancouver for more advice.


Getting There: From Vancouver, head east on Highway 1. Take Exit 123 and go south on Prest Road. A few kilometres later, turn left onto Bailey Road. At the fork less than 1 km later, go right onto Elk View Road. The road is paved for another 8 km and then turns to gravel. The gravel section is a bit bumpy and potholed, but fine for 2WD vehicles if you go slow. About 2 km after the pavement ends, look for a parking area with an info kiosk on the left. This is the trailhead.


The Trail: This trail is fairly steep, so expect a workout. The majority of the hike is in a beautiful forest and you only emerge into an open area with views at the top. However, the route is straightforward, easy to navigate, and well-marked.

From the trailhead, follow the path uphill. There is an outhouse just inside the forest if you need one. Continue along the trail as it snakes its way uphill. The trail crosses a small bridge about 0.8 km from the start. Look to your left about 1 km from the trailhead for a view of the Fraser Valley. The view is mostly blocked by trees, but don’t worry – there are much better views to come.

People hiking through the forest on the Elk Mountain Trail

The trail through the forest. Photo: Tourism Ch’illiwack

Keep hiking uphill. About 1.5 km into the hike the trail crosses a gravel forest service road. Pick up the trail on the other side – look for the “Elk Thurston Trail” sign. The trail continues uphill and begins to swing around to the east as it gains the ridge.

The trail gets much steeper near the 2.5 km mark. Watch for a signed junction to a lookout. It’s a short side trip to another obstructed view of the Fraser Valley. After the viewpoint, the trail is steeper and more technical with some short switchbacks. The trail also gets a bit less distinct with several branching paths. They all come back together eventually, but stick to the ones marked with orange squares for the best route that minimizes erosion.

Arrive at a set of wooden stairs about 3.4 km along. At the top of the stairs, the trail leaves the forest and the views begin. Keep hiking uphill over a rocky section to the lookout for even better views. From here you can look south down the Fraser Valley to Cultus Lake and Chilliwack.

The view from Elk Mountain in Chilliwack

The view from Elk Mountain in Chilliwack. Photo Vlad D/Unsplash

This lookout isn’t the true peak of Elk Mountain and there are even better views ahead. Continue climbing along the ridge for another 15 minutes. This section has loose and steep slopes, so be careful, especially when coming back down.

Trail along the ridge of Elk Mountain

Trail along the ridge. Kyra Ives/All Trails

After climbing another set of wooden stairs, the ridge gets flatter. There are great views to the south from here: you can see Mount Baker and other peaks along the American border. A bench here makes a great snack spot and turn-around point. There is also an outhouse nearby. You may also get lucky and see paragliders launching from this area.

View from Elk Mountain

View from Elk Mountain at dusk. Photo: Sunni Chen/Unsplash

The true summit of Elk Mountain is a few minutes further away along the ridge, but the view isn’t as good, so many choose to end their hike here. If you have more energy, you can continue along the ridge towards Mount Thurston, 4.5 km away. However, the trail becomes fainter and harder to follow as you get further away from Elk Mountain.

From wherever you choose to turn around, retrace your steps back to the trailhead. Take care on the steep descent. Hiking poles are helpful in some sections.

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