The Elk-Thurston trail is one of the Chilliwack River Valley’s most popular hikes. Although not the easiest hike in the valley, the spectacular views from the top make the strenuous trek worthwhile. The trail can be hiked year-round but is at its best from June through to October.
Elk Mountain Hike Summary
- Rating: Hard
- Round trip distance: 15 km
- Elevation Gain: 3100 feet
- Time Needed: 6-7 hours
- Type: Out & back
- Season: June to October
Elk Mountain Hike Trail Guide
Trailhead & parking lot
The trailhead and the parking lot are clearly marked. The last part of the road to the trailhead is a gravel road but you do not need a 4×4 for that. You can easily reach the trailhead and parking lot with any car. Near the trailhead, there is a signboard with all the information including important phone numbers. There is also a washroom almost 100 meters from the trailhead.
Trailhead to Forest service road
The forest service road is situated at a distance of 1.6 KM from the trailhead. Of 1.6 Km, the first 1.2 km of the hike is not so steep. Reaching the forest service road takes around 30 minutes.
Forest Service road to the First viewpoint
The first viewpoint is around 2 KM from the forest service road and 3.5 Km from the trailhead. The hiking trail is steep throughout after the forest service road and well-marked too. This 3.5 km of trail to the first viewpoint travels through the temperate rainforest before arriving at the first scenic viewpoint. Take some time here to enjoy the sweeping panoramic views of the Fraser Valley. From the first viewpoint, you get a nice view of the Chilliwack River valley and nearby peaks.
The trail then heads back into the forest for the next 200 to 300 meters briefly before emerging onto the ridge, which is bordered by a beautiful alpine meadow. There is also another washroom at the ridge. During the months of June through August, the meadow is in full bloom. From here onwards the trail emerges onto the ridge throughout except for some patches of forests. As the trail continues along the ridge towards the summit of Elk mountain, there are impressive views to the south and southeast of the border peaks.
There is nothing as such called Elk Mountain summit or peak as Elk mountain has a series of viewpoints. You can see Yellow Flags along the ridge which marks Elk mountain. You will also come across multiple viewpoints as mentioned before.
Second viewpoint (Stone Cairn)
Continue along the trail for approximately 1.5 km from the first viewpoint to reach a second viewpoint, which is marked by a stone cairn. The stone cairn is situated at a distance of almost 5.5 KM. From here, it is another approx. 2 km to reach the peak of Mount Thurston. This part of the trail is the most beautiful part as you will see wildflowers, nearby peaks, a view of the Fraser Valley, and walking along the ridge gives a different experience.
Stone Cairn to Thurston Mountain
The stone cairn offers one of the best views of the hikes. There is no viewpoint at Mount Thurston. So, a lot of hikers only do the hike until the stone cairn and return from there. From the stone cairn to mount Thurston, the distance is only 2 KM with an elevation gain of 200 meters which makes the hike an easier one here onwards.
Elk Mountain Hike Safety
It is important to stay on the marked trail at all times. A steady increase in hikers on this trail has created a strain on this extremely fragile alpine environment. A thin layer of soil and a short growing season makes it very difficult for the plants to recover from even minor damage.
This area is home to both bears and cougars. To minimize your chance of a bear or cougar encounter, make noise while hiking, preferably by talking or singing. If you encounter a bear or a cougar, do not run. Instead back away slowly.