Elk-Thurston Trail

A classic and popular sub alpine ridgewalk.


To Elk Mountain

Total Distance: 8.0 km (return)
Estimated Time: 4 hours
Average Grade: 16.9%
Structure: Linear - Return
Elevation Gain: 674 m
Start Elevation: 630 m
Max Elevation: 1304 m

To Mount Thurston

Total Distance: 14.6 km (return)
Estimated Time: 7 hours
Average Grade: 13.6%
Structure: Linear - Return
Elevation Gain: 996 m
Start Elevation: 630 m
Max Elevation: 1626 m


From Highway #1 (Trans-Canada Highway), take exit #123 for Prest Road. Turn right (south) onto Prest Road and follow it to the second four-way stop, at the base of Promontory Ridge. Turn left on to Bailey Road and follow it to a fork, with Lindell Road continuing to the left and Elkview Road heading sharply uphill on the right.

Take the right fork, following Elkview Road as it winds it's way up the mountain to the Ryder Lake area. At the 3-way stop sign, keep going straight. After approximately 15 minutes of driving through the pleasant country, the road turns to gravel. Continue onwards, now Chilliwack Bench Forest Service Road.

A short 1km of car accessible driving leads you to a gravel parking area on the left. Park here and find the trailhead at the far end of the parking lot, next to the road.


The first 3.5 km of this trail is a steady climb through forest. Eventually though you will break through the forest and get to the first lookout, which offers great views of the Fraser Valley to the west.

Continuing along the trail for another 10 minutes back into forest, and you will pop out onto the ridge itself, where in the early summer many wildflowers bloom. If you hit it right, you'll also find wild strawberries as well (around the end of June-early July).

Once on the ridge, there's some excellent views of the mountains to the south and south-east, with Mts. MacGuire, Border Peaks, and Mt. Slesse being dominant. There's also some great views of Mt. Baker as well.

The trail along the ridge rises and dips with the ridge, and eventually heads back into forest past Elk Mtn summit. From Elk summit, another 30 minutes of hiking takes you to another minor peak with a large cairn with some excellent views. This is an un-named peak, but this little peak has far better views than Mt. Thurston, which is the bushy peak that is another 30 min or so away.

The trail actually continues past Mt. Thurston, but it's condition is in somewhat worse condition due to the fact that few carry along the ridge this far from Elk. This trail eventually links up with an old forest service road and takes you to an obvious pass, where a trail then continues on to Mt. Mercer, which is the highest peak along the ridge.

Detailed Notes:

* Makes its way North-West, crossing a small creek

* Turns right onto the crest of a ridge, heading uphill north-east. Minimal switchbacks.

* After the trail turns, flagged for logging.

* 2.5km from start, becomes very steep and starts switchbacking

* Emerges from forest and crosses a steep grassy slope, very tricky in winter. A few steps have been built into the hillside here.

* After a short, steep climb along the grassy hillside, reaches a rock bluff with a good view of Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley.

* Continues past the viewpoint, gaining elevation until it reaches the summit of Elk Mountain. More great views here, primarily of the Chilliwack River Valley and Cultus Lake.

* The trail continues past Elk, leading through a flowery sub-alpine ridge.

* Descends past Elk, then climbs again as it reaches the first false summit of Thurston where there is a cairn.

* Descends slightly past the cairn, regains as it climbs through alternating forest and sub-alpine meadow. The summit of Thurston is forested and has no views.

* Trail continues past Thurston, but is bushy and somewhat overgrown.


GPS Waypoints

Main trailhead N49.10490 W121.82054 10U 586087 5439787
Small creek crossing N49.10949 W121.82207 10U 585967 5440295
Start of steep section N49.11555 W121.81871 10U 586202 5440973
Trail exits forest N49.11582 W121.81201 10U 586690 5441011
Elk Mountain lookout N49.11568 W121.81127 10U 586744 5440996
Elk Mountain summit N49.11353 W121.80405 10U 587275 5440765
Cairn N49.10541 W121.78309 10U 588819 5439887
Mount Thurston lookout N49.10462 W121.77621 10U 589323 5439807
Mount Thurston summit N49.10699 W121.76781 10U 589931 5440081
Eastern trailhead N49.10676 W121.75042 10U 591201 5440076