Central Cheam Range Trail
Extremely steep trail leading to alpine meadows below Baby Munday Peak. Tradionally has been used by climbers and scramblers to access Knight, Stewart, Baby Munday, and The Still.
||7.8 km (return)
||Linear - Return
Follow Highway #1 (Trans-Canada Highway) to Chilliwack, taking Exit #119 South. Follow Vedder Road until a three-way stop just before a bridge over the Vedder River. Zero your odometer here and turn left at the stop sign onto Chilliwack Lake Road. At the 28 km mark and immediately after one of the Vedder River bridge crossings, turn left onto Chilliwack-Foley Forest Service Road. Zero your odometer again here.
Follow the forest service road for 2.0 km to a T-junction, located immediately after a bridge over Foley Creek. Turn right here on to Foley Lake Forest Service Road. Drive north-east another 2.4 km past the T-junction and turn left on to Airplane Creek Forest Service Road, the start of which is a gated bridge. The gate is occasionally locked - if necessary, phone Chilliwack Forestry Service (604-702-5702) to borrow a key.
Reset your odometer at the start of Airplane Creek Road and follow it north, ignoring a branch road on the right a few hundred meters later. Continue following the road straight at the 2.1 km mark, ignoring the branch road that curves sharply uphill to the left. After a total distance of 4.6 km from the gate the road will switchback to the left. Park here, near what remains of an old road leading off to the right.
Offering incredible views, wildflowers, numerous waterfalls, and fantastic scrambles - the Central Cheam Range Trail is a beautiful route that has been relatively overlooked by the hiking community. Although portions of the trail are somewhat overgrown, the majority of the route is through virgin forest on a well defined footpath.
The statistics for this trail make the route seem somewhat easier than it is in reality. The first two kilometers of the hike is on the original Airplane Creek Forest Service Road, now overgrown, eroding, and decaying. Because the road is relatively flat, the average grade appears to be a steep-but-manageable 19%. If the road is excluded, the trail itself has a punishing average grade of over 46%! In fact, portions of the trail have a maximum grade of over 55% - easily making this trail one of the steepest in the Chilliwack area.
Starting on Airplane Creek Road near a sharp switchback at 980 meters in elevation, look for an old road leading off to the north-west. The decaying road is all that remains of the original Airplane Creek Forest Service Road, now permanently deactivated and being overtaken by nature. Follow the road on foot for about 200 meters, after which it narrows into nothing more than a simple footpath - now more trail than road.
Continue down the overgrown road, crossing over a few small creeks. to a point where it bends across from the creek dropping down between Baby Munday and The Still. At this point, cairns on the right mark the start of the actual trail. After 1.5 km, the road has a short switchback. 500 meters after the switchback, watch for flagging tape and a cairn marking the point where the trail leaves the road and drops down to the right. If you reach a point where the road turns sharply to the left (west) and continues in that direction, you've gone too far.
Descend to the east, following the track through the dense brush. This part of the trail is actually another old road, even more overgrown than the first one. Some old rusted sprockets and other machine parts are occasionally scattered alongside, giving evidence to the route's industrial origins. It only takes a few minutes of hiking before the road ends at a rocky landing area. Locate the flagging tape at the far end of the landing and continue down on a steep, rough trail through second growth forest. The undergrowth is dense and massive stumps line the trail, giving evidence of the old growth forest that once stood here. Portions of the trail can be muddy.
At the bottom of the valley, cross Airplane Creek on a large log that has been converted into a makeshift bridge. The unlogged forest on the opposite side is much more pleasant, with the well marked and easy to follow trail leading towards the base of the hillside. Don't expect much mercy as the trail begins climbing straight up the mountain. There are no switchbacks or deviations - it's literally straight up, with portions of the route having a maximum grade of over 55%. Thankfully, the trail has apparently been maintained informally over the years - trees and branches have been cut away from it. Aside from the intense elevation gain, the trail is relatively normal - complete with a clear path and even tree markers.
The edge of a creek gully is reached a short distance later, with the trail following is western edge. After gaining 180 meters in elevation, the trail swings off to the left and makes a final short climb into the alpine. After a beautiful walk through the meadows with 360 degree views, the trail finally ends at a small informal campsite. There is room for approximately two tents on the mostly-flat grass, and the remains of a fire circle. Please, practice no-trace camping and do not start fires in the alpine. There is no water directly at the campsite, but a short walk leads to a nearby creek.
Past the campsite, scramble off trail up the meadows to reach the nearby peaks. A small tarn further up in the bowl between Baby Munday, Stewart Peak and The Still also has a few good campsites. Make sure to turn around and note the location of the trail for your descent - it can be difficult to locate.
|Parking / start of old road
||10U 601216 5443612
|Trail leaves old road
||10U 599860 5444711
|Overgrown landing area
||10U 600015 5444748
|Airplane Creek crossing
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|Trail begins climbing steeply
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|Trail starts following edge of avalanche gully
||10U 600381 5445289
|Trail leads away from edge of avalanche gully
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|Edge of forest / start of alpine meadows
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|End of trail / informal campsite
||10U 599942 5446015