What makes a place magical? I’m not really sure but whatever it is Green Mountain has it in spades.
This is by far one of my most favorite places to hike on Vancouver Island. Is it the views over the mountains extending as far as the eye can see? I suppose that’s part of it.
Is it the rare natural meadows? They certainly make it easy to enjoy the views while hiking and they are not found in very many places on Vancouver Island.
The bright splashes of fall color certainly don’t hurt.
Whatever this mountain has it certainly draws me back again and again for some spectacular hiking.
Access to the mountain can be difficult. The access roads are on TimberWest private land and both the gate at the end of pavement on Nanaimo River Road and at 2nd lake must be open to get in. Contact TimberWest for status of the gates. Access is often further hampered by snow. During the winter this area can get significant snowfalls and usually gets enough to prevent driving anywhere near enough to snowshoe or hike in. This varies widely year to year. Depending on the snow pack and weather I’ve seen access as early as February and as late as June.
Even if the road is clear of snow a 4 wheel drive is required. It doesn’t take much of a 4×4 (I’ve see SUV’s, Pickups, Delicas etc all make it up) but it does require the traction and clearance of a 4×4. There are 2 spots in the road where this is needed. There is a washed out area at 730 m
UPDATE 2016-09-19: The road has now been fixed almost all the way to the top. The washouts are gone. The road, while still a bit rough, is passable by a 2wd to within 500m of the trailhead. If you want to drive the last 500m (fun!) you will still need a 4×4.
In winter this washout becomes even more challenging.
The other area requiring a 4×4 is just short of the parking area for the trailhead at 1100 m.
If you can manage to make it in, you’re in for a treat.
From the area where you park the hike starts with a short walk to over a deactivated road to the base of the natural meadows. There is no real trail as such, you just make your way up the meadows. As long as you are walking uphill you are heading in the right direction.
There are lots of Elk trails that you can follow up through the clearings.
The meadows are home to a variety of colorful plants and fungus.
If you are looking for wild flowers the best time to visit is in the spring after the snow has melted. Timing your visit is somewhat difficult since its hard to determine the level of snow melt in the backcountry without frequent visits.
About half way up the mountain there are the remains of the old A-Frame cabin from the days when Green Mountain was a ski area. All that’s left now is rubble. Here’s a few photos from 1963 when the ski area was operational: photos.
Before long the summit knoll is clearly visible.
As you hike keep your eyes open for wildlife. Its not unusual to see Roosevelt Elk on your way up the meadows.
While I often see Black Bears on the road up I’ve only ever seen any on the mountain itself once.
To reach the summit you have to cross a steeper section that involves a bit of scrambling but its not technical or very exposed.
If you are quiet as you approach the summit knoll you may get lucky and see some Vancouver Island Marmots taking in the sun on the southern slopes. If you do see some please be kind and don’t disturb them. They are Canada’s most endangered species and need all the help we can give them.
To access to the summit knoll you thread your way through some gnarled trees.
Its like entering a secret garden. Once you are though there is a small pond area enclosed by trees.
Climbing a few more meters you reach the actual summit. Its a great place to have lunch, take in the views and add your own rock to the summit cairn.
If you wander around a little on the summit you can see some views back towards Nanaimo. In the photo below the closest lake is Heart Lake with Second Lake in the distance. To the left of Second Lake is Mt. De Cosmos and to the right is Mt. Hooker. Visible directly behind is Blackjack Ridge with Mt Benson and Nanaimo behind that.
If you can time it just right Green Mountain is also a great place to snowshoe, backcountry ski or snowboard in the winter. If you’re too late or too early in the season, however, there is likely to be too much snow on the road to get close enough.
In addition to hiking up to the main summit there are a couple of other interesting destinations on Green Mountain. To the south there is prominent rock outcrop. I don’t think it is a named location but we call it Green Knoll. Access this area by heading to right on the saddle below the main summit. The final ascent onto the outcrop involves all 4 limbs but no real exposure. Here is a photo of that outcrop in the winter. Its the steep dropoff on the left side of the photo.
Looking back from Green Knoll gives a great view of Green Mountain summit.
Another interesting destination is the North summit. Access to this area is via the Sno-Bird trail which branches off the main road up at about 800 m. This area is far less visited but has some fantastic natural meadow hiking.
The views on the way down are just as nice as on the way up.
No matter which area of Green Mountain you visit it makes for a fantastic and unique experience.
Driving time from North Nanaimo to the trail head: about 1.5 hours (shorter from central or south Nanaimo). A 4 wheel drive vehicle is required to negotiate the road and both Nanaimo Lakes logging road gates must be open.
Round trip distance from the trail head to the top and back: about 5 km depending on which route you take.
Hiking time: 2-4 hours depending on how fast you hike, how often you stop and how much you explore.
Starting elevation: 1100m
Max elevation: 1477m
Trail Difficulty: Easy (with a couple of short Moderate sections)
GPS Track Download: http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=2761322
Suggestions: bring a camera (the views are worth it!), hiking poles are nice but not required. Although navigation on the mountain itself is fairly easy since its all open walking, a GPS with the above track loaded on it is a great help in sorting out which logging roads to take in. There are a number of roads and branches heading off in different directions and they all look similar enough to make it easy to get lost.