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Vancouver Island: Glorious Green Mountain

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.

Trail Notes:

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.

Driving Directions:

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.

 

 

  • Stu H says:

    Hi,
    I love the shots. It brings back memories of a couple of fantastic winter hikes I’ve done up there. How are you getting through the second gate? Does Timberwest loan you a key?
    Thanks,
    Stu.

    April 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm
  • Lorne says:

    You just have to go up when the gate is open.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:10 am
  • Sue says:

    Gorgeous! Especially love the one with the young lady hiking through the yellow wild flowers.

    May 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm
  • Stella says:

    Beautiful!

    June 19, 2014 at 3:55 am
  • Donnie says:

    Love the pics….my friend and I have attempted to locate a way up for several years….thanks so much…we will for sure get up there soon….at least before the snow flies….God Bless…..

    September 22, 2014 at 4:23 am
  • Linda says:

    Beautiful pictures! Great website!

    November 15, 2014 at 5:35 am
  • Donna Hooper says:

    I skied on Green Mountain over 10 years and worked for my season’s pass for many of those years. My mom and dad said it was a great place for us 5 kids as they always knew where we were and not driving drunk…lol I remember fondly of going on cougar hunts at night with Mayor Frank Ney and receiving wagon wheels after with some hot chocolate. I had the best childhood and would open the mountain again in a minute if I had the money. I remember on Friday nights walking to the top lodge from the parking lot with my ski’s, boots, poles, sleeping bag, food and clothes straight up the face. Boy, we were in shape and didn’t realize it. Thanks for the memories and bringing a smile and warm glow to my heart. Cbeers

    January 4, 2015 at 3:27 am
  • Marianne Cardiff says:

    Thanks a million for sharing your incredibly beautiful pictures of Green Mountain. I too spent a lot of time in the 1960th and early 1970th on the mountain as a Snowbird Club member. Have a multitude of fond memories of people who had worked hard to establish the ski area and of the great skiing we enjoyed. Also unforgettable are the journeys up and down a rather challenging access road ,navigating at times deep washouts or trying to get up the unploughed road.
    Marianne

    January 12, 2015 at 10:08 pm
    • Dan Marzocco says:

      Hi marriane, were you ever up there when there were just rope tows or when the lift up the meadows was operating? There was also a lodge near the bottom of the meadows, I think it was called the Purple Onion. This was all before the final bottom Lodge and Tbar that went through the trees and ended near the top lodge was installed. In the end a 2nd Tbar was installed that ended above the top Lodge as well

      January 13, 2015 at 5:07 am
  • Marianne Cardiff says:

    Hi Dan, Yes,I was there, think it was1963- when we only had the rope tow -and was also there when the T-bar was installed and then it snowed & snowed,burying the lift-got a pic of that sitting on a tower! We actually had the ski shop which was moved from the Snowbird Lodge to the Purple Onion. Odd- I don’t recall the 2nd T-bar.

    January 14, 2015 at 7:31 pm
    • Dan Marzocco says:

      Hi Marianne Cardiff, so you still have that old pic of the t-bar buried in snow or any other old pics? If so, I would love to see them if you could possibly send by email or post on here that would be awesome. There was a t-bar or platter lift in up through the Meadows from the switch backs (road) almost to the top of the meadows but I was never there when it operated., The towers for that lift are still standing.
      By the time I started (late 60’s)!there was a T-bar through the trees south of the big meadows and the old lift towers. This t-bar ended right beside the big old A-Frame Sno-birds lodge that you could stay overnight in. At that time there was also a Day Lodge at the bottom of that T-Bar and in the winter the parking lot at the day lodge was as high as you could drive. This bottom day lodge was in a different location than the lodge that was used when the lift in the meadows operated. I was told the old lodge at the bottom of the meadows was called the Purple Onion and I saw debris from it at the bottom of the meadows when I was hiking there 30 summers ago.
      In the 70’s a 2nd T-bar was installed that started below the Top Lodge at ended above the top lodge right below the steep rock outcrops and it gave us access into a small back bowl that was fun and that bowl was at the top of the Meadows.
      In those days we could ski from the top down through the meadows then cut through some trees and ski down through another big meadow that ended at the old road by the switch backs. Then we had to hitchhike back up but it was a great run.
      In the early 70’s they rerouted the road to avoid the switchbacks.nit was a longer route but less steep. Trouble is it made it harder to ski out through all the meadows and get a ride back up .
      If anybody has more info than this please share it with us!!

      December 4, 2015 at 11:59 am
  • Cameron Vallee says:

    Looks amazing. What kind of camera did you use for these pictures?

    February 6, 2015 at 1:19 am
  • Nathaniel Christopher says:

    I think this is the first time I’ve seen a photo of Mount Benson’s west face!

    I grew up in Nanaimo and I always wondered what was on the other side of Benson but I never really got out that way.

    Thanks for posting these photos!

    March 6, 2015 at 11:36 pm
    • Lorne says:

      Actually that’s not the Benson. What you see in the distance is Blackjack Ridge which is directly behind Benson.

      March 7, 2015 at 12:50 am
  • Chris Rivers says:

    Heading up this weekend, going to make use of the trail track you’ve linked to. Thanks for the photos and the post; definitely excited!

    November 4, 2015 at 6:59 pm
  • Steve Lapp says:

    I skied on Green Mountain in 1968 with a School trip from Lansdowne. I had never skied before and the weekend was heavy snowfall the entire time. The lodge was at the top of the T-Bar so we had to haul all our gear, including food and cookware, up to the lodge. It was bunk-bed accommodation with a common kitchen. My wooden skis with cable bindings were measured to your wrist extended vertically, about 230cm and the boots were leather-lace-ups all rented from Peetz. My knapsack was canvas over wooden stakes and I had a cast-iron fry-pan hanging off the corner. So in the blizzard, never having been on skis before I approached the T-Bar and could tell by the attendants urging that my timing was not good. The T-Bar slipped under my but and down behind my knees and as the tensioner built up the bar flipped me back over with pack, skis, and fry-pan flying everywhere. A memorable introduction to skiing! We all laughed until we couldn’t breath and somehow I made it to the lodge intact. It’s a wonderful memory and thanks for all the photos and memories. I never knew what happened to the lodge and lifts after the mountain closed and it’s too bad as it was a lot closer than Washington. I look forward to hiking it in the Spring/Summer!

    November 23, 2015 at 6:48 pm
  • Marianne Cardiff says:

    Yes Steve, I heard about your T-Bar adventure! Glad you shared your remarkable story. I was a Snowbird Ski Club member and spent much time on the Mountain.

    December 3, 2015 at 4:58 am
  • Marianne Cardiff says:

    Hi Dan,
    Located 2 pics you’ll be interested in. I can email them to you.
    Marianne

    December 8, 2015 at 5:02 am
    • Dan Marzocco says:

      Thanks a lot Marianne, that’s awesome!!! My email,address is dmarzocco@hotmail.com
      I really appreciate you doing that!
      The top T-bar from Green Mounain is still in use at Mount Caine which is north of Campbell River. I heard the bottom T-barb went to Apex near Penticton.
      Is sure wish there was still a ski hill on Green Mountain because it has great potential and is a lot closer than Mount Washington!

      December 8, 2015 at 7:12 am

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