Vancouver Island is blessed with gorgeous scenery and seemingly limitless hiking opportunities. One of the easiest and most accessible places to view that beauty is Mt. Becher.
Mt. Becher is located about 20 km West of Courtenay and Comox. The easiest way to access the mountain is via the now defunct Wood Mountain Ski Area (known locally as the old Forbidden Plateau ski area). This area has been used for backcountry and local family recreation since the 1920s and the tradition continues today.
Winter on Mt. Becher
Mt. Becher is gorgeous no matter what time of year you go but there is no doubt that it’s pretty special in the winter. The lower slopes near the parking lot are popular with families for some winter fun sliding, snowshoeing or skiing.
The real gem though lies in continuing on past the old ski area and into Strathcona Park. With some fresh snow this area turns into a winter wonderland.
After you hike up the fairly steep hill from the parking lot the terrain levels out and winds its way through the forest.
As you hike higher the views of Mt. Becher start to open up.
There are some steep sections but with care they can be traversed safely.
A little over 3/4 of the way up there are some spectacular views of Boston Falls and Boston Lake.
After the Boston Falls lookout there is another steeper section to hike as you ascend towards the summit.
At this point the views of the mountains to the west really start to open up. On the other side of these mountains (not visible) is Buttle Lake.
The most distinctive of these mountains is Mt. Albert Edward.
After this enticing view there is only one more uphill section to endure.
You’ll know when you reach the summit as it provides a wonderful view of the Comox Glacier and the surrounding mountains.
It is a wonderful feeling to come over the last rise, know you’ve made it and be rewarded by the spectacular views.
The summit is a great place to stop for lunch. After lunch its worth taking some time to wander around the summit area and ponder the views from different directions. You have 360 degrees to choose from!
If you look to the North, the Mount Washington Ski area should be visible.
If you have a 4 legged friend who’s up for the hike its a great place to bring them. I think this is one of my dog’s favorite hikes.
As you make your way back down the mountain keep your eye out for some of the views out the other direction. As the light fades over the Salish Sea there are some great views of the Coastal Mountains on the mainland.
A word of caution: The photos above all show the beauty of the mountain on lovely sunny days. Keep in mind that Mt. Beacher is a backcountry destination and when the weather turns bad navigation can become quite difficult as friends of mine have found out first hand.
Photo credit: Jason Connelly
Mt. Becher in the Summer
As spectacular as Mt. Becher is the winter, it does afford some great summer hiking as well.
The trail up from the parking area is obvious and while somewhat steep, walking is easy.
As you ascend turn around occasionally to admire the views over the Salish Sea.
When the snow melts (which can be into July or August) the wild flowers appear.
Once past the old ski hill the trail up is pretty clear.
As in the winter, the Boston Lake overlook makes a very scenic spot to stop and admire the view.
If you have the time I highly recommend a side trip down to Boston Lake. Look for a sign on the trail. Its steep and there are ropes to help, but it only takes about 10 or 15 minutes to get down. The lake itself is very pretty and has a lovely emerald green color.
There is even an area to camp at one end of the lake if you want to stay overnight.
Continuing on to the summit you may encounter some trees misshapen by the harsh winters.
Just after the Boston Falls overlook keep your eyes open to left of the trail for the remains of an old cabin. Posts on the internet seem to indicate that it was built in 1928 by members of the Comox District Mountaineering Club and burned down in 1985. However, the date on one of the footings is 1938 so I’m not exactly sure when it was built.
As you approach the summit what was a smooth open plain in the winter looks very different.
Even in August there can be pockets of snow left. You also can get a peak at the Comox Glacier.
As in winter, hitting the summit yields your reward for all that sweat left on the trail up.
If you want a more ‘immersive’ photo experience click on this link to view a full 360 degree panorama taken at the summit.
Winter or Summer, Mt. Becher is one of the most spectacular and accessible areas to view the splendor of Vancouver Island.
Travel North on Highway 19 (Island Highway) from Nanaimo until you pass the first exit to Courtenay/Comox (don’t turn into Courtenay, stay on the highway). Turn right at the lights at Piercy Road and after a few hundred meters take another right on Forbidden Plateau Road. Follow this road all the way to where it ends in the parking lot of the old Forbidden Ski Area. Although the road turns into gravel it is very well maintained and passable by any 2wd car. The lower slopes of the old Forbidden Ski hill are very popular with families and they seem to keep the road well cleared in winter.
It takes between 2 and 4 hours to travel the 6km to the top depending on your level of fitness and how often you stop. Its about 1.5 to 2 hours back down. Here is a map of the route up.