Details

Distance

20.5 miles

Elevation Gain

3822.2 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Description

Added by Richard Arthur

Easy access, moderate challenge, amazing views! Camp or day hike to the top of Heather Mountain in the solitude of West Lake Cowichan.

Heather Mountain is a moderate well marked out and back hike through managed forest land.

The hike brings a wonderful feeling of solitude as there are no towns or buildings visible even with distant views in all directions.  It is also quite lightly tracked: we saw no other hikers on the entire route during our mid-week summer ascent. The only downside is the extensive logging you can see on most of the hills and valleys close by. However, thanks to the logging roads, the access and first part of the hike is easy. The hike is year-round, though expect snow in the winter time. Thanks to flagging in trees until the point where you can see the summit it would be relatively easy to follow the route even in winter.

The hike begins with a mix of logging roads and ATV tracks through different aged regrowth and opening to panoramic views along the way. For the last 3 km the trail continues with a scramble up to alpine meadows, a forested section and then a steeper walk up the final ascent.

From the top there are amazing views of the Vancouver Island range, the Olympics in Washington state, the Coastal range and Georgia straight, Gordon Bay and the straight of Juan de Fuca, the Pacific Ocean, as well as nearby Lake Cowichan and Mount Arrowsmith. 

GETTING THERE

It's quite easy to get to the trail head for Heather Mountain at the west end of Lake Cowichan. It's about a two hour drive from Victoria, heading to Lake Cowichan town, through Youbou, and then onto gravel road for the final 22km. Through Youbou, stay on the main road which becomes North Shore Road.

We chose to drive up in the afternoon from Victoria and camp overnight before starting the hike.    

We spent the first night at the Mosaic Forest management camp site at Lake Kissinger then left our car there and started our hike from the camp. You can also park at the start of the logging road (R Branch) off North Shore road and start from there.

Kissinger lake camp is easily found on Google Maps at about 24km past Youbou on North Shore Road. To find the R-Branch logging road exit count about 22 km past Youbou. Just right after the crossroads with South Shore road there is a parking area on the right where the logging road starts. It could be possible to mountain bike up quite a bit of this trail also.

The topo app application I use (simply called “Topo Maps Canada" on the App store)  measured our hike as 38km, with 1165m vertical (3800ft) from Kissinger lake. Other hikers have measured it at more like 32-34km. If you want to day hike it you are better off starting at the logging road entrance.   

CAMPING

The second night we spent on top of the mountain (see the orange tent in the woods on the pano) and were blessed with perfect weather.     There is a broken tent platform on the mountain top near some weather equipment. This could be suitable for a single bivy sac.   We also found some suitable grassed areas to the North of the summit. Even in mid August there is available water around the summit, but unfortunately also some mosquitos. Elk prints were visible in some muddy areas as well as bear scat.

For food protection we were able to use the Communications tower to hang our food out of reach.

After a beautiful moonlit night atop the mountain we retraced our steps back down the mountain in about 4 hours.

SAFETY

This is a highly recommended hike, but remember you are on Forestry managed land so observe signs and warnings. For safety we were able to leave our itinerary with the Kissinger Lake camp host. The camp also provided security our car and a cooling swim on the return trip. Black bears and cougars are active in the area so protect yourself accordingly. There is some cell service on certain spots on the mountain.

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Features

Camping
Mountain Biking
Backpacking
Hiking
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildlife

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