This may not be a hike with panoramic views, but it winds its way through different forest zones and is a real showcase for west-coast forests. It starts off in dense second-growth, before heading up into old-growth and ultimately encroaching on the subalpine and berry bushes of the Hollyburn cross-country ski area.
The network of trails on the flanks of Hollyburn mountain allow the length of this hike to be as adjusted to taste. Dawn Hanna has a version which starts on Millstream Road, the version in the `109 Walks’ book starts down the road at the intersection of Millstream and Eyremont. On an overcast Saturday, four of us (on a Wanderung trip) set out to do the 109 Walks version. Our route was a sort-of triple figure-eight as we extended it up to West Lake.
We started at a yellow gate and headed west for a couple of hundred yards before taking a right, through a gate in a fence (disclaiming all responsibility for what may happen to you on the other side, so to speak) and headed uphill along an old railway bed, where we passed a rusting old truck chassis. Before long we joined the Skyline Trail under the power lines, turned right and soon reached the junction with the Brothers Creek trail. From here we headed uphill, quickly climbing above the deep and narrow gorge of Brothers Creek.
A bit further up, the Crossover Trail came in from the right across a little bridge over the creek. We came in this way the first time we hiked this trail. Carrying on, we began to encounter the first of the large cedars. Climbing further we soon reached the great little double waterfall on Brothers Creek. Of course we couldn’t resist clambering down to the creek side to get a closer look. Back on the trail we came to another bridge over the creek, which we crossed this time, immediately turning left to take the trail to Lost Lake, only half a km further. The lakeshore was surrounded by chest-high berry bushes, already covered with fruit but needing a little more time to ripen and sweeten up (we tasted a few of course).
The trail peeled away from the lake back into the forest and we soon met up with Brothers Creek again. This time, however, it was in a spectacular deep gorge which appeared out of nowhere. It wasn’t easy to get good views of it and judging by the drop, it wasn’t advisable to try too hard either! A few more mushroom photos and then we were at the boardwalks of Blue Gentian Lake. There were even some blue gentian flowers to greet us.
If we had stuck to the book, we would have turned left here back into the trees. Instead we followed the boardwalk round the other side of the lake, met up with the BP trail for a short distance before heading off to West Lake (passing more blue gentian flowers along the way). The trails are signposted so it was easy to find our way around. Lunch was at a placid West Lake (though we were briefly joined by a couple of noisy groups) and then back to Blue Gentian Lake and back down to the upper bridge on Brothers Creek. We crossed it again but this time continued down hill on the fire road.
Now we got to the good stuff, the largest grove of old cedars: they were all around us for this stretch. Impossible to get good photos of, but fabulous to see. Seems odd that they survived when so many others were felled, especially as there is a clear logging road right through the middle! A bit further down the hill we came to the offshoot trail to the Candelabra Fir, a huge Douglas Fir surrounded by numerous large cedar stumps. We got a group photo by one of these stumps. Back to the main trail and we took the Incline trail (rather than following the fire road, passing over old skid road and the site of a saw mill) all the way back down to the Skyline trail again, turning right to rejoin where we came in earlier. We crossed Brothers Creek one more time over a large bridge, where the creek is a spectacular waterfall. Or at least, it would be after a lot of rain! And then down, down again and back to the car.
All in all a great way to spend a few hours, and in my view, probably the best under-cover hike on the North Shore.
Distance: 11 km
Elevation gain: 450 m
Photos on Flickr