Today wasn’t the best day for this hike but we enjoyed it nonetheless. A pleasant mixture of old- and second-growth forest mostly on good hiking trails (good by North Shore standards anyway). We followed the route outlined in 105 Hikes, but we descended on Bill’s Trail, rather then retracing our steps on the super-steep Wally’s Trail. I highly recommend this modification! We will definitely repeat this hike on a day with a view.
We had no issues finding street parking at the top of St George’s Avenue. Just make sure to park in areas not needed by residents.
As mentioned above, we followed the route suggested in 105 Hikes, with a minor modification that I would highly recommend. The route description in the book was spot-on, and most trails were well labelled and marked, the exception being the start of Per Gynt near the junction of Mountain Highway and the Old Grouse Mountain Highway. Wally’s Trail was very steep, so steep that I would really not recommend descending it, especially when wet, as it was today. We returned via Bill’s Trail to make it a lollipop, and to be honest, that trail goes through some wonderful old-growth forest so I highly recommend taking that trail back down. Sure, it had its own steep sections and plenty of slippery roots but was much easier going that Wally’s. Overall, the trails were remarkably mud-free, but that shouldn’t be a surprise given how long it’s been since it last rained. However, the foliage was very wet, which meant that we got wet, especially on Wally’s Trail, which was only a narrow footpath through the understory in places. Should’ve worn gaiters or waterproof trousers!
Not much to report in terms of flowers. Fireweed and pearly everlasting were blooming along Mountain Highway, while rattlesnake plantain looked to be at its flowering peak with some really nice examples at various points along the trail. Foamflower was just going to seed, queen’s cup was showing off its green beads, some heart-leaved twayblade was just past flowering, and we found a few patches of decaying coralroot. Higher up, copperbush was still in bloom, though beginning to fade. A smattering of green blueberries and huckleberries were decorating some of the bushes near the summit. Blackberries and salal berries were ripening nicely at lower elevations while a few salmonberries and black raspberries were still hanging on at mid elevations.
Birds and squirrels as usual. Our best bird sighting was a brown creeper working its way up the lower trunks of a few trees. We also heard chickadees, kinglets, robins, nuthatches, ravens, and juncoes. Mosquitoes were few and far between (thankfully, after last week’s insanity), and only near the summit.
Distance: 10.5 km
Elevation gain: 865 m
Route on AllTrails
- 🙂 We revelled in the cool misty conditions, such a welcome contrast to recent weeks!
- 🙂 Many beautiful old trees in the forest.
- 🙂 Enjoyable hiking on a soft spongy trail.
- 🙂 A very quiet trail with few other hikers – we had many moments of blissful utter silence.
- ☹️ No views today, and the cold, wet greenery soaked us very quickly. (But hooray for quick-dry clothing!)
Well, we thought we had picked the better day for hiking…. Three of us headed over to the North Shore on a dull, cloudy morning, parking up on St George’s Avenue and setting off a little before 10 am. I was trying out a new pair of boots, the soles on my previous ones having more or less given up completely. (They lasted 3 years, but I already had a serious hole in one boot late last year and I just couldn’t keep them waterproof any more.) We picked up the narrow trail at the top of the cul-de-sac, pushing through wet, overhanging blackberry bushes which snagged at our clothing. The blackberries were beginning to ripen, though, and we eyed up a few for the way down.
We were soon in open second-growth forest and following the trail uphill, tunnelling once again through wet undergrowth as we reached the powerline cut, this time a narrow canyon of salal complete with ripe berries. These we weren’t so bothered about trying; they’re often pasty and mealy and not very juicy or exciting. We were happy to leave those for the bears and the birds. After a short stretch of walking under the power lines we cut back into the forest, following St George’s Trail upwards, now in more desolate second growth. We passed a number of huge cedar stumps and wondered – slightly wistfully – what this forest must have looked like before it was logged.
Mist hung in the trees above our heads and further up the slope, and the forest was quiet save for some birdsong. We chatted and wound our way up the slope, soon crossing over the Baden-Powell Trail that we’d hiked back at the beginning of May and continuing upwards towards the mist. We paused to catch our breath in front of a hydra-liked alder, its three large trunks sprouting from a narrow base, before resuming our steady climb.
About 45 minutes after setting off, we reached a very misty Mountain Highway, soon picking up Per Gynt where Old Grouse Mountain Highway peeled off. Per Gynt was pleasant walking on softer ground, albeit through the same largely barren second-growth forest. We emerged onto Mountain Highway again and began walking along it to find our final ascent up to the summit of Mount Fromme. Fireweed was blooming in abundance here, beautifully adorned with spider silk and raindrops. A few salmonberries teased us high up on the bush, just out of reach, unless we were willing to get soaked from the wet foliage!
The road was easy walking, if a bit boring, but it only lasted 20 minutes before we reached our turnoff to Wally’s Trail, where we were greeted by dire warnings of a steep trail from not one but two signs, one of which looked to have been put there by North Shore Rescue. And so up we went to find out just how steep this trail was. The narrow path led off from the road through sopping wet trees and berry bushes that quickly soaked my legs as we climbed. And climb we did! It didn’t take long to confirm the warnings at the start, the trail taking a very direct, albeit meandering, line up the steep slope. But we didn’t mind; in fact, I’d go so far as to say we enjoyed it. The footing was soft, which my feet appreciated in my new boots, and the surrounding misty old-growth forest was simply magnificent. And being such a steep trail, there was no pressure to feel like we should have been hiking more quickly.
Up and up we went, passing huge western hemlocks perched on precipitous slopes, some with roots draped over massive boulders, defying gravity. Western hemlocks are sorely under-appreciated trees, and lack protection, at least compared with large cedars and firs. While not record-breaking, the red cedars around us were still impressive and we found ourselves really enjoying the forest, its beauty accentuated by the mist.
I did my best to knock last night’s rain off the bushes and trees as we walked but it was really in vain and I couldn’t avoid getting soaked, the water beginning to run down my legs and into my boots. Why hadn’t I thought to bring gaiters? Who knows. Light rain was falling now, too, but the temperature was still mild enough for me to continue in my t-shirt, at least while I was on the move.
The gradient finally began to ease and the forest thinned out to patches of heather, berry bushes, and small mountain hemlocks. With the distinct lack of visibility it was impossible to tell if we were getting close to the summit, and when we came to a small clearing, we felt that we had indeed reached the top. It didn’t quite feel right to me, but then my last visit was when snow still covered the ground, so I didn’t have a clear idea of what the summit would even look like. We paused to check the map and realized we still had a couple of hundred metres of wet shrubbery to walk through to reach the main summit. By now the terrain was really quite flat with just a few small undulations, and we walked over the map-designated high-point to reach a rocky clearing that I finally recognized as the summit.
Of course, there were no views whatsoever. At times we could barely see 30 metres ahead, while at others I could just catch a glimpse of the outline of the north summit. There was no point trying to get there today, though: bashing through more wet foliage to reach another non-viewpoint had no appeal. And so we dropped our packs on the rocks and ate a well-earned lunch. A couple of groups of hikers joined us at the summit, each finding their own spot to take in the lack of a view.
Satisfied that we weren’t going to see anything, we pulled on our packs and began retracing our steps, this time taking care to follow the sign marked for Bill’s Trail. I don’t know who Bill is or was, but I’m pretty sure this trail wasn’t named after him in 2013. Regardless, we enjoyed walking on a wider trail, meaning we weren’t having to push through the wet bushes and trees, and maybe we could finally begin to dry off a little! The trail led us down through mountain hemlock initially then back into the denser western hemlock and cedar forest,
We descended in the light mist, the forest quiet around us, soon reaching an area dominated by what I think were silver fir. This area was surprisingly free of any understory but I couldn’t see any significant signs of logging, so perhaps this is just how this forest develops? The trail was still lovely to walk on, occasionally sounding hollow underfoot, and, while the roots were still slippery, there was remarkably little mud. We passed some large cedar snags, long-since hollowed out,, one of which actually looked to have a living branch still attached, much to our surprise.
Alas finally the old-growth gave way to desolate second-growth which indicated we were getting close to Mountain Highway again. I was expecting this based on my previous visit but even then we found some things of interest to admire, such as raindrop-laden cobwebs and some impressive chicken-of-the-woods fungi. We emerged from the forest, blinking on the relatively bright open road, before ducking back into the trees on Per Gynt once again. A steady pace saw us back on St George’s in only 20 minutes, which we followed back down towards the car. The mist made a brief appearance as we descended through the densest forest but soon cleared as we reached the power lines, where we were tempted to sample a few delicious blackberries. After that we were only a few minutes from the trailhead, the bushes we’d brushed through now dry (as were we – thank goodness for quick dry clothing!).
We emerged from the forest to clearing skies and by the time we drove back into Vancouver, the sun was shining and we had the rest of the afternoon to relax. The lack of views was a little disappointing but, all in all, we really enjoyed the hike and I think we’ll definitely return on a clearer day.