Elk, Thurston and Mercer

In my continued quest to complete the Quest for 10 from Mt Waddington's I tackled another route today. This is one I've done a few times, but it's always been delightful. While you can head to Mercer from one of the 4WD roads and get within a few kilometres, I much prefer to head up from Elk, and that's what Waddington's wanted as well.

I hit the trail as the only car in the parking lot just after 6am.

Starting the day as the only car in the parking lot at Elk

Elk is a steep hike, and it's so popular I stay off it on weekends or holidays in the summer season. It's just so busy with groups of 20 - 30 that it's a bit overwhelming. But Monday on a workweek is a great time to head up through the beautiful forest. Even on hot days, Elk is mostly shaded until you get to the ridge. It's a nice break from direct sun.

While there are a few minor lookouts on the way up, the real treat cam about 50 minutes in. That's about 4km and 800m of vertical gain. Here you get to see Mt Baker and some of the peaks to the south including Church and Liumchen.

[caption id="attachment_15517" align="aligncenter" width="2000"] Looking South from the Elk Lookout. You can see Mt Baker[/caption]

Many people stop at the first lookout, but don't. You've done 90% of the elevation gain needed to get to the ridge and some beautiful views east down the Chilliwack River Valley. Head up through the middle of the forest from the lookout to gain the ridge quickly and then another 600m to get to the beautiful alpine meadows that look down at the Chilliwack River.

From there I headed over to Thurston, which is another 2km or so away. Here, I most often stop at the cairn which is about 1km before the summit. It's the nice view, and the summit is surrounded by trees. If you're just looking for a view, then stop at the cairn before the Thurston Summit.

[caption id="attachment_15518" align="aligncenter" width="2000"] View from the Thurston Cairn looking back towards Elk Mountain[/caption]

If you do want to summit, and want a view, head left down the trail to Gloria from the Thurston summit. In about 15 minutes to get to a beautiful bench that gives you views between the two ridges. You can see it in my trip up Gloria a few weeks ago.

[caption id="attachment_15519" align="aligncenter" width="2000"] Thurston summit with Gloria to the left and straight through to Mercer[/caption]]

If you're headed to Mercer, then continue straight through the Thurston Summit on the only trail that heads east. You'll be treated to a views of the Cheam Range and a few alpine meadows that let you look back towards Chilliwack.

[caption id="attachment_15524" align="aligncenter" width="2000"] The Cheam Range from the Thurston Ridge. One of many little views you get to the surrounding mountains[/caption]

Eventually the trail heads down onto a 4WD road. On busy days you'll see dirt bikes and quads, but I've only seen one or two ever so it's still pretty quiet. Head along this road until you see the steep hump, and then don't go up it. The road to the right heads around the hump and saves you a bunch of elevation.

[caption id="attachment_15520" align="aligncenter" width="2000"] Don’t go over the hump, head to the right and bypass a bunch of elevation that’s mostly pointless.[/caption]

When the two roads connect again, the final push to Mercer is just ahead of you.

[caption id="attachment_15521" align="aligncenter" width="2000"] Head up Mercer to the left[/caption]

Head up the road in front of you, and ignore the right fork because that heads back down to the Chilliwack River Valley. You'll note that there have been many dirt bikes up here, though I've never encountered them up Mercer. You're only about 2km from Mercer and you're on the final harder uphill push. Head up the road as it gets thinner and eventually you'll be treated to some more beautiful alpine meadows.

Loop around to the right with the trail to the radio receiver for SAR, and you're at the summit of Mercer. Here you're getting views of Slesse, Crossover, Church, Liumchen, Mt Baker, and a few others to the south. If you take a few steps around, you're also treated to views of the Cheam Range in all it's glory. Really, from Mercer you're seeing peaks that are all the way down by Chilliwack Lake.

[caption id="attachment_15522" align="aligncenter" width="2000"] Looking south from Mt Mercer[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_15523" align="aligncenter" width="2000"] Looking east from Mt Mercer[/caption]

From there I turned around and headed back to my car at the Elk Mountain parking lot. I finally saw my first other person about 20 minutes from my car as I descended Elk and by the time I got to my car I saw a grande total of 8 people.

Check out the video below for some of the views that you get from the lookouts on Elk, the Thurston Cairn, and Mt Mercer.

You can see my route below.

That's off the Quest for 10 list in 2019.