There are many breathtaking hiking trails throughout BC. One such is Mount Cheam, located near Chilliwack, overlooking the Fraser Valley. It is approximately 2.5 hours driving East from Vancouver, and it offers one of the most scenic 360° views in the area. Mount Cheam hiking trailhead is accessible by rugged Forest Service Road. Driving up to the trailhead can be the most challenging part of a tour, but at the same time, it is the main reason that keeps the crowds away. While August and September are considered to be the best months to hit Mount Cheam, during the weekends you should expect a lot of traffic nonetheless.
All you need to know before you go to Mount Cheam
1. Driving directions
If driving from Vancouver, follow Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 E to No. 3 Rd in Abbotsford. Take exit 104 from Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 E. In 2km turn right onto Tolmie Rd and in 100m turn left, back onto No. 3 Rd. After 2.9km, take a left onto Yarrow Central Rd which later becomes Vedder Mountain Road. In 5.1km after crossing a bridge at the roundabout take the first exit to Chilliwack Lake Rd. Follow the route for 26.7km, then turn left onto Foley Creek Forest Service Rd. Follow the main road for 3.8km (keeping left), then take a right onto Chipmunk Creek Forest Service Rd. In 10.9km you will reach a parking lot. For precise driving directions from your location be advised to rely on Google Maps.
2. Means of transportation
There are some steep sections along the road, with little to no room to turn around if you meet another vehicle going the other way. In general, you will need a 4×4 or something with a proper clearance (for example ATV or motocross bike) to make it up the Forest Service Road. To help you evaluate your vehicle abilities to drive to the trailhead beforehand, please watch my partner’s Andrius short video where he filmed his prior drive:
The total distance from trailhead to Mount Cheam peak and back is 8.4km. It is an intermediate hike and takes approximately 4 hours on a return trip. If it is a relatively hot day, be advised to take lots of water with you and do this hike early morning or later in the evening because there are not many trees to hide from the heat. At first, the trail descending through the meadows where depending on the time of the year you can see some beautiful wildflowers until it reaches Spoon Lake. Right after, the real climbing begins, and the first impression of an easy hike suddenly disappears. The total elevation gain to the summit is about 700m with a maximum altitude of 2104m.
Max elevation: 2118 m
Min elevation: 1421 m
Total climbing: 780 m
Total descent: -780 m
Average speed: 5.08 km/h
Total time: 04:17:09
4. The view
Not only that you are set to have a great workout, but also you will see spectacular panoramic view once you reach the top. You will get a broad view of the Fraser Valley and Fraser River, neighbouring Lady Peak, Jones Lake and astounding Mount Baker. Take as many pictures as you like but be careful around the edges with your selfies as some accidental deaths occurred in the past.
5. Camping. Really?
Even though it is not permitted to camp on Mount Cheam, as many times as I hiked, there were always groups of people camping along the route. I with Andrius decided to try it as well. One beautiful Sunday morning in August 2017 we packed our backpacks with food, water, camping gear and hit the Mount Cheam trail willing to watch a Solar Eclipse the next morning. It was an excellent climb, and the path was in perfect shape.
We left our home towards the end of the weekend, so there were fewer people embarked on a route. With our level of preparation, it took us about 2 hours to reach the top. We felt delighted with finding an appropriate spot on a peak for a tent. Let it be a rocky surface – we don’t care. As long as we can enjoy the sunset and the valley view, it’s an excellent place for us.
After a chilly night, we woke up refreshed and start having breakfast sitting on the edge of the precipice, overlooking the Fraser Valley. After a meal, we dealt with Solar Eclipse watching equipment and were waiting for this glorious event. Our adventures were captured in the gallery below:
To sum up
No technical climbing required but undoubtedly stable hiking shoes and plenty of hydration is a must. In case you decide to visit Mount Cheam in May or June, be aware of road conditions as there’s potential for wet, snowy areas. Common sense not to take selfies while on the cliffs is required as same as not to leave any garbage after your visit.
What are your insights on hiking to Mount Cheam?