This hike is one of the more deceiving hikes as it’s only 3.1 km round trip but with 373 m of elevation gain in that short space you’ll be wheezing – if you’re me.
This hike begins at a beautiful stream where the salmon run in the fall and the large trees cascade all around you. The parking is easy unless you end up in the gravel lot on the right in which case good luck with the enormous potholes that show up every year.
Once you’re parked and enjoying the massive trees and the peaceful river you can then cross the concrete bridge and head towards the start of the trail. There’s a sign with all your standard park information including bear and cougar sightings and warnings to be careful on the trail. You’ll see a trail and a set of stairs and just so you know they go to the same spot so pick your poison.
The beginning of this trail is a taste of the entirety of the trail. It starts steep and it really doesn’t change at any point ever. Typically by 5 minutes in I’m asking myself why I’ve done this to me again. The trail is a pretty standard, well-trodden, wide trail that’s “easy” minus the upwards direction that it continuously goes in. You’ll then come to a spot where you cross a little river and then see a sign that will make you say “nooooooooo!” on the inside. The sign is a warning that the trail is going to get difficult and it will be very hard not to voice that it’s already been challenging for your little lungs and your legs but onward you trudge.
The sign is at the start of the rooted section. There’s tons of tree roots that could be easy to trip on but for me I actually like sections like this. They’re easy to find your footing, interesting and something to focus on that’s not your burning glutes.
The rooted section leads to the rocky section. This starts with a large boulder section where the rocks are extremely secure but they look like they’re loosely tumbled down the side of the mountain. The scrambling through this section is also fun for me so at least there’s that.
The next section of this hike is the last section and the “scariest” for most people. The last section is the mountainside itself with little to no trees to shade you from the sun if you’re hiking in the summer, and makes you consider turning around in the wet, slippery late fall and winter. The rocks are steep, and at times narrow and sketchy. The majority of it is okay but there is one spot in particular that tends to bottleneck slightly on busy hiking days as it is quite narrow and there’s a relatively sheer drop off below it. Most people with a fear of heights struggle here and even those with just a healthy fear of falling and hurting themselves take pause.
This section goes longer than you’d expect. The thing about this mountain is you constantly think you’re almost there. Maybe that’s just me? But finally you will be there. There is a “false summit” as you come up a path way and there’s also two sides to the top of the mountain. They look pretty similar height-wise but the true summit is the raised section to your left as you come up the path.
The view is great if you look straight out over the forest from the true summit, and it looks not too bad from the other raised section. That being said, the bulk of the view is overlooking Bear Mountain with its resort, golf course and residential area. One time after summiting we sat and listened to a car alarm go off for a good five minutes and then an ambulance for a while. It is probably the most strenuous hike without getting completely into nature that you can do. It’s a great cardio challenge, pushes you through multiple different types of hiking terrain and has a very active and safe-feeling community (and lots of dogs) but the view is questionably worth it as it isn’t the natural view that I prefer when I put so much effort into a hike.
There is apparently two hidden red wooden chairs off to the right side of the summit, however, I’ve failed to find them. That being said I’ve never looked very hard, but I encourage you to go looking for them and have yourselves a really relaxing time at the top.
As for hiking down you can take another path, HOWEVER, I will warn you that it’s not great. I would way rather take the same path down than do the backside of the mountain again. The backside trail will bring you to a residential road where you will have to walk on concrete for an extra 3km. I did it one time and considered hitch-hiking as it was boring and hard on the knees to walk down the sloping road for that long. That being said, be very aware of the route markers when hiking down the top rocky section. I literally have never gone down Mount Finlayson without missing a turn and getting myself to a dead end and having to climb back up. It always happens in the same spot and I never remember until I’m there looking out over a sheer cliff thinking “well this isn’t right”.
By the time you get back to your car you’ll have a sense of accomplishment, a need for tacos and a strong drive to never do it again. Don’t worry, you’ll forget about that last part and head back up after driving by on the Malahat and seeing it standing high above you, begging you to stand on top of it.