Mt. Erskine via Juniper

Words and Photos by Jaime Murdoch

View from atop Mt. Erskine.
View from the top.

Mt. Erskine is a favourite hike for locals and visitors alike.  Some like to go up early in the morning to start the day, others save it for a Sunday, and some enjoy a quick jaunt up after a day inside the studio or the office.  There are two approaches and in this post I’ll be focusing on the easy route from Juniper Place,  and by easy I mean the route that’s easier on the hamstrings and doesn’t compare to Vancouver’s Grouse Grind (the other route from Collins rd. does).  This mountain is petite in comparison to Mt. Maxwell and it has a lot of character and little mysteries that make it memorable.

A big chunk of this hike is taken out by the drive up, thereby providing ease and steadiness. For those of you who want to get out doors and see more of what Salt Spring has to offer, though you’re not into profuse sweating and pangs of hunger and you’d like to remain found (as opposed to lost for 3 hours, deep in the woods), this is the day hike for you.

The trail begins at a cul-de-sac which is followed by an easy walk into the forest where the trees greet you along the path and guide you upward at a gradual pace.  Keep right while following the trail, until you get closer to the top, where trail markers will show you the way to the summit.

Have a look at these images to give you an idea of what you’ll see along the way:

Tree with stones
Tree with stones
Look up, waay up!
Look up, waay up!
Meandering path.
Meandering path.
mossy carpet.
Moss-carpeted forest.
Up close and personal.
I love moss!
Nature's garden.
Nature’s garden.
Tiny pinecone.
Pine cone meets foliage.

 The top of Erskine is rocky, though there is a big bench for sitting and resting.

Take a load off.
Take a load off.
Thanks to the donors, this place exists the way it does.
Thanks to the donors who helped preserve the land.

If you bring your dog, pour a little water into the stone bowl, and while thirst is being quenched by your canine, find the secret compartment and leave some words in the notebook.

Thirsty mutt?
Thirsty mutt? “May all who drink from this bowl feel the joy of a mountain trail as she did.”

When you’ve made it up to the summit, stop to enjoy the view of Vesuvius bay and the sparkly mill lights from Crofton on the east coast of Vancouver Island. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see far north towards Mount Arrowsmith, Chemainus and Nanaimo and east across Trincomali Channel to Galiano Island and the Lower Mainland.

One of the many views, through the trees.
One of the many views, through the trees.
Worth the climb up.
Worth the climb up.
Soft landing.
Soft landing.
Sunset on a Saturday in March.
Sunset on a Saturday in March.

Getting there:

  1. pack a light snack (a piece of fruit is great), some water and your camera
  2. put on some good hiking shoes or even a pair of running shoes will do and dress in layers
  3. whether it’s by car or by scooter or bike, turn up Rainbow rd. and go past the high school, past the swimming pool (all on your right), keep driving past the Farmer’s Institute on your left and drive up and around and through until you get to Juniper Place.
  4. Turn left at Juniper Place and follow the road up as it turns into Spring Gold Way, and take a right onto Trustees trail to get to the trail head which is at a cul-de-sac with a lovely view of Vesuvius bay. Here’s a map.
  5. Take in the view, strap your bag on your back, sip some water and head on into the trail!

Did you know? Mt. Erskine is in its 9th year as a Class A Provincial Park featuring rare Arbutus trees, Douglas-fir forests, mossy rocky outcrops and bluffs, Garry oak ecosystems and riparian wetlands.  It is also known as a Nature Reserve thanks to the work of the Salt Spring Conservancy.