Sumas Mountain (West Approach)

October 11, 2008

To reach the trailhead drive on Highway #1 (the Trans Canada Highway) east until you reach the town of Abbotsford. Take the Whatcom Road (Exit #95) turnoff and turn left, crossing over the highway overpass. Just after the overpass, make a right hand turn onto North Parallel Road as it follows along side the highway. After 2km, turn left onto Sumas Mountain Road. Continue along Sumas Mountain Road for 9km. For the last 0.5km, the road becomes gravel. After making a sharp right hand corner that heads downhill, the road curves to the left. The trailhead is located in the outer part of this left curve where the gravel has been widened to give space for hikers to park their cars. Look closely for the coloured trail markers, they are easy to miss.

Top: Trailhead on left side going uphill on Sumas Mountain Road

"Sumas" is a Halqemeylem (Halkomelem) word meaning "a big level opening", referring to the Sumas Prairie area south of the mountain, formerly Sumas Lake. A common 19th Century spelling of Sumas was "Smess"; Simon Fraser's journal recorded the name as "shemotch".

From the trailhead, make your way into the forest. The trail can be quite muddy in places, particularly in the spring or after a rainfall. The trail weaves it’s way through the forest until after 10 minutes, you make your way down into a ravine. The trail cross a well worn bridge. Enjoy the cool, fresh air the river brings as the majority of the trail will be uphill from this point.

Crossing the bridge

Halkomelem is a Coast Salishan language of the First Nations around the Fraser River and the southern end of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The word "Halkomelem" is an anglicization for a language with three dialects: Halq'eméylem, the dialect spoken by the upriver Stó:lō of the Fraser Valley, Hn'q'min'm', the dialect of the downriver Stó:lō, and Hulq'umín'um', spoken by six separate but closely related First Nations in the Georgia Strait area: the Chemainus, Cowichan, Halalt, Lake Cowichan, Lyackson, and Penelakut.

After hiking for about an hour, you will reach a gravel road where a section of trees has been clear cut on the left. Walk about 40 meters to the right along the road to where a sign points to the continuation of the trail on the left. Enter the forest again and continue ascending as you take in the fresh scents of the forest.

After reaching the road, go right

The trail continues gradually going uphil. There is one point where the trail separates. Both routes lead to the same place, eventually you will reach a point with heavy blowdown and you can easily get confused and ending doing a loop. I recommend to take the right route and follow the flags on your right once you reach the blowdown area. Keep in mind trail conditions may change as time pass by.

Bottom: Heavy blowdown, look for the flags on right if you take right approach

After hiking for 25 minutes or so, you arrive at the calm shores of Chadsey Lake (Lost Lake). This beautiful lake is nestled in between thick Douglas fir trees with Sumas Mountain towering in the background.

Left - Arriving to Chadsey Lake
Right - Chadsey Lake

Chadsey Creek flows into the lake and was named in 1939, after pioneer William Harvey Chadsey (One undated provincial reference map marks it as "Lost Creek").

Chadsey died at Chilliwack General Hospital in July 1940 at age 73. He was the third of four brothers who farmed in the area in the last half of the 19th Century.

Chadsey Lake

Walk around to the opposite side of the lake where a trail begins that climbs to the peak of Sumas Mountain. The trail to the Mountain is poorly marked, a good reference point is a tree with an orange marker with a faint trail opposite to it.

This trail can be steep, narrow, slippery, and sometimes poorly marked so use caution when climbing to the top. About 30 minutes up, a clearing offers a scenic view of the Fraser River and surrounding farms.

Fraser River and farms

Sumas Mountain western end is in the urban area of Abbotsford and is home to a number of suburban areas of that city, notably Clayburn.

The name "Clayburn" is used because in the late 1920's Clayburn was a large producer of clay bricks, and had various factories, some of which still exist today. Most bricks used in British Columbia historically came from the Clayburn Mine.

After 30 minutes and just before reaching the peak you can have views of Mount Baker on your right side.

Then you are welcome by the western peaks in the Cheam Range, Cheam, Lady, Baby Munday and Stewart, better known as the "Four Sisters".

The eastern peaks in the range are referred to as the Lucky Four Group because of their proximity to the abandoned Lucky Four Mine.

The viewpoint offers nice (although limited) views of the Lower Mainland. The Lower Mainland is considered to have a high vulnerability to flood risk. There have been two major floods, the largest in 1894 and the second largest in 1948. According to the Fraser Basin Council, scientists predict a one-in-three chance of a similar-sized flood occurring in the next 50 years.

The Four Sisters: Cheam, Lady, Baby Munday and Stewart

In the spring of 2007, the Lower Mainland was on high alert for flooding. Higher than normal snow packs in the British Columbia Interior prompted the municipal governments to start emergency measures in the region. Dikes along the Fraser River are regulated to handle about 8.5 metres at the Mission Gauge (the height above sea level of the dykes at Mission). Warmer than normal weather in the interior caused large amounts of snow to melt prematurely, resulting in higher than normal water levels, which, nevertheless, remained well below flood levels.

Sumas Prairie and Vedder Mountain on the right

What you see here is Sumas Prairie (formerly Sumas Lake). Sumas Lake was a body of water between Sumas and Vedder mountains, midway between the present-day cities of Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Originally, the lake occupied 40 km² (15 mi²) and swelled to 120 km² (47 mi²) during flooding. The lake was drained in order to create more farmland in the fertile region of the Fraser Valley and also to reduce mosquito infestations in the region. The flow from the Vedder (Chilliwack) River was redirected into the Vedder Canal in 1924 under a plan developed by engineer Fred Sinclair, effectively draining the lake. Another drainage channel, the Sumas Lake Canal, runs along what is now Sumas Prairie's northwest side at the foot of Sumas Mountain.

While earthquakes are common in British Columbia and adjacent coastal waters, most are minor in energy release or are sufficiently remote to have little effect on populated areas.

In April 2008, the United States Geological Survey released information concerning a newly-found fault line south of downtown Abbotsford, called the Boulder Creek fault. Scientists now believe this fault line is active and capable of producing earthquakes in the 6.8 magnitude range.

There is a road that comes close to the top but due to road damage access is limited. It is mostly used by mountain bikers

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5. N 49.1221 W 122.1884 Elev: 184m Parking Lot and Trailhead
4. N 49.1182 W 122.1705 Elev: 423m Road
3. N 49.1233 W 122.1470 Elev: 649m Arriving to the lake, go around
2. N 49.1236 W 122.1415 Elev: 643m Trail to be peak begins
1. N 49.1205 W 122.1274 Elev: 922m Viewpoint

Roundtrip length: 26.64 km (16.55 miles)
Time: 6.0 hours
Elevation gain: 769m (2522 ft)

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Driving distance from Vancouver: 86 kilometers / 53.4 miles (1.00 hours)

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