“Matterhorn Mountain” is the local and unofficial name for what is really a high bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the very southern end of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The mountain is the last high point before tidewater and, therefore, offers uninterrupted and spectacular views across the Strait to The Olympic Mountains in Washington State
. Matterhorn is a lovely day trip objective from Victoria at any time of the year.
Access is via a well made and maintained trail which offers two routes to the summit which may be combined to make a loop hike. The loop takes in the east side of the mountain where 50-60 metres high granite bluffs present quite a spectacle. To date these bluffs appear to be undeveloped and are well worthy of the closer inspection of the rock climbing fraternity.
Prior to recent logging activity the approach to Matterhorn was through lovely mature second growth forest. Unfortunately, much of this has now been sacrificed to the production of yet more junk mail to clutter up your mailbox. About half of the forested approach survives and it is to be hoped that this continues to be the case. The description below now describes a route which avoids the devastation as much as possible.
Leave the Victoria area on Highway 1 as far as the turnoff signed for Sooke and Port Renfrew. This is Veterans Memorial Parkway and it leads directly to Highway 14, the West Coast Road.
Drive through Sooke and onwards towards Jordon River and Port Renfrew for approximately 18 km. Watch for the “Eagle Sight” store on the right (north) side of the road and pull off there. If you pass French Beach Provincial Park, you’ve driven about 500 metres past the right spot. Find a parking spot that doesn’t block access to the store or to the community mailboxes. Just to make sure you get it right first time, coordinates are N48 23.656 W123 56.116
Approach and Route
From the point at which you leave your vehicle proceed north, around the gate and up the gravel logging road. Matterhorn Mountain comes into view above the logging slash to the north about 10 minutes from the start.
Walk the road for 850 metres to a junction and go left. Walk a further 50 metres to a second junction and keep left up the hill. (Prior to recent logging the old trailhead was to the right at this second junction). Walk 250 metres NW up the hill to a junction with an old crumbling road and keep right to contour the hillside amongst the carnage of the recent activity. After a further 1.1 km find the new trailhead at N48 24.400 W123 55.245 and indicated in large blue letters on a tree.
Follow blue flagging off the road. The new route finds its way through an, as yet, narrow corridor between the slash and a creek. After 50 metres my GPS indicated that I was on the old route. After a further 50 metres the old path begins to appear as the debris thin out and the onward route becomes obvious. After just 250 metres in the mature forest the route emerges underneath some power lines and intersects the power line service road. Turn left on the road and walk along it for 20-30 metres to where the flagged route resumes on the right (north). Take to the trail through the forest once more and proceed ~ 400 metres to a flagged junction at N48 24.651 W123 55.401.
S Bluffs fixed line
Top of S Bluffs trail
Summit view east to the Sooke Hills
Either of the onward choices leads to the summit – although I recommend going up the steeper left hand fork rather than coming down it.
Assuming you agree head northwest and up steeply as the flagged trail weaves a crafty line through the bluffs you saw from the logging road approach. Two sections have been equipped with hand-lines. The first is not a bad idea, especially for descending this way. The second is pretty superfluous – but makes the route possible for those who might otherwise choose to avoid this steep section.
From the junction it’s about 100 vertical metres and 15 minutes to the granite platform and cairn which, for most people, mark the top of Matterhorn Mountain. About 1.5 to 2 hours from cars for most people.
Allow plenty of time in your trip for a lengthy stay on top. If the weather is clear, the views south across the Strait, southeast and southwest along the coast and even east to The Sooke Hills
, are truly wonderful.
Approximately 1 km to the northwest of the cairn is another clearly higher point than the one you’re on - 40 metres higher to be precise. Some hold that this is the true summit of Matterhorn Mountain. However, it has nearly 100 metres of prominence above the saddle between it and the viewpoint and, in my opinion, is a separate entity. It can be reached from an old road which traverses the hillside to the north of the cairned point followed by a bush thrash. It is also heavily forested, not likely to offer views and therefore, of dubious value as an objective.
Descend by finding the flagging that marks a path almost due east off the summit. This route bends south and then sweeps round to the north as it follows an easy line off the mountain. At N48 24.791 W123 55.430 you reach another trail junction. The path back to your starting point lies to the right. To the left and only 50 metres away is the old road that gives access to the supposed true summit.
Red Tape and Safety Considerations
There is no red tape that I know of. However, I’m unclear as to the status of the logging road approach and who owns the land. There does not appear to be active logging underway. On the other hand, the roads are clear of debris and well maintained. The trail is also well maintained and has recently (April 2009) been brushed out. Someone, therefore, appears to have jurisdiction. I will add further details on this aspect as I learn of them.
There is currently no cellular service (Rodgers) west of Sooke.
I can’t see anyone having the need to camp on this one. But if you like car camping for its own sake, nearby
French Beach Provincial Park has nearly 70 sites, 50 of which are reservable.
Treat yourself to high tea after your hike at Point No Point Resort
. They also offer some pretty fancy accommodation if you’re in the mood for a treat.
Weather down the West Coast Road can be markedly different from, say, Victoria. So even though it may be sunny and warm as you’re leaving town, don’t count on the same for your hike.
Nearest point relevent current conditions and forecast.
Be sure to check it before you leave.
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