Vancouver Island’s Forbidden Plateau region features lots of opportunities to experience the scenery and wildlife Canada is renowned for, without the crowds. If you’re short on time but have a big adventurous spirit and energy, take on the challenging yet beautiful Boston Ridge Trail and Mount Becher Loop.
Forbidden Plateau’s forests and mountains seem worlds away from the manicured wine fields of nearby Comox Valley. Located up a long, winding dirt road with an abandoned ski resort at its base, many hikers choose to camp in one of the clearings in the forests. Holidaying hikers, or those wanting a bit of luxury should stay at the Wood Mountain Lodge, only 10 minutes’ walking distance from the start of the Boston Ridge Trail and Mount Becher Trail. With a hot tub, open fire, hearty meals and a well-stocked bar, not to mention awesome packed lunches, the Wood Mountain Lodge is an ideal place to unwind after a big hike, or prepare for the adventures that lay ahead. Plus, the walk from the lodge means you get to see other mountain cabins. Warning: there is a high chance of contracting cabin envy on this walk.
The loop is formed of the Boston Ridge Trail and the Mount Becher Trail, which takes hikers from the old ski resort parking area to the summit, and back. The Boston Ridge Trail features numerous steep inclines at the start and navigating through forests, with pink ribbons tied to branches and the occasional sign for additional guidance. While many hikers choose to start the loop via the easy-to-navigate Mount Becher Trail, we decided to throw ourselves in the deep end early in the day and start the hike via the Boston Ridge Trail, in all its steep, forested glory.
After taking the first right down Forbidden Plateau Road, a short forested walk should bring hikers near the Two Sheiks MTB trail, where a sign will indicate the correct route for the Boston Ridge Trail. Early on, we realised this route was going to be tricky, when we were faced with roping down a sharp decline into a logfall area – and then immediately facing a sharp ascent into bushwhacking territory. Slightly scary, yes, but equally totally exciting.
The trail is then well-marked for the next several kilometres, which is excellent considering all our attention was focused on scaling up the ridge through densely crowded forest. Suddenly the trail emerges onto an old logging road, with wildflowers, birds and butterflies gradually taking over the space. It can be a little tricky to find the trail along this section, but walk for a few minutes along the logging road and a sign will suddenly appear!
The Boston Ridge Trail features several small summits along the ridge before reaching Mount Becher. Along here hikers can enjoy views of Comox Lake, spot wildlife and spot other nearby mountains. Occasionally, you may even spot another hiker, but they are few and far between.
The final summit attempt up to Mount Becher is the most difficult, yet also the most rewarding. Short scrambles mix with roped-assistance hiking, and the ribbons guiding hikers become more sparse. The landscape becomes more rugged, as the forest recedes against the backdrop of reddish soil, low shrubs and rocky outcrops. More than once we came across caves, which left me wondering the odds of finding a bear inside….
The hours of slugging up rock walls and ridges were all worth it at the top of Mount Becher. Featuring panoramic views of Strathcona Provincial Park, Mt Albert Edward, Comox Glacier and Comox Lake for miles around, what struck us the most at the top was the complete silence that envelops you at the summit. For ages we rested against the rocks and took in the views, before gradually making our way down towards the Mount Becher Trail.
This route is more direct and worn than the Boston Ridge Trail, and can be completed within two hours; the Boston Ridge Trail took the better part of six hours to complete. Simply follow the orange ribbons and clear signposts along the descent from the summit – it’s impossible to miss them:
Eventually the Mount Becher Trail passes the Forbidden Plateau ski area. Although it was abandoned years ago, large remnants of the ski facilities still remain, and gives the area an eerie ‘post-apocalyptic/zombie invasion’ vibe. This also means we were close to approaching the end of the hike, and after some short scrambling and sharp downhill runs (I may or may not have been waving my arms like a windmill) we found ourselves at the cul-de-sac loop for the Forbidden Plateau ski area, and the end of the Mount Becher Trail.
After hiking over 20 km through forests and along ridges, we knew exactly how to celebrate: hot tub, beer and burgers. The sunset views from the balcony was the icing on our chocolate cake that evening.