Vancouver Island, located off the southwestern coast of British Columbia, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Among its many scenic hikes, the trek to 5040 Peak is an adventure that promises an unforgettable experience. In this blog post, we will share everything you need to know before visiting our favourite place on Vancouver Island.
With its diverse landscapes, alpine meadows, and wild camping opportunities, this trail is a testament to the island’s allure. Although there are many breathtaking hikes in the area, 5040 Peak is in a league of its own.
This trail is a must-do for hikers looking to explore Vancouver Island’s rugged terrain. Although it can be difficult to access and the elevation gain is no joke, the views from the summit are worth every step.
While many people choose to do this as a day hike, we would highly recommend turning it into a multi-day trek. We will share all of the best camping spots in the last section of this post.
Accessing the Trailhead to 5040 Peak
The trailhead to 5040 Peak is located HERE, about halfway in between Port Alberni and Ucluelet. You will turn east off Highway 4 onto the Marion Creek Forest Service Road. This gravel logging road is only 7 kilometres long, but it can pose problems if you do not have a 4X4 vehicle.
We made it almost all the way to the end in our 2WD van, however, we probably wouldn’t attempt it again. There are several steep sections with potholes and deep gravel, which made this drive a bit of a nightmare. In the end, it took us nearly 1 hour to drive 6 kilometres.
If you have a 4X4 vehicle with high clearance, you should have no issues driving right to the trailhead. If you are in a smaller car or 2WD campervan, though, we would probably recommend parking near the beginning of the logging road and hiking in.
5040 Peak Trail Overview
6.2 kilometres and 928m of elevation gain
The 5040 Peak hike via Cobalt Lake is a strenuous trail that has a fairly consistent grade the entire way to the top. We found the first 1.5 kilometres to the lake to be the most gruelling. You gain a whopping 540m over the first 1.5 kilometres!
During this part of the hike, there are several sections where you are climbing up steep roots, rocks, and steps built into the dirt. There are even a few ropes in place to help hikers ascend.
After hiking through a thick forest, past a river and a beautiful little waterfall, the trail winds you through an alpine meadow and to Cobalt Lake. Many people camp here to break up this hike.
Whether you are camping or not, jump in the glacier-fed water and give your legs a break!
If you are setting up camp at Cobalt Lake, you can lighten your pack for the remainder of the climb. If you are planning to camp on the ridge or up at the summit, you will have to endure a heavy pack for a few more kilometres.
During the second half of the hike, you gain 388m of elevation gain over 1.7 kilometres. This trail begins with steep switchbacks through the trees until you reach the first ridge. The Alpine Club of Canada has just built a beautiful alpine hut here called Hišimy̓awiƛ. The price for a room is $150 CAD (2023). Each room sleeps 6 people. For more information on this hut, CLICK HERE.
Access to the hut and the amenities is only available to registered guests. However, there is an outhouse, bear lockers, and wild camping spots nearby. Many people choose to camp here as it gives you a beautiful sunset view over Cobalt Lake and the surrounding mountains.
From this ridge, the final push to the summit is steep but beautiful.
Once you arrive at the top, you will be treated to 360-degree views of Vancouver Island. With the ocean to the southwest and mountainous region to the north, this peak is like nowhere we have ever been before.
We chose to hike all of our camping gear up to the summit, where there are a few wild camping spots available. Having 45-pound packs made for an incredibly challenging hike, but the sunrise and sunset views were worth it for us.
The trail to 5040 Peak via Cobalt Lake is located on Crown Land, which means that wild camping is legal. There are three main areas where people camp, but technically you can set up anywhere in this area.
If you choose to camp here, it is incredibly important that you follow the Leave No Trace principles. This ensures we can all continue to enjoy this area for years to come.
The 7 Leave No Trace Principles are:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly (this means packing out all of your garbage including toilet paper AND burying human waste!)
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impact
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of others
Wild Camping at Cobalt Lake
The first area where many people choose to camp is Cobalt Lake. Here, you will find bear lockers, semi-established sites, and access to filterable water. This is a great option if you do not want to hike all of your camping gear up to the ridge.
Wild Camping Near The Alpine Hut
The second popular area for wild camping is on the first ridge near the alpine hut. There are several spots that give you beautiful views over Cobalt Lake. This area also has bear lockers and a small reservoir where you can collect water for filtering. Although campers are not allowed inside the hut, they can use the outhouse.
Wild Camping Near The Summit
The last common option for camping is near the summit on the ridgeline. This requires more stamina and planning than the other options, but we would highly recommend it! Being so close to the summit for sunrise and sunset was absolutely phenomenal.
There is no water access past the hut, so you will need to bring enough water to get you through the night. On top of that, there are no bear lockers or trees. Because of this, you will want to bring a BearVault and store it at least 100m from your tent.
NOTE: If you plan to camp near the summit, please be courteous of day hikers. Don’t monopolize the trail and allow them to share the space.