Darling Lake Trail

Heritage trail approaching the Mamquam Icefield and Mamquam Mountain from logging roads in Skookum Creek.

In spring and summer of 2015, the volunteer trailbuilders from the outdoor hiking and climbing clubs of Southwestern British Columbia held several large work parties and reestablished the trail. A scant few weeks later resource officers from the Enforcement Branch of Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations descended on the trail. Stop work orders were posted. Volunteer Trail Builders were threatened with heavy fines and imprisonment. Flagging tape was removed and the volunteer trail builders were ordered to remove the hand cable. There was no clear justification for the orders. Unsubstantiated claims were made that goat herds were threatened by hiking activity and the trail impinged on goat winter range. Both allegations are completely false and unsubstantiated scientifically. The closest the trail approaches goat winter range is 800 meters. Suddenly, one then numerous high-quality mineral licks favored by goats were discovered all along the ridge by enforcement officers. Yet, there is no evidence of mineral licks along the trail route or even of goat passage. One would expect to see patches of snagged goat wool. It was alleged in the stop work order that the number of visitors exceeded some threshold number even though such a number had never been published nor sanctioned in the 1990 master plan. As time went on the unsubstantiated claims grew in number and became more wildly fantastic. BC Parks and FLNRO might as well have erected a giant "Do Not Enter - Park Visitors Not Welcome" sign at the entrance to the park. They are clearly in violation of the existing 1990 master plan. It contains no such restrictions on park visitor numbers.

At this juncture, the footbridge remains in place, albeit without a hand cable. The enforcement actions have not detered all that many people from hiking the trail. We fear that parks and the enforcement branch would welcome a fatality at the creek crossing if it were to discourage park visitation.

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The trail has existed at least prior to 1983 and probably earlier. The VOC published A Guide to Ski Touring in the Lower Coast Range in 1983. The trail route is shown on the map on page 30 of Mamquam Mountain. See the article here: Mamquam Mountain, VOC Ski Guide, 1983. The trail is again referenced in Bruce Fairley's A Guide to Climbing & Hiking in Southwestern British Columbia published in 1985. See page 50, Routes, Mamquam Mountain, From the Mamquam River. The quote below is germane to the trail.

Skookum Creek roads lead to a bridge across the east fork of Skookum Creek at 880m... Various parties have flagged routes into the [Darling Lake] valley over the years, and some parties have started at the bridge and climbed straight up onto the ridge to the NE [Darling Ridge] to reach the valley. (Ref: VOC Ski Guide, p. 48)

The trail became difficult to reach after Skookum Creek roads were deactivated by Ministry of Forests in the late 1990s. Attempts by members of the outdoor hiking and climbing clubs to keep the road open were insufficient and the access road lapsed into a slide alder hell. With the completion of the Skookum Creek IPP around 2014, the old Skookum logging road next to the creek was rebuilt a distance of 7 kilometers to the newly constructed Skookum dam.

In spring and summer of 2015, large work parties of the outdoor hiking and climbing clubs of Southwestern BC cleared the road from the dam and reflagged the heritage trail up Darling Ridge. The old trail tread and flagging was still clear and easy to follow. The old footbridge had rotted but was clearly visible on the far side. A naturally fallen cedar log was equipped with stainless steel handcable and the trail was declared open.


Photo: Darling Lake from the ridge


Photo: Darling Lake from the head of the valley


Photo: Darling Peak from high on Darling Ridge. The route to Mamquam Icefield passes the lake in front of Darling Peak.

DarlingRidge Garibaldi

Photo: Looking down Darling Ridge. Mount Garibaldi far center and Opal Cone in front. Zig Zag Creek is the U-shaped glacial trough in front of Opal Cone. Mamquam Lake is far right.

Paranoid OldUpperXing

Photo: The remains of the footbridge across Paranoid Creek used in the 1990s

Paranoid NewUpperXing 2

Photo: The new crossing upstream of the falls - a naturally fallen yellow cedar log supported midstream on rocks


Photo: Heritage flagging tape on the Darling Lake Trail. Flagging tape, both new and old, was removed in August 2015, in an attempt to obfuscate access. Fortunately, most parties have GPS these days.


Photo: An alternative crossing is reached at the outlet of the large swamp on Paranoid Creek. A gentle stream flow over small gravel bed is conducive to crossing on foot.

To reach the swamp, bushwhack upstream of the footbridge. Keep well away from the creek by following near the spine of rock southwest of the creek. The swamp is about 800 meters distant and 100 meters higher than the footbridge. The bushwhacking grade is easy to moderate. Do not proceed further up the swamp. It is extremely hard going with deep bog, slide alder and braided creeks. The main creek channel pinches the route out at a cliff. Rather, cross near the outlet of the swamp and bushwhack back to the Darling Lake Trail.


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