To start things off, here’s a quick guide to Little Mountain, just outside Parksville. A nice hike of less than an hour leads to some spectacular views. Care is required anywhere near the edge as the rock is slippery in both wet and dry conditions.
The cliff faces are often used by Arrowsmith Search and Rescue as a location for rope rescue training. A version of this trail description was published in the PQB News of April 2, 2013
LITTLE MOUNTAIN, Michael Addiscott, April 2013
Around Oceanside we enjoy trails with options to suit every ability, from the wheelchair friendly Lighthouse Country Trail to challenging mountain scrambles on Mount Arrowsmith.
One local landmark that most of us are familiar with is Little Mountain. This steep sided hunk of limestone rises above the countryside between Parksville and Errington. While the twisting road to the top is well known as an easy way to access spectacular views, comparatively few people are aware of the enjoyable walking trails braiding through second and third growth forests under its spectacular cliff faces.
Once parked, (safely and considerately, of course!) walk South through the gate onto a dirt road. After approximately 300 metres you’ll encounter a cut where the hydro lines run approximately east west across your path. The trail leads under the power lines and into the trees. Within 100 metres a trail joins from your right. Remember this junction as you will exit here on your return. For now, though, keep following the trail ahead as it turns into a rutted 4×4 track.
There are puddles the full width of the trail, but a look around will show diversions through the bushes to the side, allowing your feet to stay dry. After a couple of kilometres the path narrows and begins to twist through the trees as a rough, rooty quad trail. Keep your eyes open as soon as you see this as you need to turn right at the first single track trailhead on the right. This narrow trail leads gently uphill for around 150 metres, with a “widdowmaker” tree to step around, before forking, with the option to the right climbing up a moderately steep banking. Turn left at the top of this and follow the trail as it winds through attractive, open evergreens.
Before long the trail loses some height and intersects an old, narrow access road. Turn right and cross a rustic but well-made bridge. The trail rises sharply here and sweeps to the right between impressive boulders, calved from the face of Little Mountain.
Head uphill towards the cliffs and you’ll see two contrasting examples of man’s presence. The first, to your left, is tons of garbage dumped off the cliffs when there was easier access from the road. The second is a wonderfully quirky art installation in one of the limestone caves, constructed by one or more creative people who have used discarded bike parts, golf balls, food containers and an ever changing selection of other items. While it’s unfortunate that their medium was available, it’s inspiring to encounter evidence of people motivated to turn a negative situation into something positive.
Keep the cliffs to your left now as the trail rises and falls in an eastward direction. Look all around to fully appreciate the scenery. Chemical reaction between rainwater and the rock have left intriguing “bubbles” in the rock faces and hints at their prehistoric, undersea heritage.
Looking downhill, you’ll be seeing the car crash set created for the movie “Wrecked”, starring Adrian Brodie. The movie was filmed in 2010 using outdoor sites here and on the EnglishmanRiver. It’s worth watching, whether to enjoy Hollywood’s view of an area so close to home or to enjoy the story in its own right.
A short downhill brings you to a junction where the main trail intersects your path. Take a look around and get your bearings as you’ll be passing this point on your way back.
For now, turn left and head up the narrow, steepening trail between rocks and trees until you pop out on easier, salal covered terrain. There are three options here. The easiest way to minimise risk of taking the wrong trail, though, is to turn left and keep the cliffs on your left side. The surface is extremely slippery in both wet and dry conditions so it’s important to resist the temptation to approach the edge for a peek. The cliffs run for several hundred metres with perspectives ranging from Nanoose to DenmanIsland.
Walk to the end enjoying the views, then re-trace back around the cliff-top path, looking for the steep trail you came up. This is your return route, so follow it carefully back downhill, passing the junction under the cliffs you came out at a few minutes before.
The next main junction you encounter requires a left turn down a well-defined, tree-narrowed access road. This trail takes a sweeping hairpin left then bears right as the trees thin to the North. The terrain is much flatter now and before long you’ll be back at the first junction I described.
A left turn brings you quickly back out of the trees on the hydro cut you crossed earlier, and a few more minutes brings you back to your car.
Take Hwy 4a East from Hwy 19, Jct 51.
Turn Left onto Bellevue Rd.
Turn Left onto Allsbrook Road.
Drive 3km East along Allsbrook Road.
Park near yellow gate on the right.
Allow 2 to 3 hours.
This hike includes steep, loose sections best suited to those comfortable on varied terrain. Hiking shoes are recommended but not essential. Footwear should be comfortable, supportive and of good quality.
Check the forecast and dress for the weather. Avoid cotton and use several thin layers. Remember that most people start hiking and immediately shed several layers as they overheat. Your pack should have room for this, in addition to what you’re already carrying.
What to take
-Basic first aid kit
-Prescribed medication (if required)
Ideally, take a compass and map (and have basic knowledge in how to use them). Let someone know where you’re going, and your estimated times of departure and return.