Glacier Lilies on Mount Arrowsmith

Mount Arrowsmith has long been on my list of Vancouver Island mountains to climb—not so much for the views from the top, but more for the extremely interesting plant communities that you hike through on the way up.

The day didn’t begin with Mount Arrowsmith as the primary destination. Originally, Sandy McRuer (Rainbird Excursions) had Mount Moriarty in mind, but the road to Labour Day Lake and the trail head was closed due to logging activity and blasting in the area. We quickly changed plans and retraced our route, turning up at the sign marking the junction to Mount Arrowsmith.

Yellow Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) Meadow
The first main meadow of Yellow Glacier Lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) on the way up to the saddle below Mount Arrowsmith.

The “Saddle Route” proved to be particularly good for wildflowers, especially after the snow melt. It is one place on Mount Arrowsmith where the yellow glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) are spectacular if you time your hike right.

Yellow Glacier Lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum)
The Yellow Glacier Lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) cover the wet slopes along the trail heading up to the saddle. Look for the flowers just after snow melt.

As we got closer to the saddle, the trail passed through several wet, sloping meadows that were carpeted with glacier lilies and other flowers. The display was stunning, and I carefully worked my way closer to the flowers. The challenge was figuring out how to capture the extent of the meadow and the beauty of the lilies as well.

Yellow Glacier Lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum)
A small patch of Yellow Glacier Lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) on the saddle at the start of the trail heading up to Mount Cokely.

While the glacier lilies were the most obvious flower in bloom there were many other plants in flower as well. I’ll post some more photographs in the next couple of days. If you’re hiking the Saddle Route, make sure to stop and take some time to enjoy the lilies. Like us, you might not make it to the top of Mount Arrowsmith, but then again, taking the time to enjoy the flowers was our main objective!

Need to Know

  • The trail is relatively “easy.” The route up to the saddle between Mount Cokely and the “knuckles” of Mount Arrowsmith is well trodden and easy to follow. There are a few open bluffs that are quite interesting in terms of plants and views. Some sections are steep, and one area has a rope to provide something extra to hang onto. Beyond the saddle it gets steeper.
  • Access is via active logging roads. Keep an eye open for logging trucks and make sure to give them plenty of room. Road condition is excellent and, while a truck or vehicle with clearance and good tires is recommended, it is possible to drive to the trail head with a car.
  • Consider using a tour guide like Sandy and Rainbird Excursions if you’re not familiar with the area. Not only will you  get to the trail faster, you’ll have an entertaining day! Check out his post with directions to the starting point.


  1. Thanks Niels – the saddle is pretty much clear of snow aside from a bit of a chute near the top but that is very passable (lots of folks have kicked steps in the snow).

    I was surprised at how accessible the trail was – fairly easy hiking with a nice combination of steep and then gradual, steep and then gradual. We saw folks hiking in running shoes when we were heading down but a good pair of hikers would be recommended. Not a long hike to get to the top depending on how often you break for photography.

  2. Pingback: Island Nature  :: Wildflower Meadows on Mount Arrowsmith

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