Road Access to Trailhead

​Marion Main Forest Service Road provides access to the Cobalt Lake trailhead. The turnoff is 53km from Port Alberni ~5.6km after Sutton Pass. The trailhead is 9.6km from the highway. Cobalt Lake Trailhead is 400m after the large clearing that is used for the heli staging area near the top of the hill. This area can also be used for parking if there is no space at the trailhead.

A 4×4 or AWD vehicle is required for this gravel road because it is steep and rough in sections. Vehicle clearance can be an issue, cars have been damaged. Please do not try to take a 2WD vehicle up the road because 2WD vehicles often spin their tires on hills which make the road even rougher. The steepest and longest hill is located at 8km.

Cobalt Lake Trail

The Cobalt Lake Trail is the standard approach up 5040 Peak. If parking at the trailhead, the trail starts 20m back (north) from the direction you drove in. The trail gains 700m elevation and 2.5km horizontal. It generally takes 2 to 3 hours to reach the hut. The rough trail is continuously steep with the only flat section being along Cobalt Lake. There are two fixed ropes up short rock steps. The trail has several slippery sections so appropriate footwear should be worn. Please allow plenty of time to reach the hut before dark. To stay out of the doghouse, we suggest that you do not describe the trail as “easy” to your significant other. It’s STEEP!

Download GPS tracks for Cobalt Lake Trail, Cobalt Lake – Winter Up and Summit trail

Winter Access

Access in winter can be challenging. What takes 1.5 – 3 hours in summer can take 6 – 14 hours in the snow, the days can be very short in mid-winter, plan accordingly. Marion Main is not ploughed so you may need to start by skiing/hiking 9.5 km up the logging road. If travel conditions are good expect to take about 3 hours, if you are breaking trail if can take twice that time.

The standard winter is basically the same as the standard summer Cobalt Lake trail with some minor variations (see above). Some flagging may be visible on the trail but you should either know the route well or have appropriate navigation tools. Even getting up to the old growth from the trailhead can be a challenge in some snow conditions. There is rarely enough snow in the old growth to ski so a bootpack is required, in good conditions this takes less than 1 hour.

Once you get out of the old growth, from December until May or June (even July some years), there is usually lots of snow. Skis and skins or snowshoes are by far the best means of travel, but remember Rule #2, Conditions are Everything (Sandy Briggs). Breaking trail through deep snow can take a lot of time, skinning or hiking on consolidated spring snow is fast.
The next challenge is getting past the outflow of Cobalt Lake, for most of the winter the lake is frozen and can easily be crossed. But early and late season the outflow itself must be crossed, this may involve wading through 20-30cm deep, cold water.
The last section up to the hut is fairly straightforward switchbacking up fairly open terrain (Rule #2). Finally you get up on the ridge and the hut is there to provide welcome shelter. There is some excellent skiing all around the hut, up to the summit in good conditions and down through the trees in white-outs.

Although it is possible to reach the hut without crossing any significant avalanche slopes you should have the training and gear to deal with potential avalanche conditions. Check the avi conditions before you go and if you want to do any exploring beyond the hut you must have avi gear and knowledge.

Possible ski lines on 5040 Peak​