Mount Thornhill
Mount Thornhill is touted as the best hike near Terrace, British Columbia.  At least that is what a local told Zosia Zgolak and me while we were shivering in our sodden clothes inside a public shelter near the summit on 15 August 2021.  In retrospect, the local was probably right as the mountain is accessed by a well-maintained trail which travels through some amazing sub-alpine terrain before culminating at a rebuilt shelter on a former fire lookout site.  Unfortunately, Zosia and I were unlucky with our timing and endured the worst weather of our entire road trip on Mount Thornhill.  An excellent brochure describing the route and providing some history of the fire lookout can be found here.

From the intersection with Highway 37, drive east on Highway 16 for 670 metres and turn south onto Old Lakelse Lake Drive (Esso and Petrocan gas stations on the corners).  Drive southeast for 6.2 kilometres before turning left onto gravel Copper Mountain Road (high-clearance recommended).  Drive 2.3 kilometres to a small pullout and footbridge at the signed trailhead.

The weather was not bad when Zosia and I started hiking in the morning along the trail beyond the footbridge.  For the next three hours, we climbed uneventfully up the forested west slopes of Mount Thornhill on a generally pleasant and well-designed trail.  As we approached tree line, we were overtaken by a group of three hikers and also a solo hiker.  At the same time, a light drizzle began falling which prompted us to don our rain gear.  The drizzle soon intensified into a steady rain made worse by a bone-chilling wind.  While the solo hiker quickly disappeared up the trail, the group of three stopped as well to don their rain gear.  Zosia and I passed the group of three and would not see them again as they presumably turned around soon after.  At this point, we were unsure about how far we had left to go, but we pressed on with the promise of getting out of the elements at the shelter.  Walking along a trail that was mostly a flowing creek and getting pummeled by blowing rain, we slowly but surely became soaking wet.  The hike to the shelter took longer than expected, and by the time we arrived, we were thoroughly soaked and on the verge of hypothermia.

Inside the shelter, Zosia and I met the solo hiker, a local who had climbed Mount Thornhill many times before.  We chatted a little with him, but for the most part, we just tried to stay warm as we waited out the rainstorm.  Zosia and I ate most of the food we were carrying, and as futile as it seemed, we tried to dry out our wet gear and clothes as much as possible.  A few short-lived sunny breaks gave us some hope, and about ninety minutes after we took refuge in the shelter, the rain finally abated.  The solo hiker then hastily left the shelter, and we would shortly follow suit.

The gazetted summit of Mount Thornhill is actually located on a rocky knob about two hundred metres northeast of the lookout site, and most topographical maps show an additional contour line at that location.  Zosia and I made the extra effort to go tag the summit after leaving the shelter, and to my surprise, the elevation there was actually one metre lower than the lookout site according to my GPS unit.  Of course, fluctuations in GPS elevation readings are common, and in all likelihood, the summit and lookout site are roughly equal in height.  In any case, we had tagged both, and after snapping a quick photograph, we hurried back to the waterlogged trail and walked briskly to warm ourselves up again.  By this time, the clouds had lifted enough for us to see more of the sub-alpine terrain we had missed on the way up, and while we were in no shape to hang around and enjoy the sublime setting, I could imagine how wonderful it would be to come here on a clear, sunny day.

With the benefit of a good trail, Zosia and I set a moderately quick pace descending the mountain, and some of our clothes even dried out a bit on the way down.  We had no issues with the descent, and upon returning to our car, we changed into dry clothes and refreshed ourselves before driving to a laundromat in Terrace to do a more thorough cleaning and drying of our gear.
Actually, she is always enthusiastic about hiking anywhere!

At the trailhead, Zosia is enthusiastic about hiking up Mount Thornhill.

At least we're sheltered from the rain here! Most of the ascent is on a well-maintained trail through forest.
Things are gonna get even wetter... Zosia stops at a bridge over a tumbling creek.
I guess these are supposed to be good to eat...maybe... Zosia points out some impressive mushrooms along the trail.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

We probably should have turned around sooner! The weather begins to deteriorate as Zosia climbs past the last trees.
Days like this make me yearn for a nice holiday on a sunny beach in Mexico! Exposed to a full rainstorm, Sonny can only bow his head and keep walking in hopes of reaching a shelter near the summit.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

This was simply miserable. Cold and soaked to the bone, Zosia waits out the rainstorm in the shelter.  The shelter was rebuilt in 2012 on the site of a former fire lookout.
Second breakfast? With the rain abating, Zosia and Sonny venture out to the gazetted summit of Mount Thornhill (1476 metres).

It's a shame that we didn't have nicer weather up here.

Oddly enough, the lookout shelter is about the same elevation if not slightly higher (1477 metres) than the gazetted summit.  Lakelse Lake is visible at distant left.


Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and rains! Zosia begins the long retreat down the mountain.
Doh! Still shivering in her wet clothes, Zosia can hardly believe that it is sunny and warm in the town of Terrace behind her.
All part of the fun of camping road trips! Sonny's car becomes a makeshift drying rack at the local public laundromat.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Save this one for a day with nice weather! Total Distance:  14.4 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  7 hours 45 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  1041 metres

GPX Data