5040 Peak Hike: A Vancouver Island Adventure
The hike to 5040 Peak is one that we will never forget! This has a lot to do with how smoky it was from the forest fires in British Columbia, but also because of how epic the views are! This trail is already back on our list to do again in better conditions because it is such a gorgeous hike.
The 5040 Peak trail takes you to the summit of the mountain via Cobalt Lake. You can camp at Cobalt Lake and also just under the summit, where there is a hut that you can book a bed in to sleep in.
The 5040 hike is no joke. It is fairly short at only 6.9km / 4.3 miles return to the summit but extremely steep with 928m / 3,044 ft elevation gain! You have to climb up a lot of roots to get to the top but it is also incredibly worth it!
Even though you will have sore muscles after this hike, it is 100% worth it so if you are trying to decide whether to do it or not, let me convince you. JUST DO IT! You will not regret it! 5040 is one of the BEST backpacking trips near Vancouver!
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about hiking to 5040 Peak, including how to get to the trailhead and what sort of car you need to get up the 4×4 road, how to backpack to 5040 Peak as well as lots of other tips to make your hiking experience as great as it can possibly be!
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Distance: 6.9km / 4.3 miles return
Time: 3.5–5.5 hours
Elevation: 928m /3,044 ft
Dog Friendly: Yes
Toilets: Yes at the upper campground where the hut is. None in the parking area.
📍 Where is 5040 Peak Located
5040 Peak is located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, about a 1 hour drive from Port Alberni and a 1 hour 15 minute drive from Tofino.
Being so close to Tofino, it is the perfect hike to do on your way to stay in Tofino.
How to get to the 5040 trailhead from Vancouver
If you are coming from Vancouver, you will need to catch a ferry from Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal to Nanaimo Departure Bay.
I highly recommend booking a ferry in advance as they book out very fast during the Summer and you might have to wait a long time to get one if you just show up.
We did 5040 Peak on the weekend and decided to catch a ferry to Nanaimo on Friday night after work where we then stayed in an Airbnb before heading to the trailhead the next day.
The road to get to the trailhead is a 4×4 road and has some huge bumps in sections. You will need a high clearance vehicle to get to the top of the road where the trailhead is.
📌 Finding the Trailhead
To get to the trailhead, from Nanaimo, head towards Port Alberni. I recommend getting gas in Port Alberni so that you don’t have to worry about running out.
From there, you will need to drive down BC Hwy 4 W towards Tofino (Pacific Rim Highway).
You will need to turn left onto Marion Creek Forest Service Road to reach the trailhead. This is where it starts to get bumpy.
There is a small space for a couple of cars to park straight away when you turn onto this road. Our friends left their hire car there and we are piled into 2 AWDs with higher clearance.
You will be on this road for almost 7km and it take you about 45 minutes. The road is not too bad at the start but soon you will reach a steep bumpy uphill section where you will see a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road right before it. We found it helpful for someone to get out and spot check that our car wasn’t going to hit while we drove up.
After this section, it continues to be really bumpy for most of the rest of the way. You will know you have made it there when you begin to see more cars parked on the sign of the road.
The trailhead will be on your left-hand side across a small footbridge with an information sign.
🏔 Why is 5040 Peak called 5040 Peak?
5040 Peak got its name “5040” from the height of its summit which is 5040 ft high.
🥾 How hard is the hike to 5040 Peak?
5040 Peak is nice and short compared to some of the other hikes in British Columbia, however it is extremely steep at 928m / 3,044 ft elevation gain. You will be doing a lot of scrambling up roots and using your hands quite a bit on this hike.
I recommend bringing along hiking poles to take some of the pressure off your knees, but there will be times when you will need to put them in one hand and use the other hand to help pull yourself up.
🐶 Can dogs do the trail to 5040?
Dogs are allowed on the trail and at the campsites, however this is a hard hike for little legs! The is a lot of climbing and some big steps up so smaller dogs may struggle. Make sure you do lots of research so that you are fully prepared.
Dogs are not allowed to stay in the hut so if you are bringing your dog and want to backpacking, you will need to camp.
⌚ 5040 Peak Hiking Time
The time it takes you to reach the summit really depends on your cardio fitness. You could reach the upper campground in as little as 2 hours or it might take you more like 4 hours if you are a slower hiker.
Coming back down may take you less or more time depending on what your strengths are. Because the trail is so steep, I found that hiking back down the mountain was exhausting mentally (because you really had to concentrate on where you were stepping) as well as physically on my legs.
Toilets – There are no toilets at the trailhead. The map at Cobalt Lake noted that there should have been one at the lake, which makes sense because it is a campground, however, we couldn’t seem to find it.
There is a toilet up at the upper campground next to the hut and the ACCVI even provide toilet paper! I still recommend bringing your own just in case they run out. This toilet has the best bathroom views we have ever seen!
Bear Cache – At the upper campground where we stayed, there was a bear cache provided to store your food and anything else smelly in. There is another at the Cobalt Lake campground.
🚱 Where to Filter Water
There are no water sources at the trailhead but you will find a waterfall about halfway up where you can filter water. Then once you get to Cobalt Lake, you can filter more water there.
At the hut, there was a patch of snow and a small pond type thing when we were there which we ended up filtering water from.
Here is a link to Our water filter if you are looking to purchase one.
🐻 Animals along the 5040 Trail
Black bears and cougars are regularly seen in this area so make sure you bring along bear spray and don’t leave any food scraps around your camping area.
Other than these, there are also pikas (we saw a few), marmots and unfortunately mosquitoes so don’t forget your bug spray!
🌲 Leave No Trace
Whenever you are enjoying the beautiful nature that our world has to offer, remember to leave no trace (LNT)! Respect the beautiful places that make our world beautiful and take out everything that you take in, take only photos and respect the wildlife and other people. You can read more on the 7 LNT principles here.
🎒 Doing 5040 Peak as a Backpacking Trip
5040 Peak is a really popular day hike but a lot of people also choose to do it as a backpacking trip. There are a couple of different campgrounds and also a hut that you can book.
How to Stay in the Hut
To stay in the hut, you will need to reserve through the ACCVI (Alpine Club of Canada Vancouver Island). You can do so here. When booking the hut, you can book 1 room or 2. Each room is $150 and can sleep up to 6 people.
⛺ Where to Camp
There are 2 designated camping areas. The first is at Cobalt Lake which is lovely because you can camp right next to the lake!
The second camping area is nearer to the summit, where the hut is located. From this campground, you have awesome views of the surrounding mountains, including Triple Peak which will be in front of you.
There are no camping platforms or carved out tent sites in either of these places so you will need to be creative and find a flat spot on your own. There is also space to camp further up the mountain on the saddle which has incredible views!
Do I need to book a camping permit?
To camp at 5040 Peak, you do not need any sort of camping permit. You can just show up 😊
🥾 The 5040 Peak Hiking Trail
The 5040 Peak hike is 6.9km / 4.3 miles return with an elevation gain of 928m / 3,044 ft. It is a short but super steep hike with quite a bit of scrambling up tree roots and also a few boulders.
The hike starts out quite exposed in the sun. You will start hiking up the side of the mountain in the sun and will be able to see out to the road below you. This section of the hike isn’t too technical but does have the odd tree root scramble.
Once you start heading more into the trees, the real fun begins! The trail becomes super steep and doesn’t let up for the rest of the hike.
To get to Cobalt Lake, you will be scrambling up tree roots and find that you will need to either put your poles away at some points or hold them in one hand to be able to pull yourself up some sections.
Eventually, you will reach a waterfall which acts as natural air conditioning I recommend stopping to cool off and having a snack or lunch here because after this, there will be less trees to shelter you from the sun.
After the waterfall, you will hike over some large rocks and then back onto the trail. It’s not long now until you reach the lake!
Cobalt Lake is a stunning crystal clear lake that has a slightly blue tint to it. Bring your swimmers so that you can go for a dip but watch out for the mosquitoes!
When we were here the bugs were SO BAD. I think it was due to the lingering snow that seemed to be around. We were dying to jump in but it didn’t feel worth it with the amount of mozzies that were there.
Once you are ready to continue on from Cobalt Lake, the trail will start taking you uphill again but now without as many tree roots which is nice.
It is not too much further to the hut and the Upper Campground.
The Saddle and the Summit of 5040
Once you are ready to hike up to get EVEN better views of the mountains, it’s time to check out the saddle!
It is only about 20 minutes further to the saddle and the views get better and better.
Then once you reach the saddle, you can turn left to continue up to the peak or go right to walk along the saddle and take in the views from there.
There’s nothing worse than being unprepared for a hike, whether its a day hike or an overnight hike. Here are some essential items that you will need to hike 5040 Peak on Vancouver Island.
This is a trail which I recommend wearing hiking boots for. I wore my Oboz Bridger Mid B-Dry Boots to hike 5040 and they were great because they have a really solid thick sole with lots of traction. They definitely saved my feet from getting as sore as they would have on this trail.
Dave and I both always hike in Merino because it doesn’t start smelling as quickly as cotton. Our go to merino hiking tops are these ones from Icebreaker.
This is one of those hikes that I am so glad we had hiking poles for. They really help take the pressure off your knees on the way up and back down.
First Aid Kit
You never know when you might need one! We take a small lightweight first aid kit with us on our hikes. In it we have Band-Aids, gauze, tweezers, antiseptic and more.
Whenever you are hiking in British Columbia, you should carry bear spray with you and know how to use it. Also make sure that if you are camping, you use any bear caches provided to store your food and don’t leave food scraps around the camping area. You cannot buy spray online but most outdoor stores will sell it.
Sunscreen, a hat and bug spray
A lot of 5040 is quite exposed so sunscreen and a hat is important. When we were there in late August, there was a bit of snow still up at the lake and the hut and the bugs were absolutely awful! I don’t think I have had that many bites in my entire life!
My favourite day backpack is the Osprey Tempest 24! This is the backpack I use for ever hike unless I am backpacking.
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