The Slesse Memorial Trail : Hiking To One Of Canada’s Worst Aviation Disasters

The Slesse Memorial Trail

The Slesse Memorial Trail is nestled in the Cascade Mountains near the town of Chilliwack, BC. This trail is famous for its huge Northeast Buttress that can be climbed but is a very special place to hike for an entirely different reason. The trail passes a memorial plaque and crash site, remembering one of Canada’s worst aviation disasters that happened on December 9, 1956.

On this day, a Trans-Canada Airlines plane, destined for Calgary from Vancouver, crashed into the east face of the mountain and killing all 62 people on-board. This was, at the time, the worst airline crash in Canadian history. The plane also was carrying five CFL football players (Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders) on board who were heading back East after the East-West All-Star game in Vancouver.

The Crash Site

The crash site was not discovered until May of the following year by some mountaineers. Immediately a recovery effort was started to bring home the bodies of those who had perished. However, the crash was too high on the mountain’s sheer rock face, so instead 582 hectares on the East face of the mountain were designated a protected memorial site.

After the memorial plaque, the hiking trail continues up to the base of Mount Slesse, also known as the propeller cairn, where a piece from one of the propellers from the plane is propped up and surrounded by other artifacts. After all these years, because of the ruggedness of the area, many pieces of the plane have still not been found.

Be sure that you are respectful of those who lost their lives and do not touch anything at the crash site. We felt very privileged to be able to walk this trek. It truly is a mass grave in a very beautiful setting. It is very humbling when you get to the memorial cairn and consider what happened at that mountain; the sudden and catastrophic loss of life.

360 Degree Views

The 360-degree views from the propeller cairn are absolutely spectacular. As you stand in front of the humbling Mount Slesse, you can also see across the valley to Mount Rexford and the international mountains in Washington state.

Be aware that there is a lot of rock there. Rocks fall down the steep parts of the mountain frequently. We could hear the rock coming down.

Related StoryA Beautiful Summer Day To Hike To Lindeman Lake

How Long Did The Trail Take?

The hike took us three hours at a steady pace to reach the top, and two hours to make it back down. That does not include the time we spent stopping to eat lunch, fly the drone, or take photos. Allow extra time for yourself and time to relax up top with the views. We found a lot of varying trail distances online; the trail is around 15km (out and back) with an elevation gain of 1,021m. The trail is well-marked.

As always, to ensure you have a successful hike, having high quality hiking accessories is extremely important. Never discount the importance of great gear, even on a day hike. Also, make sure you have the right travel photography gear to capture this gorgeous hike.

We were lucky with the clearest views during this hike as the smoky skies were rolling in from all of the horrible wildfires our US neighbors are battling. On the descent, the views quickly became covered in smoke.

Dogs are also able to use the Slesse Memorial Trail.

Related Story – Must-Have Travel Photography Gear: What’s In My Camera Bag

Follow our journey up to the base of Mt Slesse through these photos: 

Trail Photos

The Slesse Memorial forest trail
We felt the trail was really well marked. We had no issues finding our way out and back.

The Slesse Memorial Trail

Bridge along The Slesse Memorial Trail
You’ll cross a bridge that was made on a log. It wobbles!
bridge along The Slesse Memorial Trail
The bridge and the rushing water below
Pretty views along the Slesse Memorial Trail
The view crossing the bridge
Neat bridge along The Slesse Memorial Trail
One of the many little bridges
Incredible nature along The Slesse Memorial Trail
Isn’t nature the coolest?
The Slesse Memorial Trail
This part of the trail had a freshly collapsed tree among the mess of old tree logs. We actually had to move some big fallen branches to be able to continue through the trail. The trail is overgrown to the right, main trail goes to the LEFT at the top of these steps!
Mountain views from The Slesse Memorial Trail
The views peeking out behind the trees on the way up were glorious.

Forest views along The Slesse Memorial Trail

Wildflowers along The Slesse Memorial Trail
It is all about finding the beauty of the little things in nature.
Forest along The Slesse Memorial Trail
There was some overgrown portions of the trail, but it was always easy to follow the right trail. It felt like it really added to the adventure!
Mountain views along The Slesse Memorial Trail
It was lovely to feel the beginnings of Fall starting. The hints of Fall were gorgeous.
The Slesse Memorial Trail
A reminder to show respect to the final resting place of Canada Airlines Flight 810.
Hikes near Vancouver
Sights you only see when you make the effort to get into the mountains.

Wildflowers along The Slesse Memorial Trail

Nature sights along The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mushrooms along The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views along The Slesse Memorial Trail

Hikes near Vancouver

Hiking along the The Slesse Memorial Trail

Hiking along The Slesse Memorial Trail

Hiking along The Slesse Memorial Trail

The Slesse Memorial Trail

Hikes in Chilliwack BC
The hike was so gorgeous!

The Slesse Memorial Trail

Related Story – Trophy Mountain : Hiking Into Sub-Alpine Meadows

 

Best hikes in Chilliwack
Those mountain views were magical!
Best hikes in Chilliwack
We were totally in awe and humbled by these magnificent views. If you’re looking for a hike near Vancouver that will take your breath away, this is a great one!

Related Story – Hiking Historic Lighthouse Park In Vancouver

Mountain views along The Slesse Memorial Trail

Hiking with mountain views along The Slesse Memorial Trail
Chilliwack is a nice slice of hiking heaven. We will definitely be back to explore more hiking trails in Chilliwack.

The Slesse Memorial Trail

Best hikes near Vancouver

Hiking along The Slesse Memorial Trail
ALMOST there!

Mountain views along The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views along The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views along The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views along The Slesse Memorial Trail

airplane wreckage along The Slesse Memorial Trail
The memorial cairn
Airplane wreckage along The Slesse Memorial Trail
A great way to remember those who lost their lives
Airplane wreckage along The Slesse Memorial Trail
The memorial cairn

Best hikes near Vancouver

Mountain views along The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views at The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views at The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views at The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views along The Slesse Memorial Trail

The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views along The Slesse Memorial Trail
Views like this will make your heart sing — I guarantee it!

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail
Incredible 360 degree views
Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail
Absolutely breath-taking!

Drone Views

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail
I took the time to walk right up to the snow. It was a great way to get refreshed when I was super hot and sweaty from the hike. Melting the snow on my skin was so refreshing and made me wish there was a cold lake right there for a dip!
Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail
This scenery really makes you realize how small we are!
Plane wreck on The Slesse Memorial Trail
The memorial site.

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Related Story – A Beautiful Summer Day To Hike To Lindeman Lake

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Drone views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Best hikes near Vancouver

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

Mountain views on The Slesse Memorial Trail

How To Get To The Slesse Memorial Trail

Follow Highway #1 (Trans-Canada Highway) to Chilliwack. Take exit #119 South. Follow Vedder Road until a round-about just before a bridge crossing the Vedder River. Go left onto Chilliwack Lake Road. After almost 30Km, turn right onto Nesakwatch Creek Forest Service Road. 400 meters after turning onto the service road, turn right at the t-junction. Follow this road for 5km to the trailhead.

HOWEVER, you will need a 4×4 vehicle or one with high clearance as you will be driving through many water bars (ditches). Otherwise, you could get stuck and damage your vehicle. Some drive as far as they can, leave their vehicle on the side of the road, and walk the rest of the way to the trailhead, which would add at least an hour each way.

Best Time To Hike

The best time to do this hike is in the June – September months.

Know Before You Go

  • You will not have cell service on this hike. Expect to lose cell service when you turn onto Chilliwack Lake Road.
  • This trail is an intermediate difficulty.
  • Dress in layers for changes in weather.
  • Bring extra water.
  • Hiking boots recommended.
  • Do not attempt the service road without a 4×4/high clearance vehicle.

 

Tell us below about one of the really cool hikes you completed with incredible scenery