Following the CBC Tower trail takes you to the very summit of Mount Nelson (or Elephant Mountain as some locals affectionately call it). It’s a difficult hike with significant elevation, but it’s scenic and close to home! At each milestone, the City of Nelson shrinks further below and more and more peaks enfold from the distant valleys.
Trailhead: Pulpit Rock Trailhead, Johnstone Road, Nelson
Distance, Round Trip: 14.1km
The CBC Tower trail is an extension of the Pulpit Rock/Flagpole trail, and therefore shares the same busy trailhead!
Come early to avoid the crowds – you’ll want a head start anyways because this hike takes 6-8 hours round trip!
Up to Pulpit Rock
The trail to Pulpit Rock is always busy, but is nicely graded with switchbacks. We made it up in just over 30 minutes to a clouded view of Nelson below:
There was a lid of grey clouds sitting in the valleys, and looking higher up the trail, we could see that we’d be walking into the mist by the time we reached Flagpole. Still, the weather forecast promised sunny, clear skies, so we continued on and hoped the clouds would burn off.
Up to Flagpole
The Flagpole trail was indeed shrouded in clouds As we walked higher, condensation stuck to my hair and clothes, making everything damp and chilly.
We reached the Flagpole about 40 minutes after leaving Pulpit Rock, and it was completely socked-in cloudy fog! Still, we could see some light patches of sunlight within the cloud cover, so we made the decision to press onwards and hopefully get above the clouds.
Bluffs Towards the CBC Tower
The CBC Tower Trail officially starts just behind the Flagpole. On a clear day, you can spot the tower wayyy in the distance and it looks like a long way to go!
By the time you’ve reached the Flagpole with the CBC Tower junction, you’ve done just over half of the elevation gain and just less than half of the distance. It is still a ways to go!
As we started along the CBC Tower trail, the clouds began to thin to blue. There was quite a bit of deadfall from the windstorm two weeks ago, so we found ourselves climbing over and under trees.
Finally we got above the clouds and found a sunny day with clear blue skies!
The CBC Tower Trail climbs up several rocky bluffs with steep footing. These bluffs offer scenic spots for a quick break. The higher we went, the more clouds were burning away and the more peaks became visible in the distance.
We could see several peaks in the Bonnington Range: Toad Mountain, Red Mountain and Copper. As we neared the summit, Ymir Peak became visible, covered in snow.
Mount Nelson levels off around the summit. So about 3/4 of the way up, the trail became more gradual and led into deep forest full of snow.
The CBC Tower
At last! Suddenly we looked up at the CBC Tower was right there! We made a quick approach to the cluster of buildings that surrounds it, and then began scouting downhill for the reflector.
There isn’t any view from the CBC Tower itself, but I’d heard that the reflector was perched on a rocky bluff that overlooked Nelson. Sure enough, we spotted the reflector through the trees and a little ways downhill with a faint path leading the way.
Once we got in front of the reflector, we could look down and see Nelson way below!
Sitting by the reflector, we ate our lunch on some rocks in the sun. We were directly above BOB (the Big Orange Bridge) and the clouds below were dissolving.
It had taken 3.5 hours to walk up to the CBC Tower, with plenty of short breaks along the way.
Heading Back Down
Mindful of the early sunset, we took a short lunch and then headed back down. By mid-afternoon, all of the clouds were gone and we enjoyed full views of Nelson and the surrounding valleys below.