Snowshoe Sawmill Burn

Over the last couple of winters we noticed that a number of groups offered trips to Sawmill Burn. So yesterday we tried to find the way up the old logging roads. Unfortunately no one had been up there this year, so once we left the ski trail we were trail-breaking through increasingly faceted snow. We got almost to the burn area before lack of time and energy forced us to turn back.

The route leaves the ski trail at the top of the hill by a circular red trail marker (see map) and soon heads steeply uphill before swinging round to the right and flattening out a bit. We made the mistake of turning left at the next junction on an old road that climbs steeply then heads left toward the valley. We went back down to the junction and continued on the original line after crossing several large logs. The old road climbs to an open corner with good views, heads left a short way, then back to the right at the far end of a relatively open area. We got a few hundred metres farther, to where the road is very overgrown, before turning back.

1983 air photo of Sawmill logging roads

1983 air photo of Sawmill logging roads

When we got home we looked at some air photos from 1983 that show the logging roads. I have reproduced one here showing where we got to. Hopefully it will help an energetic group find the route to the ridge. Let me know if you do. If you send me a gps track (gpx format) I will redo the map and post it and the track log for the benefit of others.

Map Sawmill trails
2 comments… add one
  • Robert A Mar 10, 2010, 2:31 pm

    I did this trip last weekend, and did make it to the top of the ridge. Sorry, I don’t carry a GPS, but here’s a description.

    I followed old snowshoe tracks all the way to the open corner where, instead of turning left, I continued straight. After a short distance, the road becomes completely overgrown. I bushwhacked up the hill on the left, following old game tracks. Thank god for heel lifts!

    Now in the old burn, I continued up the hill until I reached a horizontal road. Someone had snowshoed along here at some point since the last snowfall. I followed the tracks right (south) until the trail breaker obviously turned around. I kept going until the road went left and switchbacked. It climbed up to a flat, over-grown area, but I could see where the road continued up a ridge the other side, and I followed that.

    The road switchbacked again toward the south and led me to a bowl. I think the road continues out the other side of the bowl, but I simply tackled the hillside on my left, which was littered with deadfall. After reaching another grove of pines, I traversed right on some very steep slopes until I reached the ridgeback just below another group of trees. From here it was a simple walk up. It didn’t appear anyone (other than sheep) had been up there recently.

    On the way down, I followed the horizontal road all the way out. It became extremely heavily overgrown, but I was able to push my way out to where your hike ended. Finding where that horizontal road branches off, coming from the other way, would be very difficult.

    If that area was cleared out, I would do this route regularly. Once I was into the old burn/cutblock, the views up and down the valley were fantastic. I started out at about 9am, but the way down would have been easier if I’d started at 8am. The sun crust had softened up just enough that coming down the hillside back into the bowl I was continually punched through snow that held my weight earlier in the day.

  • Gill Jan 3, 2010, 4:18 pm

    We had actually hiked up this exact way a long time ago on our way up the outlier which we used as a stepping stone to Kent Ridge. On the way back we went down the north-west side of the outlier and picked up logging roads on the east side of Sawmill Creek that returned us to the sawmill site.

    Of course, the roads were in much better shape back then (30 yrs ). It would be great if some of these roads could be kept open, even if reduced to single track, and a network of snowshoe trails devised on the west face of the outlier. (Generally, the trails are too steep and narrow for skiing.) You don’t have to climb to the top; there are lots of great viewpoints from lower down.

    This brings me to Sawmill parking lot! I notice that the access road to Black Prince parking lot down the road is being plowed out for the benefit of skiers and boarders, so why not Sawmill for the benefit of X-C skiers and snowshoers? There IS an official snowshoe trail leaving the parking lot. It IS also the southern terminus of the Smith-Dorrien ski trails, Chester Lake parking lot being the northern terminus.

    It is noticeable that snowshoers are beginning to outnumber skiers on these trails. Obviously, people are desperately looking for new trails to explore. What better place than the Smith-Dorrien which has the best snow in all of K Country and a maze of untapped old logging roads? Sawmill could be the hub.

    On Saturday we counted 11 vehicles parked at the the side of the highway. Other cars looked as if they were going to pull in, then decided not to when they saw the line-up. A moose was going around licking the salt off the cars. You often see moose doing this in winter parking lots, but what was worrying about this is that he was on a fairly busy highway.

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