I did this hike with a good friend (Sandy) on April 19th, 2015. I just started hiking this year and this was my very first one. I had found the trail online, did my research, and decided to do it!
It it was a gorgeous day out, +15 and no wind. Didn’t see any wildlife but I guess that can be a good thing!
We started off in the Mt Norquay ski resort parking lot. This trail head was easy to find, however it felt odd walking through the ski hill to get to it. It’s passed the third chair lift (the start of the trail actually is to the south of the lift by about 20 ft but then goes around the back of it to where it actually says Trail Head.
The beginning wasn’t hard. It was fairly level so we were able to make good time. There were muddy sections but nothing bad. After we crossed the small stream, we hit snow. It was in the shadow of the hill but still a bit unexpected (since the weather had been nice for a few days!). About 20 min into the hike, you go down towards the river and cross. There is a nice (and sturdy) bridge. Across the bridge, it looks like flooding has taken out the path. You want to turn right and follow a tiny foot trail until you reach the main path (only about 30 feet). We soon discovered that what goes down, must come back up… and steeply.
We began to climb at a good angle. It wasn’t like scrambling but it did make your legs question what you were doing! This was what the incline was like for the next 2-3 hours. It was steady and up. There is a fork in the path which leads up to Cascade Mountain or around to a tent site and lakes. I might try this alternate path later in the year. Keep right if you want to continue to Cascade.
From here, there were lots of switchbacks and steep inclines. We ran into a lot of ice and snow after this point since the forest became a bit more dense. The sun was warm against our backs when it broke through the tree cover.
Once the switchbacks end, the trail levels off a bit, you’re still climbing but not at the same angle as before. You traverse some thick treed areas then it opens up into the amphitheater. This area had a lot of snow still.
If you do this hike in April like us, I would advise bringing snow shoes. I definitely wished I had. Every other step we took, you sink up to your knees. It made the trek a bit more challenging. There were some inukshuks on the small ridges, which I assume marked the path. By now, there was no indication a trail even existed nor where one led to. This area was where we hung out. We climbed a bit on the mountain peak to the north of Cascade but couldn’t get any further up on Cascade itself. It was a downer but it just wasn’t safe with the threat of avalanches etc. When we were leaving, it became windy; really windy.
The hike down was super easy. But as soon as we crossed that river again, the hill that we went down, was all mud from melting snow. Our boots were caked in mud making them heavy and slippery. From trudging through the snow, they were also soaked so a good pair of hiking socks are a must (which thankfully I had!). We were definitely moving slow on the way back, probably due to added weight of mud and our legs being worn out from the snow. We thought the hard part was over.
Throughout the course of the day, the sun had melted the ski hill to the point where it was mostly all slush… More water, just what we wanted! At one point, I sunk in slush and water up past my knee… That was pretty cold water which seeped into my boot, making my lovely almost dry socks, drenched again.
We made a quick stop at the lodge to use the facilities, then onward home!
The hike was great. We will return later in the season to do the summit. This was definitely a good 7 hour hike just to the amphitheater. It was an intermediate hike. Not one for those wishing for an easy stroll. There is no scrambling involved up to the amphitheater but I assume up to the summit there would be.