The Old Baldy Mountain hike is one of the most popular hikes on Vancouver Island. The biggest draw to this hike is the hidden swing hanging from a tree with the most stunning views of Shawnigan Lake. Not only are the views amazing but this cute swing also features a carving of Vancouver Island on it – how cute!
This is a moderate to difficult hike with a few technical sections. Although there are sections which require some scrambling it is minimal and still a good hike for beginners. This area is really pretty at sunrise and sunset and avoiding midday is recommended as there is little shade along the trail.
I have heard multiple stories about the swing came to be, some of them say that a man built it to propose to his girlfriend as it was her favourite spot and others say he built it because she passed away and it was to commemorate her. Either way, it sounds like a cute love story and I hope it’s the former. Man who built the swing, if you’re reading this can you clarify for us? I kind of like that it’s a mystery!
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How To Get To The Trailhead
From Nanaimo: The drive to Old Baldy Mountain trailhead is approximately an hour from Nanaimo. To get to the trailhead you’ll need to pick up the Trans Canada Highway 1 South – we came from departure Bay ferry terminal and it was really easy to pick up the highway.
Around 68km later you’ll reach Shawnigan Lake-Mill Bay Road, turn right here. Just after Mill Bay Road you’ll turn left onto Sylvester Road. About 1 kilometre after turn right onto Baldy Mountain Road and then left onto Hawking Road which turns into Strathcona Heights Road.
The Trailheads are located along Strathcona Heights Road – on your left you’ll see a red gate and and a few seconds up the road you’ll see the yellow gate.
From Victoria: The drive from Victoria to the Old Baldy Mountain trailhead is shorter than that from Nanaimo. The drive should take around 45 minutes depending on traffic. You’ll pick up the Trans Canada Highway 1 again, this time heading North.
After around 28 kilometres you’ll need to turn left onto Shawnigan Lake Road. Drive for another 12 kilometres and then turn right onto McKernan Road then another right onto Galland Road. Once you get to Baldy Mountain Road turn left and then a right onto Hawking Road which again will turn onto Strathcona Heights Road which is where the trailhead is located.
It’s also important to note that there are several routes Listed on the Alltrails app – the trailheads from Strathcona Heights are the ones you want to take. There is another tail listed from Shawnigan Lake Road, this trailhead is on private property for the Easter Seals Camp and should not be accessed.
What To Pack For The Old Baldy Mountain Hike
The Old Baldy Mountain hike is considered a moderate hike and takes on average 1.5 to 2 hours. With any hike you want to ensure you have your ten essentials. I never hike without a first aid kit as even on easy and moderate trails it is always possible to injure yourself.
Bring plenty of water, hydration is super important, especially in areas where there is no cell service. We did this hike around midday and it was so hot. Sun protection on a hot day is also really important, this hike has sections where you are completely exposed to the sun.
As got what to wear, a good pair of hiking boots or trail runners with good grip is recommended. There are loose rocky sections of trail as well as some scrambling and good grip is important.
If hiking for sunrise or sunset, bring a headlamp for when it gets dark. Check out my day hike packing list on what to bring for a day hike, or download the checklist below to save for later.
Old Baldy Mountain Hike Stats
Elevation Gain: 210 Metres
Return Trip Time: 1.5 – 2 Hours
Season: February – October/Year-Round (depending on conditions)
Dog Friendly: Yes
How To Find The Secret Swing On Old Baldy Mountain
The first part of the trail is the steepest, the path is wide and rocky but all uphill for the first kilometre and no shade in this section.
Eventually you’ll reach the cell tower. At this point the wide trail ends and it’s not too obvious where the trail continues. There is what looks like a wide trail leading to your left that leads nowhere – this is obviously not the trail! (even though it looks like it)
If you look to your left and are using your Alltrails GPS map you’ll notice a narrow pathway that’s overgrown, this is the trail you need.
This next section is narrow and rocky but nothing too technical, you’ll eventually reach an opening that showcases panoramic views of Shawnigan Lake.
This is where the “yellow gate” trail gets difficult. Continue on the trail and you’ll start to encounter some sections of the trail that will require some climbing and scrambling. There are alternative trails or ways to get around these big rocks if you take the time to look. Coming down them was much easier than going up.
Once you have gotten through the difficult scrambling part of the trail you will come out onto another wide trail with loose rocks, turn right along this trail and around 30 seconds of walking, the swing is located on the right.
Obviously everyone wants to have their photo taken on this swing, we took our photos and went but there were some people that sat directly in the way so we had to move around them. There is lots of room here to sit and enjoy the view away from the swing.
Coming back down was a lot easier than going up, mostly because finding the trail on the way up took a bit to figure out which direction to go in. The scramble was also easier to navigate going down than coming up. If you want to head down to the yellow gate I’ve heard this is far easier and no scrambling involved.
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