This summer, take time to revitalize your senses and get back to nature by hiking one of these spectacular trails, right in your own provincial backyard!
With nature literally at our doorsteps, British Columbians are often steps away from a spectacular hiking trail – be it in the city centre like Stanley Park and the Grouse Grind or a short drive to Squamish and Whistler – the options are endless for beginner to intermediate hikers. This summer, revitalize your senses and take a walk through some of the most pristine, unparalleled hiking trails in the province – the stunning views will take your breath away!
Lighthouse Park: located along the shores of West Vancouver and nestled in coastal rainforest, hikers will walk amongst some of the largest, old growth Douglas fir and western red cedar trees in the Lower Mainland. A variety of trails to choose from, hikers will also witness stunning views of the water, lighthouse and downtown Vancouver. Difficulty level is easy so a great option for beginner hikers.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park: located in the west end of Vancouver, near the University of British Columbia, you can hike along the network of trails contained in more than 750 hectares of forest, home to hemlock, cedar and maple trees. An easy hike to do for all ages.
Quarry Rock: is a year-round hike perfect for those new to hiking, located in the Deep Cove area of North Vancouver. As you’re hiking along the well-marked trail (3.8 kilometres roundtrip), you’ll cross creek bridges to the Deep Cove Lookout destination that boasts gorgeous views of Deep Cove and the Indian Arm.
Stanley Park: we often think of this iconic park as a tourist destination, but Stanley Park is home to a diverse network of hiking and walking trails, including the famed Seawall that is abundant with walkers, runners and bikers. Those looking for zen and serenity, will want to hike the forest trails that offer more than 27 kilometres of quiet refuge amongst cedar, fir and hemlock trees. A great option for beginner to moderate hikers.
Grouse Grind: most British Columbians have done this hike – known as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster” – but it’s a good trail to add to our list as it’s a local hike in North Vancouver, and once you climb the 2,830 steps up the mountain, you can traverse the terrain to return or just take the Skyride tram back down. According to Grouse Mountain, you do need to be in “good physical shape and wear the right clothing and footwear” to attempt this hike, but it can be done by beginner to moderate hikers with ease – just go at your own pace.
The Chief: another staple for hikers in BC, the Chief, officially Stawamus Chief Mountain, offers three peaks to conquer. Once at the top, you’ll witness breathtaking views of Howe Sound, surrounding mountains, and the town of Squamish. Geared more for moderate to intermediate hikers, the Chief can be done in 1.5 to 5 hours, or three to 11 kilometres, depending on which peak you decide to hike or all three. Before heading up to the Chief, you can take a short walk to picturesque Shannon Falls, where the water cascades from more than 330 meters above.
Sea to Sky Gandola: a recent feature along the Sea to Sky corridor, the Sea to Sky Gondola takes hikers up high into the peaks. Once you arrive at the top, you can choose from “eight main hiking trails of varying range and difficulty” – the front country trails are well marked and below the treeline, whereas the backcountry trails are more rugged and not as well marked. Before heading on your hike, take a walk across the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge and take in the brilliant views of Howe Sound and beyond. While hiking along the trails, you’ll also be able to see the Chief from certain vantage points.
Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains: you can ride the famed Peak 2 Peak Gondola for access to diverse alpine trails on both mountains to experience its natural beauty and to witness the stunning views from high above. Choose between short hikes on wide parts to more advanced hikes to lakes, glaciers and meadows.
Joffre Lakes: closer to Pemberton, this 11-kilometre round trip hike is easy to access when compared to other alpine lake trails. As you hike along the trail, you’ll come across three lakes, turquoise blue in colour, each one more stunning than the last. This three to five hour hike is recommended for intermediate hikers, as the terrain is more difficult.
Garibaldi Lake: located in Garibaldi Provincial Park, hiking enthusiasts claim this is “the one hike that you must do in your lifetime.” Imagine the scene – beautiful turquoise-coloured water nestled between alpine mountains and a grandiose glacier as the backdrop, it’s no wonder that Garibaldi Lake is heralded as “one of the most scenic destinations in British Columbia.”
The hiking season ranges from July to October, and the difficulty of this hike is moderate to intermediate depending on the route you take. A round-trip can take anywhere from five to eight hours, route dependent. After the six-kilometre mark, hikers have a choice – you can take the shorter, easier route that will guide you to Garibaldi Lake or you can take the more challenging route and hike another few kilometres to Taylor Meadows, filled with alpine flowers, to view the towering peak of Black Tusk, an iconic mountain landmark. And then from here, hike to Panorama Ridge that provides a great vantage point, high above Garibaldi Lake, for unparalleled views of the lake and surrounding vistas.
Hiking is an amazing experience for hikers of all levels, but it’s important to remain safe. Here are a few safety tips:
Never hike alone
Carry water, snacks, sunscreen and bug spray in a backpack
Be prepared and bring extra clothing as weather conditions can frequently change, especially in mountainous regions
Observe closures and marked signs, stay on the trails to avoid injury or harm to natural ecosystems
Treat all wildlife with respect and caution, do not feed or approach bears
Research the trails before you embark to ensure that your fitness level is on par to the difficulty rating
Now choose your hiking destination, get out there and enjoy beautiful British Columbia in all it natural glory!
Photos: iStock, Wikipedia, Whistlerblackcomb.com, TaraOGradyphoto.com, Paul Bride, Seatoskygandola.com, flickr / Province of BC, flickr / Bruce Irschick