“The mountains are calling and I must go.
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” – John Muir
There is a certain state of being; a calmness of mind; a liberated space where creativity and peace flow one step at a time. Whether you’re on the path of a meandering meditation or grinding it out for a heart-beating, sweat-inducing cardio kick, Vancouver is a mecca for hiking. Sea-to-sky and beach-to-forest, the city is blessed with an abundance of accessible adventure.
The hardest part can be deciding where to start. One’s favourite hike is often the last one completed, but these five are easy to go back to time after time.
Switchbacks aside, this is a favourite hike in the Vancouver region—the views from Panorama Ridge are some of the most scenic in the world. Located in the Garibaldi Provincial Park, about an hour-and-a-half from Vancouver, Panorama Ridge offers a full 360-degree panoramic view of Garibaldi Lake, Black Tusk, and the Helm Lake area. This is a full-day excursion that can take up to 12 hours round trip, so make sure to pack accordingly. Many people choose to camp close to Garibaldi Lake and make it a two-day adventure; if opting for two days, do Panorama Ridge one day and Black Tusk the next. This hike goes through glacier lakes, mountain meadows, and forest trails. The real cherry on the top, of course, is the view at the top of the ridge.
Elfin Lakes consists of two small lakes located in the scenic alpine setting of Garibaldi Provincial Park near Squamish. Really, the Garibaldi region as a whole is a hub for A-grade hikes. This particular route takes six or seven hours round trip. The hike is long, but is a fairly gradual in incline; there is lots of open trail, so be sure to wear a hat to protect from the sun. This hike is at its best mid-summer, when the alpine flowers are all full bloom. Bonus: bring swimwear to cool down in one of the beautiful lakes at the end of the trail.
St Marks Summit
Effort to payoff, St Marks wins. Beginning just beyond the Cypress Mountain day lodge, this route winds for 11 kilometres along the Howe Sound Crest Trail. On a clear day, the views of Howe Sound are fantastic, with a glimpse of the Tantalus Range, and even the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island popping up off in the distance. On a cloudy day, a bit of misty magic sets a dreamy scene. Round trip, expect to hike for three-to-five hours.
This park is a go-to all year round. Between the Lynn Loop, Rice Lake, Norvan Falls, and Lynn Canyon, the Headwaters region offers many adventure routes. It’s about a 20-minute drive from Vancouver, and there is plenty of parking. A stand-out trail is the Lynn Loop, which finishes at the Headwaters. It is the perfect combination of postcard forest views and rambling river trails; it’s also a very easy trail with minimal altitude gains. The ultimate Lynn Headwaters hike cuts through the headwaters to Hannes Valley, ending at Grouse Mountain (those keen to brave that option should plan for a full-day excursion). The Headwaters are also dog-friendly, so bringing four-legged friends along is welcomed and encouraged.
Located in Pemberton, Joffre Lakes is a bit of a trek from Vancouver; despite the distance, it is very much worth the journey. Plus, it is easy to access in comparison to other alpine lakes. There are three striking, turquoise-tinted glacier lakes to visit on this adventure. The view is amazing, with the glacier sitting high above the mountains. Similar to St. Marks Summit, the reward-to-difficulty ratio heavily favours the reward side, with the abundance of glacier lakes, waterfalls, and mountain vistas. Be sure to stop at Solfeggio Foods after the hike for a healthy treat. After all, the best part of hiking is sometimes the snacks that await after the grind.
Mt Cheam: Located in Chilliwack, this is an easy favourite Fraser Valley hike. The only downside is that the service road to get to the trail is a little choppy, and a four-by-four is recommended.
Brandywine Meadows: In the summertime, when all the alpine flowers are in bloom, this hike feels like a little slice of paradise.
Wedgemount Lake: The hike up is along the lines of a Grouse Grind that never ends, but the glacier lake at the end is worth the struggle.
The call of the mountains is strong. All we have to do is answer it.
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