Guest post by Laura Oxley from She Who Wanders
When you hear people talk about Vancouver, the first thing that pops into most peoples minds is – the mountains! Vancouver sure does have its fair share of beautiful peaks & valleys, which shouldn’t be missed out on if you’re headed out to Vancouver & looking to take in some of Canada’s spectacular scenery. So here are my top 5 hikes in/around Vancouver for your bucket list!
1. Norvan Falls
One of many trails in North Vancouver, and home to a gorgeous waterfall at the end of the trail. Housed in the Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, Norvan falls is definitely a day trip with its 15km return trek. Luckily there is minimal elevation here so it’s good for all ages and fitness levels. From the parking lot you’ll spend nearly 2km walking along a gravel path surrounded by lush trees and find many dog walkers out there. From there, the next few kms open up into a rockier terrain keeping you on your toes (Outside of summer this trail can get quite muddy so be prepared with the right footwear and take your time) as you navigate the large boulders in some sections small valleys between. You’ll begin to hear the sound of rushing water not long after and know that you’re close! There’s a suspension bridge off the trail to your left but stick to the right and climb up a few hills until you’re able to see the falls. You can climb your way over and up to the falls themselves and feel the spray on your face or, if you’re brave (that water is quite chilly) get in there for dip!
2. Quarry Rock
Located in Deep Cove, the eastern most part of North Vancouver giving you amazing views of Mount Seymour & Burrard Inlet. The town itself is quite small but full of some spectacular views & amazing homes (Ben Affleck lived here over a decade ago so I mean there’s that). There are cute restaurants in the town & a fair few bike/boat rental shops, but the main landmark you’ll find here is the marina, right in the middle of it all. And just above that sits the view point for this hike. ‘Quarry Rock’ or The Baden-Powell Trail (named after the man who founded the Boy Scouts program) that takes you on a 4k (return) trip up above the cove looking out for miles. The hike itself is one that’s doable for all ages and all fitness levels, taking maybe 35-40 minutes to get to the look-out point the walk up has stairs integrated into the trail and some bridges over a few streams. Well-covered by some gorgeous trees, you won’t find yourself too exposed to the sun if that’s something you’re worried about. Once you reach the top you’re gifted with a gorgeous sweeping view of Deep Cove and all it has to offer. A big recommendation I have is – the earlier the better. Especially in summer this hike is usually full of people so if you can get up there before noon (shout out if you make it for sunrise) you may even have the spot to yourself.
3. Cypress Falls
Cypress Falls is another North Vancouver gem that is good for all ages & during all seasons, which is a bonus when it comes to Vancouver. The rain in the fall & winter months can deter people from going outside too often, but this series of trails is even great with a little wet weather. From the parking lot here walk past an outhouse and into the dense & lush forest. You’ll start to hear water right away and you’ll be at the 1st set of falls in no time. Although not as high or powerful as Norvan Falls, these are still quite beautiful and being in the forest covered in frees and foliage is a beauty all in itself to enjoy. Once you’ve taken your fill of these first falls you’ll climb uphill a little until you come to a chain-link fence that separates the falls from a development company than own the lands but is still free to access for hikers. From here it’s all just following the sound of rushing water until you reach the view point for the upper falls that gush down into a canyon below. In between taking in the falls be sure to look up and notice the thousand-year-old Douglas fir trees & cedars that reside in this part of the city.
4. Cheakamus Lake, Whistler
Whistler; home to the 2010 Winter Olympics & some world class skiing. However, for the summer months Whistler is home to some amazing trails, and being less than a 2-hour drive from Vancouver it’s the perfect spot for a day trip. On the way into Whistler you’ll see a bridge on your left and a sign for the Cheakamus Service road, an old logging road and not the smoothest of rides to the trail head/parking lot, there’s no need for any 4WD but if you have it then it might go a little quicker than others. It’s about a 30 minute drive up the logging road (1 way so keep your eyes glued to the road for other cars/hikes) until you finally come to the parking lot at the trail head. The trail itself is fairly casual, no switch backs, and only a few inclines at the very start, most of the trail is leveled out and surrounded by some of the tallest trees I’ve ever seen! Keep your eyes peeled for a lot of felled trees that do involve some climbing to get over and continue on but once you reach the lake you won’t be disappointed. If you keep going there is an area for you to camp out at but even if you just stop to soak in the view & have lunch, it’s well worth the tree climbing.
5. Joffre Lakes, Pemberton
Continuing for an hour past Whistler will take you into a magical place that is Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. A must-do if you find yourself with a car and a day to spend soaking in some of the most incredibly beautiful views that British Columbia has to offer. A little over an hour drive from Whistler will take you past the small town of Pemberton and up (and up and up and up…) into the mountains where you’ll find 3 parking lots.
Note: arrive as early as possible to guarantee parking; access to the only toilets on the trail & a large map indicates the trail head. Be prepared for a good amount of switchbacks and an elevation gain of about 400 meters in a very short amount of time with a return trip of 10km. It should also be noted there is a camp site past the 3rd and final lake should you want to spend the night in this mountain paradise. From the trail head it’s less than 10 minutes & flat to the 1st lake where the first thing you’ll hear is people gasping (no word of a lie) & you’ll soon be taking part in that yourself. Surrounded by trees and looking up at a glacier you will instantly know that you’ve got a great day for views ahead of you. Tip: take your photos here on your way back down, chances are the hoard of people will be gone & the afternoon light through the trees at this spot is breathtaking. From here it’s all uphill until the second lake (about 2 hours, give or take, depending on the stops you make). Be sure to enjoy the views as you pass through the forests and boulder fields and look back every now & again because you’ll be able to see the first lake from above for a totally different scene. And then you reach the middle lake and the colours alone will blow your mind, not to mention the scenery that surrounds it. A glacier so close you could almost reach out and touch it, and trees as old as you can imagine surrounding the most turquoise & beautifully coloured lake you’ll ever lay eyes on. The water here is FREEZING, being fed by a glacier this lake is not for the faint of heart, but should you feel compelled to dive on in it’ll be a great story for your friends! In less than an hour from here, you’ll head past an incredible waterfall and up to the 3rd and final lake in the park. Once you reach the upper lake you’ll see just how close you are to that glacier and how ruggedly stunning this place is. At this point you have two options: 1) continue onwards to the campsite, or 2) turn back to the parking lot. Even if you aren’t camping you can still explore a little way past the upper lake to get some different views and get a bit closer to the glacier. Whichever route you choose you will not be disappointed as you’ll get the chance to go past all 3 lakes again as you head back towards your car with a full camera & your eyes still sparkling from the magic views.
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