Vancouver is surrounded by seemingly endless hiking trails and mountains to explore. Massive parks line up one after another. Mount Seymour Provincial Park, Lynn Park, Grouse, Cypress and the enormous Garibaldi Provincial Park all contribute to Vancouver being an incredible hiking paradise.
St Mark's Summit is a relatively easy way to get hiking deep into Vancouver's amazing mountains. Starting this hike at Cypress means you drive most of the elevation. Even though you still have another 460 metres in 5.5k to hike, the beautiful forest and frequent Howe Sound views make it seem quick and easy. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach St Mark's Summit and the views are fantastic. Not only because of the incredible vantage point over Howe Sound, but the abruptness of St Mark's Summit. The cliffs below you are frighteningly vertical, making the views fantastically majestic. Also the sheer drop off makes Howe Sound and the speck sized boats seem so surreal. The third and possibly the best feature of the St Mark's Summit hike is the intricately huge and varied terrain on the summit. You stand and marvel at one viewpoint, then moments later your friend appears at an extraordinarily improbable, and worryingly dangerous rock outcrop a few dozen metres away. This hilarious game of hide and seek, seemingly can go on forever. As one leads to another, then another. Over and over, the St Mark's Summit reveals one breathtaking vantage point after another, until you are exhausted more with the views than the hike that got you there. When you estimate your hiking time for St Mark's Summit, but sure to include an hour at least at the top. And before you begin your hike back to Cypress, take a moment to glance back at the distant Lions. This incredible trail continues to them and beyond, you've just done 5.5k of the 29k, phenomenal Howe Sound Crest Trail. St Mark's Summit is part of the amazing Howe Sound Crest Trail in Cypress Provincial Park and is one of the many beautiful peaks to be climbed if desired on the 29k trail.
Why should you hike to St Mark's Summit?
One stunning vantage point after another at the end of a relatively easy hike. The 5.5 kilometres are steadily uphill, but not terribly strenuous. Once you reach St Mark's Summit, the places to explore are everywhere. The startlingly abrupt cliff overlooks Howe Sound and on a sunny day the world is filled with blue sky, blue ocean and lush, green forests covering all the islands.
The Lions or Twin Sisters lie in North Vancouver, about one hour from downtown Vancouver. The two distinct, rocky peaks are visible from downtown Vancouver. The view from the top is spectacular. Howe Sound stretches out into the blue distance. A tough but wonderful hiking trail.The first half of the hike is very easy as you follow a disused, though beautifully overgrown logging road gently uphill. The trail after this road is very well marked with flagging tape, tree markers and paint indicators on the rock faces. There are two plateaus before the final, very difficult ascent to the summit of the West Lion. Both plateaus have incredible views and most make the second plateau their final destination. It is at the base of the West Lion. There are not really any suitable places to put up a tent, but if you had to choose, somewhere in the vicinity of these two plateaus would be the place to do it. If you continue to the summit be prepared for a four metre rope descent. The ropes are there, fixed to a tree above, but are alarmingly worn. If you have ropes, you may want to bring them for this part. After this, you will cross the narrow col connecting to the West Lion. This begins the very difficult section. Clinging to narrow rocks and ledges you have to make your way around the right hand side of the steep West Lion. This section is so dangerous that there are permanent ropes fixed in places to prevent you falling several dozens of metres if you lost your grip...
Why should you hike the West Lion(Binkert) Trail to the West Lion?
The trail to the Lions is through a beautiful forest with occasional views of Howe Sound. Closer to the West Lion you get amazing, almost 360 degree views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains. If you are brave enough to summit the West Lion you get a full 360 degree view and the satisfaction of conquering this very challenging Vancouver icon.
Lighthouse Park is an extraordinarily little known piece of paradise, so close to to Vancouver as to see its tall buildings, yet immersed into a dramatically beautiful coastal rainforest. A wonderful network of hiking trails winds throughout massive Douglas-fir trees and Western Red Cedars as well as golden Arbutus trees stretching toward the ocean. There are so many great aspects of this hike. The first is the beautiful drive to get there. Marine Drive spectacularly hugs the rugged and steep coast of West Vancouver. This beautiful stretch of road is a great attraction to Lighthouse Park as it takes you along an easily overlooked, yet beautiful area of Vancouver. Another great attraction to the park is the wonderful variation of trails. They stretch out in several directions in the thick forest, each leading to breathtaking ocean viewpoints. Another is the variety of wildlife. Along with the majestic trees there are the occasional bald eagles, oystercatchers, seagulls, shore crabs, hermit crabs and starfish, among quite a lot else. Another is the seemingly endless array of picnic tables and even better, rock outcrops at the edge of the Georgia Strait and Pacific Ocean beyond.
Why should you go to Lighthouse Park in Vancouver?
Lighthouse Park is perfectly positioned for wonderful sunsets over Vancouver. The bit city buildings and the strikingly beautiful Lions Gate Bridge dominate the view along with massive shipping tankers. The park itself is has a beautiful array of trails leading through a wonderful forest and one ocean viewpoint after another.
Hollyburn Peak, in Cypress Provincial Park, is an amazing place to snowshoe or go hiking. The Hollyburn trailhead is an astonishingly close, 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver. The 30 minute drive is quite something as well. From the always beautiful crossing of the beautiful Lions Gate Bridge, to the incredible views of Vancouver from the approach drive to Cypress Mountain and the Hollyburn Mountain trailhead. You would almost expect that there would be various fees for parking, trail use, etc. But the Hollyburn Mountain snowshoeing and hiking trail is completely free, and also quite convenient. You will likely be able to park withing a few metres of the hiking/snowshoeing trailhead and if you don't happen to own snowshoes, you can rent them at the trailhead for a very reasonable price. As if it couldn't get better, it does... the trail is so well marked that it can easily be done after dark, as many do. What a perfect escape from the city. Hollyburn Mountain is a perfect escape to a towering mountain paradise far above Vancouver below. The city lights are amazing. From the lights of the Lions Gate Bridge, to the beautifully bright tankers, to the wondrously glowing Vancouver towers.
Why should you hike to Hollyburn Mountain in Cypress Park?
This hike has it all. Great views, easy hike, convenient times to use, and of course free. Hiking or snowshoeing Hollyburn Mountain is yet another spectacular piece of the whole amazing. Hollyburn Mountain is easily done in a half day trip from Vancouver as it is quite close and quite a short hike/snowshoe. Go early for the amazing sunrise, or late in the day for the unbelievable sunset.
Elfin Lakes is a wonderfully accessible mountain hiking paradise at the southern end of the mighty Garibali Park in Squamish (just an hours drive north of Vancouver). An amazing hiking or snowshoeing destination on its own, Elfin Lakes is also part of a gateway to so much more. The Gargoyles, Little Diamond Head, Opal Cone... There is a wonderful, extremely well equipped hut and campsites as well as a ranger station at the lakes. Staying at the amazing hut costs $15, cash only. Which sounds expensive until you see it. It looks more like a ski lodge than a mountain hut. Complete with solar powered lights, heat, propane stoves and room for 33 to sleep. You will find envelopes to pay at the trailhead. Camping away from the hut . Once again that seem expensive, but the area is very beautiful and popular so park rangers are nearly always around to keep things nice and functional. The 11 kilometres hiking or snowshoeing route to the Elfin Lakes Hut is well marked and well used. Unlike most other Garibaldi Park trails, this one can be safely navigated in the dark if needed with a flashlight. You will often find people on the trail in the dark on the lower section from the Red Heather Hut to the parking lot in Squamish.
Why should you hike or snowshoe to Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Provincial Park?
Located in Squamish, the Diamond Head trailhead to Garibaldi Provincial Park is fairly convenient from Vancouver. Just an hours drive from downtown Vancouver gets you into the deep wilderness of this beautiful park. For several kilometres the Elfin Lakes trail has incredible views in several directions.
Dog Mountain is a beautiful, short and fun hike (or snowshoe trek) close to Vancouver and starting from the parking lot of Mount Seymour Resort. Just 2.2k gets you from your car to breathtaking views of the big city below. This area is popular all year-round and there are plenty of trails to choose from. In the summer the trails include, Mount Elsay, a beautiful and very challenging 16k roundtrip hike to a beautiful mountain peak. Mount Seymour, a moderately challenging 8k roundtrip to the top of Seymour and amazing panoramic views. And Goldie Lake and Mystery Lake, which have their own comparatively easy, family friendly trails. Dog Mountain is fairly popular, so even in the depths of winter you will find the trail in the snow well packed down and easily followed. It is also a favourite evening hike to catch the sun setting over Vancouver. If you are new to Vancouver hiking, you will learn that anytime of the year, catching the sun setting over Vancouver from Dog Mountain is a cherished habit for many locals. Dog Mountain is a fantastic hike for many reasons, but unexpectedly, partly because of the drive to the trailhead. The trailhead is located at the far end of the main parking lot to Mount Seymour Ski Resort. The beautifully winding and always scenic drive takes you from the astonishing rainforest that engulfs North Vancouver abruptly into the heights of Mount Seymour, Dog Mountain, and Suicide Bluffs beyond. There are amazing vantage points at many bends in the road and you will certainly need to stop at least once on the journey to take in the amazing views.
Why should you hike or snowshoe to Dog Mountain in Mount Seymour Provincial Park?
Beautiful trail, dog friendly and great views at the end make this a locals favourite. You can even grab a beer before or after at the rustic restaurant/cafeteria/pub at the trailhead. Mount Seymour Provincial Park is amazing.. and the cost? Parking - free, trails - free, snowshoeing trails in the winter - free, backcountry camping (where permitted) - free. BC Parks are great!