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St Mark's Summit Hiking the Howe Sound Crest Trail

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St Mark's Summit - Vancouver Hiking Trails


St Mark's Summit Hiking Trails Dog FriendlySt 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 challenging 460 metres in 5.5k to hike, the beautiful forest and frequent Howe Sound views make it seem quick and St Mark's Summit Hiker View of Howe Soundeasy.  It takes well under two hours for the average hiker 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.

St Mark's Summit View of Howe SoundWhen you estimate your hiking time for St Mark's Summit, be 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.  Among the hiker friendly mountains (in order from Cypress north) on the Howe Sound Crest Trail are: Mount Strachan, St Mark`s Summit, Unnecessary Mountain, The Lions, Mount Harvey, Mount Hanover, Brunswick Mountain and finally Deeks Peak.

The beautiful Cypress Mountain Resort is the location of the trailhead to the hike to St Mark's Summit. As it is one of among several hikes along the Howe Sound Crest Trail, the trailhead signs and markers don't indicate St Mark's Summit. Instead you have to follow the well laid out and frequent signs that direct you to the Howe Sound Crest Trail and The Lions. The Lions is the well known and highly visible Vancouver mountain on the Howe Sound Crest Trail and sits just beyond St Mark's Summit on the trail. So if you follow the signs for The Lions you will reach the Summit of St Mark's.St Mark's Summit Tent View of Howe Sound

Park your car at the huge parking lot nearest the Cypress Creek Daylodge and take a look inside. It has a very nice restaurant/pub and an array of beautiful and huge historical photos of the area dating back to the early 1900's. Particularly interesting are the photos of people in century-old ski gear standing at St Mark's Summit as you realize that this trail has been a cherished Vancouver recreational destination for quite some time.

St Mark's Summit Washroom in VancouverYou will also find nice public washrooms and water fountains as well as take-away, concession style food and drinks for the trail. As you exit the daylodge, go down the gradual stairs the bend to the right and you will see a large Cypress Provincial Park map kiosk. From there you will see, about 10 metres away, the trailhead marked with the first of many, Cypress Provincial Park trail signs. It shows an arrow pointing to the nice gravel trail stretching into the trees and "Howe Sound Crest Trail".

St Mark's Summit Hiking Trail Topo Map

The gravel and dirt trail winds through a beautiful and deep forest, occasionally following switchback as the trail ascends further into the mountains. After 20 minutes the trail and forest above and around it noticeably changes to a more wild and natural looking forest. The trail skirts the edge of some steep, though very safe cliffs and your first amazing view of Howe Sound.

St Mark's Summit - Howe Sound Crest Trail SignThe intense blue of the ocean far below contrasting with the distant, dark green, tree covered mountains, which then contrast back to the light blue of the sky is breathtaking. So close to Vancouver, yet very little of humanity is visible. No building, no houses, cars or highways in this enormously sweeping view of the British Columbia's coast. Just the occasional, and very distant sailboats silently catching the famous Howe Sound wind shown by the telltale white wash trailing behind.

After 40 minutes on the trail the mostly gravel trail has long since given way to the more natural looking dirt trail. Plenty of tree roots zig zag across the trail and plenty of moderately steep switchbacks mark this section of the trail. At one hour into the trail a faint trail leaves the main trail to the left and following for about 20 seconds takes you to a fabulous cliff with more amazing views of Howe Sound and the first really beautiful area to stop and sit down. However, St Mark's Summit is only 15 minutes further along the trail.

St Mark's Summit View of Howe SoundSt Mark's Summit is, you suddenly realize is quite large as there are in fact several different and equally beautiful viewpoints to see. Each one has a different perspective on the Howe Sound below. Some views are framed by impossibly huge trees seemingly growing out of the solid rock of the mountain. Other viewpoints have gorgeous clearings where you could sit and enjoy a picnic on the edge of the world or put up a tent with a hard to beat view. There is even a small waterfall barely audible in the background forest that you can reach in just a two minute hike from the summit.

The Howe Sound is the view you see in the foreground. As you turn away from the ocean view to the mountains behind you, you see The Lions just a few kilometres away and looking very impressively near. Looking in the direction of The Lions, the Howe Sound Crest Trail disappears down from St Mark's Summit and invitingly north into the distance.

St Mark's Summit View of the Lions

Trailhead Directions to St Mark's Summit


St Mark's Summit Trailhead DirectionsThe St Mark's trailhead is very easy to find.  It is found at Cypress Mountain Resort in West Vancouver (free parking and free to use the trails).  From downtown Vancouver follow the signs across the Lions Gate Bridge as if you were going to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway.  From Sea to Sky Highway #99 (aka Highway #1), about 10 minutes from the Lions Gate Bridge take the #8 Exit to Cypress Provincial Park.  There are clear signs on the highway for this exit so you can't miss it.  Follow this road all the way to the end and park at the Cypress Mountain Resort Ski area.  Right next to the main, huge Cypress Creek Daylodge, you will see three ski lifts.  The one on the left of the three is called the Lions Express.  In between the Lions Express lift and the daylodge you will see the well marked trailhead.

St Mark's Summit Location Map from Vancouver

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The Lions - Vancouver Hiking TrailsBe careful as the trailhead signs are a bit confusing.  For St Mark's Summit follow the signs for "The Lions".  If a sign doesn't show that, then look for the Howe Sound Crest Trail.  One or the other will be present along the trail, but don't look for mention of St Mark's Summit on any of them.  St Mark's Summit is on the Howe Sound Crest Trail along with several other amazing mountains.   Mount Harvey is one of the huge, visible and hikeable summits in the North Shore Mount Harvey - Vancouver Hiking Trailsmountains.  It is located on the Howe Sound Crest Trail in Cypress Provincial Park near The Lions.  Reachable via the Howe Sound Crest Trail or by its own trailhead in Lions Bay.  The same trailhead used for The Lions, Brunswick Mountain and Mount HanoverThe Lions are the two distinct, rocky peaks are visible from downtown Vancouver.  The view from the top of the West Lion is spectacular.  Howe Sound stretches out into the blue distance.  A tough but wonderful hiking trail. 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.  More on Vancouver's amazing Howe Sound Crest Trail click here.

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