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.
All this just a short 30 minute drive from downtown Vancouver. Amazing.
VANCOUVER HIKING - MAY 2012
Upper Shannon Falls, Shannon Falls Park, Squamish
The beautiful Upper Shannon Falls trail has several attributes that make it an amazing trail. First, it is fantastically beautiful. Sweeping, panoramic views of snowy mountains, Howe Sound, and Squamish far below.
Second, it is a thick forest trek through characteristically BC Coastal Rainforest. You walk through a varied jungle of massive trees, rock chasms, creeks and waterfalls.
Third is the length of the trail. It is very manageable at just 3.5k to the top of the trail, where there are several enormous rock plateaus to relax in the sun.
Finally, the attribute that is the most amazing. The trail is always deserted. You can, and probably will see several hundred hikers between the Shannon Falls trailhead and the turnoff to the Upper Shannon Falls trail (which branches off of the Stawamus Chief trail partway up). In this period of hiking you start to feel crowded on this amazingly popular trail. Then from the Stawamus Chief trail to step on to the Upper Shannon Falls Trail and an amazing thing happens. Silence. For the next 3k you might see two people.
This phenomenon is the result of two beautiful reasons. First, the Chief is just that good. It's amazing, beautiful, and a relatively easy hike. It is famous, visible for miles away, and towering above Squamish. The second wonderful reason is that this area is well known for Shannon Falls and the Stawamus Chief. You never hear the Upper Shannon Falls Trail mentioned. And no one gives the branching trail a second look.
So this amazing hiking trail, arguably on par with the Chief is almost always a perfectly serene paradise devoid of people.
VANCOUVER HIKING - MAY 2012
The beginning of the hike greets you with the breathtaking 335 metre Shannon Falls. This crashing monster freezes you with spray as you pass close enough to feel its pounding force. Starting at the Shannon Falls trailhead is almost always the better option. The exception would be if you plan on camping at the large and well designed forest campsites at the start of the Chief trailhead. If you are unaware, the two trailheads, Shannon Falls and Stawamus Chief are quite close, only about 1.5k apart. The Stawamus Chief trailhead has the campsites (63 tent sites at $8/person, free in the winter) and the Shannon Falls trailhead has the washrooms and concession stand. Both have large parking lots.
The Upper Shannon Falls trail is generally easy. It is only 3.5k from the Shannon Falls trailhead to the end of the trail and the beautiful views. It is consistently uphill though and you do gain 450 metres in that short distance. There are a couple chain pulls on two steep sections, but no one should have difficulty with this. At about 3k you reach the picturesque Upper Shannon Falls which are of course not nearly as dramatic as the 335 metre Shannon Falls below.
But the real attraction to this trail is not the upper falls but the amazing rock plateaus at the top of the trail shortly beyond the upper falls. These plateaus are huge. One massive grass and tree covered one and a huge rock one similar, though much smaller than the Chiefs three mighty plateaus. The views are amazing and the area is quite large so you can wander for quite a while up in this mountain paradise. The Upper Shannon Falls trail can be hiked year round, however, May is the first month of the year that you won't be cold for much of the shaded trail and the winter snow will be completely gone except for the distant mountains.
Parkhurst Ghost Town, 90 Minutes North of Vancouver
Parkhurst was once a busy logging community on the far shore of Green Lake in Whistler, abandoned six decades ago. Some large machinery, several houses, and an impressive behemoth of a tractor were left behind. Of the twenty houses only one stands still and has now become somewhat of an art exhibit of sorts just as Whistler's Train Wreck morphed into the magnificent art exhibit it is today.
The houses are spread out in a quite wide area and you can find yourself wandering for hours finding one amazing thing after another. From the unbelievable tree growing out of the abandoned tractor plough.
The tree evidently grew after it was abandoned sixty years ago and grew inside it forming inside the thick metal, filling the shape in an amazing way. And the abandoned car from the 70's which seems so improbable in such a place where you can't discern a road in, much less a reason for having a car once you got it here.
The last remaining house is quite something. Painted on the outside recently with a haunting apparition of a face. So unnaturally blue in a a place with only natural colours. The inside of the house is strangely large with three rooms and an opening to an attic. Every inch of the place looks full of history. It seems to have housed a considerable number of people since it's initial abandoning in the 50's.
The River of Golden Dreams Canoe Route to Parkhurst
Parkhurst in Whistler can be reached three ways. By hiking or biking in via the Green Lake Loop from either the edge of Lost Lake near Nicholas North golf course or from the other end of the Green Lake Loop near the highway turnoff to the Wedgemount Lake trailhead. However, the third way to reach it is by canoe. Either straight across Green Lake from the boat launch just opposite Parkhurst, just off Highway 99.
Or better yet by launching your canoe in at the River of Golden Dreams at the terminus of Lorimer Rd near Whistler Village. This is a beautiful route that takes the very beautiful and tame River of Golden Dreams through the forest and parks between Alta Lake and Green Lake. You go with the current and paddle with little effort. Even in Green Lake the current pulls you slightly.
Paddling the whole time you can reach Parkhurst in as little as an hour from the Lorimer Rd. But at a relaxed pace it takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. Once reaching Green Lake it is best to follow the coast on your right and in about 15 minutes you will spot the big tractor pictured above which is next to a nice grassy area to exit.
After Parkhurst you can paddle directly opposite Green Lake to the dock and boat launch. From here it's only a $10 taxi ride back to retrieve your car from Lorimer Rd.