Vancouver's amazing hiking trails become snowshoe trails as the North Shore mountains fill with snow in the winter. Though the days are short, if you get to the top of a mountain on a sunny day, the bright sun reflecting off everything is blindingly beautiful. Vancouver resorts cater to snowshoers very well. Hollyburn Mountain and Dog Mountain are free to use despite being in the middle of busy ski resorts. Here is a look at some great snowshoe trails from Vancouver to Whistler.
Dog Mountain is a fantastic snowshoeing trail 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, in terms of difficulty and distance, is in the middle of this local group, moderately easy. In , dogs are welcome almost everywhere. And you will soon discover this when you notice the dog to human ratio is about even on the trails here. Even in the middle of winter, with metres of snow, you will see plenty of ecstatic, frolicking dogs, pouncing into snowbanks everywhere to turn. 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 snowshoeing, 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 snowshoe trail 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 snowshoe Dog Mountain in Mt 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. is amazing.. and the cost? Parking - free snowshoeing trails - free, backcountry camping (where permitted) - free. BC Parks are great!
Hollyburn Mountain in Cypress Provincial Park, is an amazing place to snowshoe or hike. 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 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. A perfect mountain escape to a towering mountain paradise far above the big city 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. Great views, fairly easy snowshoeing, convenient times to use, and of course free. Snowshoeing to Hollyburn Peak 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 snowshoeing route, at only 7k roundtrip. Go early for the amazing sunrise, or late in the day for the unbelievable sunset.
Why should you snowshoe to Hollyburn Mountain in Cypress Park?
Hollyburn Mountain has it all, great views, easy trail, and free access. 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 paradise at the southern end of the mighty in Squamish. An amazing 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. You can pay with cash using an envelope drop-box at the trailhead or you can pre-pay through the BCParks site online. 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 costs $10. 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 Elfin Lakes trail starts out ascending through deep forest, reaching the Red Heather Hut after 5k. This is a small warming hut equipped with a wood stove complete with a stack of wood free to use. Though sleeping here is for emergencies only, the Red Heather Hut is warm and welcoming. The final 6k from this hut to Elfin Lakes takes you along a beautiful ridge with amazing views of snowy mountains all around. The sheer distance of this snowshoeing trail ranks it as difficult. Also, there is a considerable amount of elevation gain and loss along the way and you move through several gradual peaks and valleys...
Why should you snowshoe Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park, Squamish?
Elfin Lakes is a stunning mountain paradise. Deep forest, lush green meadows, hills, valleys, and mountains all around. The trail is a fairly challenging, and consistently ascending route through this magnificent wilderness near the southern end of Garibaldi Provincial Park. This Diamond Head entrance to Garibaldi Park in Squamish is quite busy, however, even on popular weekends it is nice and serene. The 11 kilometre length to the Elfin Lakes Hut, spreads out the hikers quite a bit and the terrain around the hut offers endless hiking opportunities in a number of directions. What an amazing place, Garibaldi Provincial Park is!
Black Tusk towering in the distance so close and blanketed in wonderful, beautiful snow. You can snowshoe this route via on one way and by on the return journey. The / trail forks partway up, left goes to , right to Garibaldi Lake (the trail joins again at the far side of both). , so massive and dramatically beautiful in the winter, a huge frozen valley. The downside to this hike is the length of hiking to get to the beautiful parts. In the summer it's not so bad as the trailhead is a moderately difficult 9k from . In the winter however, the trailhead parking lot is unplowed almost down to the highway. So just to get to the summer trailhead requires about a 2k uphill snowshoe slog. If you snowshoe the beautiful route to and return via the route is 25 kilometres long and very strenuous as a one day snowshoe trip.is a beautiful 25k round-trip snowshoeing trail in Garibaldi Park, just 25 minutes north of Squamish. Beautiful snowy meadows surrounded by mountains everywhere you look.
Why should you snowshoe to Taylor Meadows in Garibaldi Park?
The views from Taylor Meadows of Black Tusk are incredible. It is a challenging, strenuous snowshoeing trail in the winter that is usually easy to follow due to its frequent use by skiers and snowshoers. If you enjoy winter camping, the Taylor Meadows Campground is a winter paradise for you. Amazing views all around and you have the option of snowshoeing a different route for part of the way back to the trailhead (via Garibaldi Lake).
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, just a short, 25 minute drive north of Squamish is a nice and easy snowshoe trail in the winter. Usually from December to March you will find the entrance gate to the park on the Sea to Sky Highway closed. Some winters, you will see a mountain of snow, plowed from the highway on and adjacent to the gate. If you have snowshoes you can climb over this mountain of snow quite easily and make your way across the parking lot to the the trailhead and bridge. Brandywine Falls Provincial Park has the amazing, Sea to Sky Trail run right through it and you will notice several signs and map-boards along the trail. The Sea to Sky Trail runs for 180 kilometres, from Squamish all the way to D'Arcy. The Sea to Sky Trail runs along the Sea to Sky Highway for a while until it reaches Brandywine Park, where it then heads into the wilderness around Whistler. It winds through Whistler for over 30 kilometres before finally coming out at the Sea to Sky Highway, well north of Whistler Village. The trail to Brandywine Falls is very easy, wide and flat making it suitable for anyone. If you don't have snowshoes, you could probably get to the falls without them, however if lots of recent snow has fallen, you will get fairly wet on the way.
Why should you snowshoe to Brandywine Falls?
Brandywine Falls is a very easy, family friendly snowshoe trail. You can go from your car to deep snow in just seconds. Brandywine Falls is one of the most impressive and convenient to see waterfalls in the Sea to Sky corridor.
Cheakamus River is located at the southern end of Whistler, 51 kilometres north of Squamish. This well marked, though beautifully remote feeling snowshoeing trail takes you along both sides of the wildly crashing Cheakamus River. Snow begins to fall in earnest in the Whistler area in November so the best months for snowshoeing the are from late November to early April. The best routes is to walk/snowshoe from your car for about 100 metres following the road to Cheakamus Lake. At about 100 metres you will see a branching road go to the right and a large, vehicle bridge cross the Cheakamus River. Cross the bridge and you will immediately see a trail on your left running along the river. This trail, with Cheakamus River on your left will descend and ascend through a beautiful forest. Sometimes close to the river, sometimes 100 metres away. As these trails are popular in the summer for hiking and biking they are well marked with signs. Keep to the signs aiming for the which is 2k from where you parked and should take about an hour to reach. Once you reach the suspension bridge you can cross it and return to your car from the other side of the river. You will see a trail on the other side of the bridge on your left.
Why should you snowshoe Cheakamus River in Whistler?
It is very a beautiful and constantly varying trail. One minute you are looking down on the chaotically beautiful Cheakamus River from above, the next minute you are snaking through a forest of massive trees and the next minute you are high above the river in the middle of the impressive suspension bridge looking beneath your feet at the river. The is moderately easy though impressive and fun. The snow gets very deep and untouched in the area so that you can literally jump off the trail into waist deep powder snow. The trail length is perfect for a relaxing snowshoeing outing as it is just two or three hours trailhead to trailhead. Great for kids as they will be constantly jumping off the trail, down into the deep snow.
Decades ago a train derailed south of Whistler. Over the next fifty years this wreckage has evolved into an absolutely amazing place to snowshoe, the Whistler Train Wreck. The cost to clean up the wreckage was deemed too high, so seven train cars were left scattered next to the Cheakamus River. As it turns out, time and local effort has transformed this mess into a wonderful work of art, an extraordinary bike park in the summer, and a great place to snowshoe in the winter. The Cheakamus River winds its way, crashing and emerald green along the length of the Whistler Train Wreck, and there are several spectacular river vantage points that shouldn't be missed. The whole length of the train wreck and Cheakamus River hike is 3 kilometres (each way) and the trails go along the beautiful river as well as several, widely spaced train wrecks. The Whistler Train Wreck trailhead is best reached by starting at the easy to find, Flank Trail trailhead in Function Junction, just 8k south of Whistler Village. The Flank Trail trailhead is easy to spot. A small "Flank Trail" sign sits at the edge of Alpha Lake Road just before Alpha Lake Road bends sharply right.
Why should you snowshoe to the Whistler Train Wreck?
Whistler Train Wreck is an easy and beautiful trail. One of the nicest, easy snowshoeing and hiking trails in Whistler as you see both an amazing train wreck, turned work of art as well as the amazing Cheakamus River. Family friendly (easy), and close and convenient to Whistler Village as it is just 8 kilometres south in Function Junction.
A beautiful way to access the Flank Trail on snowshoes or on foot any time of the year is via the Rainbow Trail near Rainbow Park on the far side of Alta Lake. From the road-side parking at the trailhead you are immediately plunged into deep forest, deep snow, and the sound of crashing water nearby. The Rainbow Trail winds through the forest fairly steeply upward. In less than a kilometre you come to Rainbow Falls crashing down through huge pillows of snow. This little waterfall sits in a beautiful little snowy enclave that feels as though it belongs in some movie. Deep snow, crystal clear green water cascading down from a frozen cliff. A little, hidden paradise. One of many in Whistler. Further up the trail takes you to the first signs for the Flank Trail. The Flank Trail overlaps and crosses the Rainbow Trail for half a kilometre. Following the Flank Trail to the right takes you to a very scenic bridge over 21 Mile Creek. Following the Flank Trail to the left leads you to a steady ascent for 400 metres along the Rainbow Lake trail to the trail turnoff to the Flank Trail. The Flank Trail from here quickly ascends through more deep forest and finally after 15 minutes opens up and flattens out. The views become beautiful and trail less tiring. Whistler, Blackcomb and Wedge mountains all come dramatically into view and Alta Lake appears far below. Just steps from the trail take you to pristine, snowy outcrops, perfect for taking in the view on a sunny day.
Why should you snowshoe the Flank Trail in Whistler?
The Flank Trail runs along the edge of Mount Sproatt which lays across the valley from Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. This gives the Flank Trail an amazing and reverse perspective on Whistler than most are used to. Also, owing to the south facing aspect of the trail, you are almost constantly facing the sun, which can make or break a cold winter day out snowshoeing.
Rainbow Lake is a tough and beautiful snowshoeing trail 8k, high up in the mountains across the valley from Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. The trail is generally well marked and easy to follow, however some sections are tricky to follow as the heavy snow bends the bushes down obscuring the trail. The trail is a constant, fairly steep ascent and you may notice ski tracks along the route. A somewhat popular skiing attraction in Whistler is to get heli-dropped on Rainbow Mountain and skiing back to Whistler. Rainbow Falls is a nice detour near the beginning of the Rainbow Lake trail. When you come to the small water purification building you will see a distinct fork in the trail and a sign directing you to Rainbow Lake turn left. If you go right however, in just a few hundred metres you will come to the beautiful Rainbow Falls as well as a nice picturesque bridge over the river. You of course have to backtrack to get back to the Rainbow Lake trail. Though Rainbow Lake is only 8k from the trailhead, on snowshoes it will likely take nearly four hours to get there. You can snowshoe around up there for quite a while so you have to be careful with the time as in the winter the sun goes down before 5pm. The Rainbow Mountain trailhead is easy and close to Whistler Village.
Why should you snowshoe to Rainbow Lake in Whistler?
Rainbow Lake is a tough but rewarding snowshoe hike through a thick and beautiful forest. There are several viewpoints looking across the valley to Wedge, Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains as well as Whistler Village. It certainly is a good idea to combine this snowshoeing hike with a look at Rainbow Park and Rainbow Falls as both are convenient.
What makes Parkhurst Ghost Town such a great snowshoe trail is where it is located and the trail to get to it. One route, one of several ways to get to it, runs along the scenic Green River and next to the still active train tracks that run through Whistler. There always seems to be something to see. From the beautiful snow-filled meadow along the train tracks, to the suddenly deep forest where you have to play a game of finding the next, pink tree marker or risk wandering off the trail. The trail markers are numerous, and though getting lost is inevitable, you can only stray a few metres before, the river or steep terrain push you back onto the marked trail. Once up on the ridge above Green Lake where Parkhurst is located, the forest takes on a spooky feel. Trees are all far apart and with branches only high up give the forest a unnaturally lifeless look. As recent as the late 90's a few houses remained standing, but the merciless winters with crushing snow has collapsed all but one house. There are a couple half collapsed relics, but for the most part the town has disintegrated. Unexpectedly, even in the deep snow of winter, stumbling on remnants of the old town are frequent.
Why should you snowshoe to Parkhurst Ghost Town in Whistler?
The snowshoeing route to Parkhurst takes you up to some great views over Green Lake. The trail is challenging, but not overly difficult. Depending where you park and the route you take, the trail may be as short as 4 kilometres or as long as 7 kilometres roundtrip. Parkhurst itself is located in quite an amazing setting on Green Lake.