|Of all the natural
features in the Lower Mainland, none have greater visual presence than the
Lions (or the Two Sisters, as they are called by local Native peoples).
Geologists believe that these two peaks - the West Lion stands at 5,401 feet (1646
m) and the East Lion at 5,245 feet (1599 m) - are the remnants of a volcanic cone.
There are two main approaches to them, both of which require a strenuous hike.
As the route from the Cypress Provincial Park trailhead
begins at a 3,000-foot (980-m) elevation, it's not as vertically challenging as
the approach from sea level at Lions Bay. However, it is lengthier ( 6 miles/10
km one way from Cypress, 5 miles/8 km from Lions Bay).|
When you put your
body to a test like this, you're thankful for every little energy-saving shortcut
you can find. The optimum time to do this hike is in late summer or early fall.
Not only will the weather favour you but also you'll be blessed with better views
as the broadleaf maples begin to shed their foliage. Budget four hours to climb
from the trailhead in Lions Bay to the ridge below the West Lion.
Passing through Lions Bay,
travellers get a glimpse of the West Lion from Hwy 99 as the highway crosses Harvey
Creek. Finding your way to the trailhead is a challenge in itself. Take the Oceanview
entrance to Lions Bay from Hwy 99. Follow the signs pointing left towards the
convenience store. Turn right on Centre, left on Bayview, left on Mountain Drive,
and finally left again on Sunset. As you climb through the neighbourhood you'll
pass the elementary school, next to which is a parking lot. If you arrive at the
trailhead and find that all parking spaces there have been taken, you can park
at this overflow lot, but before descending back to the school, check to
see if there is any space on Sunset south of Mountain Drive. If there is (the
parking restrictions are well marked), you will save yourself an extra 10 minutes
let the overall challenge of reaching the Lions deter you. Perhaps all you'll
wish to experience are the viewpoints that appear at intervals for the first 2
miles (3 km). Several stone arrows point the way at important junctions as you
follow first an old logging road, and then the orange and silver metal markers
affixed to the sides of trees as you ascend a narrow hiking trail. Horseshoe Bay
is surprisingly close, while modest-sized Bowyer Island lies offshore. Along the
way are several sturdy old-growth Douglas fir trees on the steep slope bordering
the trail. Rudimentary wooden steps assist hikers across a tricky section near
Harvey Creek. The best time to cross the creek is in late summer, when it's at
its lowest point; during rainy spells, crossing the rushing waters can be perilous.
The boulders in the creek are popular spots on which to sunbathe and catch your
breath. Note: Harvey Creek provides water for the Lions Bay community, so please
be extremely careful not to pollute it in any way.
old-growth forest surrounds the trail as it climbs above Harvey Creek, and you
head towards the best viewpoint yet of Howe Sound. Now all of Gambier Island is
revealed, as is the nest of smaller islands between Bowen and the Sunshine Coast.
Footing becomes trickier as you hop from boulder to boulder up the last incline
to the ridge, where a better path establishes itself and you can walk at a more
leisurely pace. In late summer the narrow gullies are filled with a low ground
cover of heather turning a burnt red and blueberries.
Howe Sound, British
Howe Sound Crest Trail begins in Cypress Provincial Park in North
Vancouver and runs almost 18 miles (30 km) across ridges and mountains - including
the Lions - while skirting pocket lakes to reach the shores of Howe Sound near
Porteau Cove. Phew!
Without a doubt this is the way to see as much of
Howe Sound as any hiker could wish, but it comes with a price tag: a real grunt.
Then again, so are most hikes on the slopes of Howe Sound.
few breaks in this demanding climb (and punishing descent), and often you can't
see the ocean for the trees. When you do get to sea the ocean, all else is momentarily
put aside. The northern terminus of the Howe Sound Crest Trail is at Hwy 99, 6.7
miles (11 km) north of Lions Bay. There's a pullout on the west side of the road
where you can leave your vehicle. (Note: Be wary when crossing the highway to
reach the trailhead.)
Deeks Lake Trail (strenuous; 8 mile/13 km return; 3-4 hours each way) leads
hikers up a steep rock-and-roots trail that passes through lush evergreen forest.
The occasional stream or waterfall provides cool encouragement to overheated brows
(and other body parts). Deeks Lake is skin-tighteningly frigid, year-round. If
you don't exist on a daily regime of cold showers, you needn't pack your bathing
suit. What it lacks in heat, it makes up for in passion. This is a sublime location,
far above the hum of traffic. You'll want to linger as long as possible, as much
to revel in the landscape as to put off the inevitable descent. There are two
trailheads from which this hike can begin, both located along Hwy 99 north of
Lions Bay. The more scenic route begins about 4 miles (6 m) north of Lions Bay,
where Deeks Creek empties into Howe Sound. Watch for a pullout on the west side
of the highway. If you miss it heading north, drive on and then double back when
possible. The trail, indicated by orange metal markers, begins beside the creek.
An alternative route is from the Howe Sound Crest Trail's northern terminus located
beside Hwy 99, about 3 miles (5 km) north of Deeks Creek. A large wooden kiosk
marks this approach.
One of the reasons that there's such a large parking lot at Murrin
Provincial Park is that directly across Hwy 99 and a short distance north
is the entrance to a favourite Howe Sound hiking trail to Petgill Lake
(7 miles/11 km return). Everything you should know is posted on the little kiosk
at the trailhead. What they don't tell you (but we will) is that you don't need
to go the full distance in order to enjoy the scenic viewpoints from this well-marked
trail. Just surmount the first steep, hand-over-fist pitch, and Howe Sound will
be laid out before you. The higher you go (total elevation gain is only 1,968
feet/600 m), the better the views of the mountains to the east and north, including
unmistakable Sky Pilot and Mount Garibaldi. Sections
of this trail can be boggy, so wear waterproof boots.
Chief Mountain is a strenuous, 4- to 7-mile (7- to 11-km) return hike, depending
on which of three summit routes you choose. There are several approaches to the
base of this mass of granite. For the first, leave your car in the lot beside
Shannon Falls Provincial Park's Logger's Sports Area.
Look for the orange and red markers affixed to a large cedar tree by the Federation
of BC Mountain Clubs at the north end of the sports area, which point the way.
Travel time to the base of the Chief is 15 minutes on this 0.6-mile (1-km), well-maintained
trail, which features several good viewpoints and close encounters with the cool,
smooth rock face where the trail runs beside it.
alternative approach allows you to drive to the base of the Chief itself at the
interpretive viewing area on Hwy 99 just north of Shannon Falls. Take the dirt
road that leads up the embankment in the middle of the viewpoint (it's not as
badly eroded as the others). It links up with a section of the old highway that
runs north and south as it hugs the base of the Chief. When you stand next to
the Chief here, you look up and up at a wall of smooth granite. It's awe-inspiring.
You can see why this monolith has become internationally famous among climbers
and has graced more than its share of magazine covers.
To reach the
trailhead, turn south onto the old road above the viewpoint, continuing on to
its end. Hiking from here to the Chief's south summit is a 2-mile (3.5-km) ascent
and takes about 90 minutes; add another hour if you choose the longer Centre and
North summit route (3.5 miles/5.5 km one way). Both routes share a common beginning,
then divide above Oleson Creek. (Note: The trail from Shannon Falls joins this
approach at Oleson Creek, a short distance uphill.)
is a 1,980-foot (600-m) elevation gain on this hike; you will be climbing almost
constantly until the top. This trail is the most popular with hikers (upwards
of 50,000 a year), but it is only one of several possible routes on the Chief.
Even if you don't plan to hike, be sure to stop at the Stawamus Chief Mountain
viewpoint on Hwy 99 in Squamish, a short distance north of Shannon Falls Provincial
Park. An interpretive display will acquaint you with the mountain and some of
the history of the region. Get out your binoculars and scan for climbers high
up on the sides of the Chief.
you are on a tour of the outdoors, especially in the Sea
to Sky corridor, downtown Squamish
may seem like an odd place to begin. However, the walking trails around the Squamish
Estuary will convince you of just how sensible an idea this is. In Squamish,
turn north off Hwy 99 at the Cleveland Avenue stoplights. Drive along the town's
main drag to Vancouver Street, turn right, and drive three blocks to the trailhead.
A wooden sign bears a detailed map of the estuary and the dike trail that rambles
west from here. Plan on taking an hour to cover a 2.5-mile (4-km) round trip.
Along the way, the grass-covered trail leads past channelled waterways, home to
a resident population of raptors and a host of migratory birds; bring binoculars.
Trumpeter swans overwinter here before flying north to their nesting grounds come
spring, as do bald eagles.
in the estuary, the already uncluttered view really opens up. The smooth granite
walls of Stawamus Chief Mountain form the centrepiece. Equally arresting, should
the skies be clear, is the dagger point of Atwell Peak, with its broad-shouldered
companion, the Dalton Dome. Together, they dominate the skyline of Garibaldi Provincial
Park to the north. A cool breeze often blows across the marshy sloughs of Howe
Sound's shoreline, so dress accordingly. In summer, the white stalks of pearly
everlasting rival Shannon Falls' snowy tress, visible as it cascades down the
slopes to the south of the Chief. This portion of the estuary trail ends at a
log-sorting yard. Another section follows a long finger of the estuary whose east
side is diked by the Squamish Spit, but is too distant to reach on foot.
hillside trails await visitors in Alice Lake Provincial
Park north of Squamish. In keeping with the park's easygoing nature, you can
make as much of them as you care. One trail blends into the other in a pleasing
fashion, and you're never far from a viewpoint and one of four lakes - Alice,
Stump, Fawn, and Edith - found within the park. The Four Lakes Loop Trail (7.5
miles/12 km) is the longest and threads by them all. Lakeshore Walk is
a short but pretty walking trail that leads along the north side of Alice Lake
and links the campground with the lake's two picnic beaches. The Stump Lantern
Interpretive Trail offers another short walk through the forest at the north end
of Alice Lake. After a visit here, you'll have learned to identify creeping liverwort,
lady fern, skunk cabbage, and devil's club when you spy them carpeting the forest
floor elsewhere in your travels. DeBeck's Hill presents the steepest challenge
in the park. An old logging road winds its way for about a mile up DeBeck's Hill
from the south end of Alice Lake. Follow it to the top and in less than an hour
you'll be treated to a great view of the Squamish region, including Howe Sound,
the Tantalus glaciers, and the Cheakamus River boring its way through a steep-sided
hikes in the Squamish area include two very demanding ones in the Squamish Valley.
In order to reach Lake Lovely Water Provincial Park, you'll first have
to arrange to cross the Squamish River to reach the trailhead, about 7 miles (11
km) north of Squamish. A rough and sometimes obscure trail leads upwards from
the west bank of the Squamish River to Lake Lovely Water. This is a strenuous
8.5-mile (14-km) eight-hour round-trip hike with few views to reward the weary
until you've reached the lake. Once there, the world's your oyster! Lake Lovely
Water lies cradled between the peaks of Alpha and Omega Mountains at a 4,000-foot
(1310-m) elevation. After all the effort you expend reaching the lake, you may
wish to camp. The Alpine Club of Canada maintains a locked cabin beside the lake.
You can make arrangements to get the key if you call in advance; there is a modest
fee for nonmembers. The best bet is to pack along a tent.
along the Squamish Valley Road is the start of the High Falls Creek Trail
(difficult; 4.5 miles/7 km return). The trade-off for making the demanding hike
is the reward of seeing the Squamish River spread before you, surmounted by the
Tantalus Range, one of the most inspiring vistas in the Coast Mountains. Until
you've seen it yourself, a description will just be so many words on a page.
forewarned: This hike is not for the fainthearted. Strategically placed ropes
help hikers up some of the steeper stretches, but in other sections you'll have
to call on all of your wits to clamber still higher. To find the trailhead, follow
the signs to Squamish Valley from Hwy 99, directly across the road from the entrance
to Alice Lake Provincial Park. A bridge crosses the Cheakamus River at Cheekye,
and on its far side the road divides into the Squamish Valley Road to the left,
and the Paradise Valley Road to the right. Bear left and follow this road for
almost 15 miles (24 km). Just past a hydroelectric powerhouse, watch for High
Falls Park on the right side of the road. The trail begins here.
probably more ground to cover on foot than you can explore in one visit, which
makes the Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest an ideal destination for repeat
visits. Although the lake itself is the main magnet, particularly in summer, the
more remote forest trails have a quiet charm of their own. A 2-mile (3-km) walk
from the parking lot, starting on the Alder Trail and then branching to
the Cheakamus Loop Trail, leads to two viewpoints that look across Paradise
Valley to the glacier-clad peaks of the Tantalus Range - including Mount Tantalus
itself as well as Alpha, Omega, Zenith, Pelion, and Serratus Mountains. A series
of staircases assists visitors up the steepest stretches between the two viewpoints.
A covered lookout shelter sits atop a rocky bluff and overlooks the Cheakamus
River flowing past far below, with the Squamish waterfront visible in the distance.
The entrance to the Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest is located 2.5 miles (4 km)
north of Alice Lake Provincial Park on the west side of Hwy 99.
of the best-preserved sections of the old Pemberton Trail passes between
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park and the Cal-Cheak Forest Service Recreation Site.
This is a gentle, well-worn pathway, and although there are several up-and-down
sections, staircases assist walkers in the most difficult places. The distance
between Brandywine and Cal-Cheak is 2.5 miles (4 km). The most entertaining section
of the walk is crossing Callaghan Creek on a wooden suspension bridge. The bridge
is located next to the Forest Service campsites and may be a bit difficult to
locate when the campground is full. Look for the trail to the suspension bridge
midway around the road that loops through the north campsite.
A short walking trail leads from the parking lot at Brandywine
Falls Provincial Park to an observation platform at the top of the falls.
Cross the bridge over Brandywine Creek and then follow the trail to the right,
which in 10 minutes will bring you to a clearing beside the falls. Along the way
the trail passes close to Brandywine Creek beneath some towering fir trees, crosses
the BC Rail tracks, and then reaches the viewpoint. Daisy Lake spreads out below
as the monolithic Black Tusk probes the skyline. Depending on the time of year,
dammed Daisy Lake may be more or less at 'full pool.' Spray from the 218-foot
(66-m) falls coats the sides of the gorge into which it plummets with ice in winter
and nourishes lush growth in warmer months.
Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor recreation activities in the Sea to
Sky corridor. You could easily fill up every weekend in summer with a different
trail, beginning at lower elevations in spring and gradually heading higher as
the snowpack melts. Although the distances seem great, most hikes are only moderately
demanding. Some, such as Garibaldi Lake (moderate; 11 miles/18 km return)
and Black Tusk (extreme; 8.7 miles/14 km return from Garibaldi Lake), are
so popular that the route seems as congested as Hwy 99, particularly near the
end of the day when everyone is making a hurried descent to be in the parking
lot before dark.
Whistler's wilderness offers a wonderful opportunity for hiking and walking.
Learn about the ecology of diverse ecosystems from experienced naturalist guides
and take in the incredible scenery.Trails are normally open July through September.
The opening of trails is dependent on the snowpack - as the snow recedes, trails
The spectacular High Note Trail traverses pristine alpine
meadows filled with wildflowers and looks out onto the glacial peaks of Garibaldi
Provincial Park and the crystal blue/green waters of Cheakamus Lake below.
The High Note Trail is eight kilometers or five miles long. The trail begins at
the peak of Whistler Mountain, heads down west ridge, turns east and traverses
along the mountain's south aspect past Piccolo peak into the Piccolo/Flute saddle.
It then loops back to the Roundhouse Lodge via a part of the Musical Bumps trail.
Three to four hours should be allowed to experience the entire trail and the ultimate
in coastal mountain views. The new trail is best suited for intermediate and above
hikers with a good physical fitness level and has an elevation change of 345 meters
or 1,132 feet.
The Peak Adventure
It isn't just the top of the
world up here... it's another world. Take a scenic gondola ride to the Roundhouse
Lodge where a short walk and an open air chairlift ride will bring you to the
Peak of Whistler Mountain. Take in the 360 degree views, enjoy a casual picnic
at the Peak, stroll the Peak Interpretive Walk or have an adventure by hiking
the High Note Trail or one of 14 other trails.
Whether you are looking for
an epic adventure or a great view while having lunch, this is the place to find
it. Pick up a Summer Trail Map for descriptions and directions or take a free
mountain tour, offered daily at 11:30am.
In most cases, the viewpoints in the
Whistler region are not easily reached by car. One of the exceptions is the short
drive east of Hwy 99 to the Garibaldi Lake/Black Tusk trailhead parking lot. Head
this way near sunset to view the rock formation called the Barrier. As
the late light of day strikes the red volcanic rock face, many shades of colour
are revealed. This is the site of a massive landslide that occurred in the mid-1850s,
several years prior to the arrival of the first European explorers. Squamish Indian
guides led two Hudson's Bay Company employees past the site as they crossed the
ancient trading route later known as the Pemberton Trail. Evidence of the slide
can still be see in the boulder fields that line Rubble Creek and in the rock
fields beside Hwy 99 near the turnoff. The Barrier holds back water in the Garibaldi
Lakes system that would otherwise flash down into the valley. The possibility
of such a drastic failure is the reason that much of the immediate region
is posted as 'No Stopping.' For the sake of the view, take a chance!
Occasionally one trail will
serve as a springboard to lengthier jaunts. For example, the Cheakamus Lake
Trail (easy; 4 miles/7 km return) connects with Singing Creek (easy;
4 miles/7 km return from Cheakamus Lake) and Helm Creek (moderate; 15 miles/24
km return) Trails. In turn the Helm Creek Trail links with the Black Tusk
Trail and provides an opportunity to make an overnight, point-to-point excursion.
Such trips require advanced planning for return transportation.
such route is the Madley Lake to Rainbow Lake Trail (moderate; 11
miles/18 km return), which links at lakeside with the Rainbow Falls/Rainbow
Lake Trail (moderate; 10 miles/16 km return). Madley Lake lies just north
of Callaghan Lake. Follow Callaghan Lake Rd past Alexander Falls. The road to
Madley Lake is on the right just beyond the bridge that spans Madley Creek. The
trailhead for Rainbow Lake is on the west side of Alta Lake Rd in Whistler, a
short distance north of Rainbow Park. It's a short, moderately steep hike to the
base of the falls, then a long half-day hike to the lake as the trail follows
the creek to its source. The views on this trail are better coming out on this
trail than going in, as you have many good views of the peaks between Whistler
and Wedge Mountains.
For those with less time to explore, shorter excursions such as the Loggers
Lake Trail (moderate; 3.7-mile/6-km loop) and the Whistler Interpretive
Forest Trails (easy; 7.5 miles/12 km return) will give your body and soul
a good workout. A large map of these trails is displayed at the entrance to the
Cheakamus Lake Rd on the east side of Hwy 99 across from Whistler's Function Junction
If you walk the entire 9.3 miles (15 m) of the Valley Trail, you'll not
only come away with a comprehensive idea of the layout of the resort, but also
you'll have seen most of the important landmarks from a variety of perspectives.
Because the mountains fold into each other in tight succession and rise so sharply
from the valley floor, you'll see varying profiles of them from different parts
of the valley. For example, when you're standing at the south end of the trail
near Alpha Lake, none of the bare rock that forms Blackcomb Peak is revealed.
Walk 2 miles (3 km) north along the Valley Trail and you can spy not only Blackcomb
but also all its companion peaks in the Spearhead Range. (Note: Although Blackcomb
is sometimes referred to as a mountain, the formation itself is, in fact, a peak.
The terrain referred to as Blackcomb Mountain is in the western reaches of the
Spearhead Range, where winter recreation trails have been cleared.)
This is just one of the advantages of taking several hours to walk as much of
the trail as possible. You can begin exploring the Valley Trail from numerous
points throughout Whistler. One of the most scenic stretches occurs between Meadow
Park in the Alpine Meadows neighbourhood and Rainbow Park on Alta Lake. The trail
follows the River of Golden Dreams for much of the time, and you'll find park
benches placed at various scenic viewpoints along the way. Also watch for the
Lost Lake Nature Trails, which loop away from the Valley Trail for short distances
near the south end of Lost Lake. The Valley Trail extends as far north as Emerald
Estates at the north end of Green Lake; however, as this section of the trail
runs along the shoulder of Hwy 99, it loses much of its pastoral charm.
Creek carves a deep trench through the heart of Whistler Village. Looking into
the mountains from the village, you can trace its channel to the flanks of Tremor
Mountain and Overlord Glacier. Trails such as Singing Pass (moderate; 7.5 miles/12
km return) and Musical Bumps (moderate; 7.5 miles/12 km return) lead into the
alpine area east of Whistler Mountain (easy; various distances). Across the valley
to the north, trails through Blackcomb's alpine (easy; various distances) give
hikers a view of their compatriots on these extended routes.
alpine flower display at Singing Pass is legendary. The timing of the height
of the blooming season depends on the amount of snow remaining from the previous
winter, but it usually occurs during the first two weeks in August. Singing Pass
stands in the headwaters region of Fitzsimmons Creek, a 15-mile (24-km) round
trip from Whistler Village. BC Parks has signs to mark the turnoff to the trailhead
on Hwy 99 at Village Gate Blvd. A dirt road that leads to the pass begins beside
the BC Transit loop on Blackcomb Way and runs along the north side of Whistler
Mountain. Follow the road uphill past the 'Singing Pass 4.8 km' sign, as the Whistler
Express gondola passes overhead. The narrow road to the Singing Pass parking lot
climbs relentlessly uphill; use caution and sound your horn at blind corners.
You'll have to scramble up a rocky section at the outset of the trail as it leads
for almost 2 miles (3 km) to the boundary of Garibaldi
Provincial Park. The well-groomed trail to the pass gains elevation at a gradual
pace as ever-improving views of Blackcomb and the Spearhead Range provide a riveting
spectacle. You'll know that you are close to Singing Pass when flowers begin to
appear beside the trail. From June to August, the slopes are alive with colourful
blossoms. Yellow glacier lilies begin blooming in June, followed by white Sitka
valerian, yellow fan-leaved cinqefoil, orange Indian paintbrush, tall yellow western
pasque flowers, and blue lupines.
If you visit the Whistler Museum you'll be astounded by some of the archival photographs.
The shoreline around Alta Lake, for example, was almost completely clear-cut in
the 1930s. Alta and nearby Green Lake were used as booming grounds, and throughout
the summer the lakes' surfaces were choked with logs. That was then; this is now.
Vibrant second-growth has replaced much of the damaged landscape, but the impact
of more recent logging is still visible above the Alpine Meadows neighbourhood
and in many hidden places such as the Soo River Valley. Although much of the lower-elevation,
old-growth forest has been removed around Whistler, a pocket of western red cedar
remains near the summit of Cougar Mountain that will enchant you.
Ancient Cedars Trail (easy; 2.5 miles/4 km return) loops through the forest
and provides not only an introduction to the trees but also to an undisturbed
cross section of growth clustered around a nourishing stream. As summer lengthens,
so too does the astounding size of the leaves on prickly devil's club (its Latin
name, Oplopanax horridus, provides a clue as to its nasty side), which
can grow here to widths of 14 inches (35 cm). Judging by the familiar shape of
the leaves, you'd think it was a member of the maple family; in fact, devil's
club is related to ginseng.
Ancient Cedar Forest,
root of this pernicious shrub is prized by Native peoples throughout BC for its
anaesthetic properties, and they esteem the plant as a whole as one of the most
medicinal on the coast. Western red cedar, some as wide as 9 feet (3 m) in diameter,
and devil's club enjoy damp conditions as much as do the ferns and fungi that
carpet the forest floor. There's a wonderful ambience here, heightened by a small
waterfall near the beginning of the trail.
To reach the Ancient Cedars
Trail, follow the Showh Lakes Forestry Road west of Hwy 99. The turnoff occurs
north of Whistler's Emerald Estates neighbourhood. Take the two-lane gravel road
that rises uphill on west side of Hwy 99. A short way in you pass a brown Forest
Service sign marking the beginning of the road along 16-Mile Creek. Just past
the Forest Service sign is a widening on the right (north) side of the road where
snowmobilers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers park in winter. Snow is not
cleared past this point. If you wish to do the entire 12.4-mile (20-km) journey
by bicycle or on foot in summer, you can leave your vehicle here, or you can drive
halfway to Cougar Mountain (beyond the halfway point are ditches that may be too
deep for most cars to negotiate). Nearby are several buildings on the north side
of the road. Proceed past them, ignoring the road branching off to the left (it
leads along the recently logged south side of 16-Mile Creek). For the first 1.2
miles (2 km) the road proceeds along a level part of this small valley with the
creek on its right side. A log bridge spans 16-Mile Creek and the road begins
to climb a ridge above the creek on the valley's north side. Beside the bridge
is another good place to leave your car; from here on the road is often rutted
by runoff. (The ditches offer added excitement when you're going downhill on a
bike.) From the bridge to the Showh Lakes is about 2 miles (3 km), an easy hour's
Take something to drink when you set out on a warm day; there is
no water until you reach the lakes. Just before the lakes the road divides. The
road to Cougar Mountain heads uphill on the right. For the best access to the
Showh Lakes, take this road. It continues uphill for 1.2 miles (2 km). The larger
of the two lakes appears below you halfway along. Watch for the trail to its shoreline
on your left, leading down through stumps and blueberry bushes. The road climbs
to its end 0.6 mile (1 km) past the larger of the Showh Lakes. The Ancient Cedars
Trail loop begins here.
you feel that you're in top shape, tackle the most northern entrance into Garibaldi
Provincial Park along the trail to magical Wedgemount Lake (extreme; 8.6
miles/14 km return). This is one tough climb, with hardly a level spot to rest
on. Total elevation gained is about 3,935 feet (1200 m). Once you've made the
effort of climbing to the lake, where the tongue of Wedgemount Glacier is stuck
in the turquoise-coloured water, it's a shame to spend the day here only, especially
as much more hiking beckons above. Mount Weart and Wedge Mountain (at 9,527 feet
(2904 m) the highest point in Garibaldi Provincial Park) are close at hand, as
is the Armchair Glacier surmounted by two scoured granite fans, part of a volcanic
ridge called the Owls.
A small, stuffy cabin sleeps eight, but most visitors
prefer to camp by the lake. (One bizarre feature here is a pit toilet in a metal-sheathed
outhouse that's shaped like a silver bullet.) To reach the trailhead, turn east
off Hwy 99, 2.5 miles (4 km) north of Whistler's northernmost neighbourhood, Emerald
Estates, and cross the Green River Bridge, then turn left and head uphill about
2 miles (3 km) on a dirt road. There are signs at each divide pointing the way
to the lake.
To explore all the area's boundless hiking trails in a lifetime
would be epic. From the formidable Lions above Lions Bay to the singular blue
of the Joffrey Lakes, endless exploration awaits the hiker. The three peaks of
The Stawamus Chief which offer a moderately steep challenge and spectacular views
of Howe Sound is the most popular day hike in British Columbia. The massive Garibaldi
Park, which stretches the east flank from Squamish to Whistler, boasts Elfin Lakes,
Garibaldi Lake, Black Tusk and Cheakamus Lake hiking areas to name a few. Whether
its the experience of overnight camping or a day spent outdoors, hiking is still
the best way to explore Sea to Sky country.
One of the oldest hiking routes in the Pemberton Valley leads 7.5 miles (12
km) from the trailhead off the Hurley River Road to Tenquille Lake. During
the first half of the 20th century, miners used pack-horse routes to reach the
subalpine region surrounding Tenquille and Owl Lakes. More recently, some of these
overgrown trails have been reopened for hiking and mountain biking. An alpine
trail system that links Tenquille and Owl Creek, as well as the original horse
trail from Tenquille to Barber's Valley and Ogre Lake, has been constructed. The
revitalizing of the trails around Tenquille, coupled with those around nearby
Birkenhead and Blackwater Lakes, makes this region one of the best destinations
for experienced hikers and mountain bikers.
Farther north, a rough trail follows the Lillooet River into the Upper Lillooet
Headwaters, a sublime wilderness region that has recently become a provincial
park. Plan on a 2.5-mile (4-km) hike from the trailhead at Salal Creek
to reach broad sandbars that stand revealed in late summer on more open sections
of the Lillooet River. To reach the trailhead, follow the Pemberton Valley and
Lillooet River Roads 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Pemberton.
Turn left immediately after the road crosses Salal Creek and drive about 0.6 mile
(1 km) to the trailhead at the end of a rough but passable range road.
Lizzie Lake marks the western trailhead of an extended 40-mile (60-km)
hiking route that transects Stein Valley Nlaka'pamux
Heritage Park. Allow a week or more to cover the entire length to the park's
eastern boundary near Lytton. For those without much time but who still wish to
get a look at the Stein, try the day hike from Lizzie Lake to the Lizzie Creek
Cabin in the subalpine zone (4 miles/6 km return). Note: Extensive damage was
done to parts of the Stein's landscape by a forest fire in 1996, making some hiking
routes difficult to distinguish, particularly west of Scudamore Creek to the midpoint
in the upper canyon.
The Gold Rush Heritage Trail is a slice of British Columbia's colonial
history, a remnant of the Cariboo gold rush in the late 1850s. Short sections
of the trail - actually an old road built by Royal Engineers - can still be discerned
in places along the east side of Lillooet Lake. The biggest challenge is simply
finding traces of the trail. One of the best places to begin is from St. Agnes
Well Hot Spring, located 30 miles (50 km) south of Hwy 99 on the Lillooet
Lake Rd. The turnoff to the springs and the heritage trail is directly across
from hydro tower marker '68.2.' To find the Gold Rush Heritage Trail, begin walking
north beside the swift-flowing Lillooet River from the hot springs. Another section
of the trail can be seen on the hillside above Rogers Creek, about 2 miles (3
km) north of the turnoff to St. Agnes Well. You can easily hike up to it from
the bridge over the creek.
At present, one of the most complete sections of the Sea to Sky Trail runs
between Gramsons, 10.5 miles (17 km) north of Mount Currie on the D'Arcy-Anderson
Lake Road, and the trail's northern terminus (and the road's) in D'Arcy. The jewel
in this well-marked, picturesque 25-mile (40-km) one-way stretch is Birkenhead
Lake. If you'd like to get right to the heart of this hike, a good place to begin
is Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park. Pick up the trail
next to the boat launch and follow it south as it climbs above the shoreline for
about 4.5 miles (7 km) towards Gramsons. Note: The section of the Sea to Sky Trail
described here is part of the 31-mile/50-km loop route described in Mountain Biking.
What has been omitted for hikers is the 6-mile/10-km portion on the D'Arcy-Anderson
the toughest but most rewarding hike in the region is to Upper Joffre Lake in
the Joffre Lakes Provincial Recreational Area. The
three lakes in this subalpine chain are strung like a turquoise necklace on the
mountainside below the massive Joffre Glacier Group. It's a short walk from the
parking lot beside Hwy 99 to Lower Joffre, but a stiff 5-mile (8-km) hike to Middle
Joffre and another 2.5 miles (4 km) to Upper Joffre, a total distance of 15 miles
(24 km) return. Expect wet trail conditions throughout the year, particularly
as you approach Middle Joffre. You'll have to scramble in places where loose soil
conditions make for treacherous footing. The reward of reaching Upper Joffre cannot
be overstated: an amphitheatre of crevassed, blue-hued ice rises directly above
the lake's south end and embraces most of the mountainside in a sweep from Mount
Taylor to Joffre Peak and Mount Chief Pascall. Cool winds blow down from the icefield;
you'll begin looking for shelter from the breeze almost as soon as you arrive
at Upper Joffre.
Pass is one of the approaches used when hiking into Stein
Valley Nlaka'pamux Provincial Park. Hikers are assisted by a logging and mining
road that leads 9 miles (15 km) to the pass from Hwy 99 and then descends towards
Cottonwood Creek. Plan on taking five to seven days to complete the 32-mile (52-km)
moderately difficult hike from Blowdown Pass to the Stein trailhead near Lytton.
For those with their sights set a little lower, there's good alpine hiking around
Blowdown Pass itself. Gott Peak (elevation 8,350 feet/2545 m) is an easy
2.5-mile (4-km) round-trip scramble from the pass. However, watch the loose footing
and also the weather, which is prone to change quickly. Great views of surrounding
peaks and wildlife are guaranteed on clear summer days.