I grew up in beautiful British Columbia and I consider myself lucky because I’ve always been surrounded by the mountains and ocean, with adventure on my doorstep. After hiking for years, I’ve been able to explore a lot of the trials and provincial parks near Vancouver. Below are ten of my favorite hikes rated easy to difficult. All are within a few hours driving distance from the city. My challenge to you is to crush all of these (in order) this summer —you’ve got this!
Covid-19 Disclaimer: Joffre Lakes Provincial Parks is still fully closed until further notice. Please do your own part to keep updated as BC Parks shares updates. I suggest following @yourbcparks on Instagram, BC Parks on Facebook or check their website regularly (January 20, 2021).
To find additional information on the trails I share in this blog post, I recommend using AllTrails and offline maps to navigate the area and explore safely. All trail lengths below are roundtrip. Have fun and be safe!
This trail is a BC classic and will bring you to three spectacular lakes—Lower, Middle and Upper Joffre Lakes. Get ready to be mind-blown by the towering mountains and vibrant turquoise coloured water at all three. The colour of the water is due to glacial silt that comes from the surrounding glaciers. The trail is open all-year around which makes this provincial park both a summer and winter destination. If you’re brave enough, you could take a dip in the water in the summer months (but be warned… the water is very, very cold). If you’re keen on camping, check out the ‘Reservations’ section of the BC Parks’ website to snag a permit. Campsites are situated at Upper Joffre Lake and are epi.
Note: This spot has exploded with popularity within the last few years, so if you decide to go, I suggest getting to the trailhead at sunrise or just after so you can enjoy the lakes with minimal people around. On a sunny Saturday or Sunday, the parking lots/trail will be very full. So, if you can, go on a week day!
Length: 7.7km | Elevation gain: 491m | Route Type: Point to point
If you’re looking for a hike that is close to Vancouver, this is a great option. It’s 45 minutes from Downtown Vancouver and offers epic views of the city and the surrounding mountain peaks—which is why it’s one of my favorite hikes in British Columbia. The trail starts at the Mount Seymour Ski Resort so there is loads of parking. Along the trail, there are three peaks that you can hike to—my favorite is First Peak (which the stats below reflect) but I definitely recommend checking them all out.
Length: 8.2km | Elevation Gain: 577m | Route Type: Point to point
Saint Marks Summit
This is another classic hike in the Vancouver area is located on Cypress Mountain, another local ski resort. The well-marked trail will lead you to epic views of Howe Sound. This is a beautiful spot to watch sunset and take photos. If you decide to stay and watch the sun go down, please be cautious when hiking back in the dark. Bring a satellite phone and/or offline map so you know where you’re going and always look out for your group.
Length: 10.8km | Elevation Gain: 605m | Route Type: Point to point
Lake Lovely Water
This trailhead is a bit harder to reach… but I wanted to add it to the list because it’s one of my favorite spots in British Columbia. The parking lot is on the west side of the Squamish River which means that you’ll need to cross the river in order to start the hike—I recommend asking a Squamish local to boat you across (for a fee) or helicopter across. I was given the opportunity to helicopter across, so that’s how I got there. The flight is incredible, but pricey. If you’re keen on flying via helicopter, check out the ‘Location’ section of the BC Parks’ website for more information and the ‘Reservations’ section to learn more about camping.
Length: 10.1km | Elevation Gain: 1140m | Route type: Point to point
Sea To Sky Gondola
You’ll find the Sea To Sky Gondola along the Sea To Sky Highway (aka Highway 99) in between Vancouver and Squamish. While you’re able to take a gondola up and down, there’s a hike that’ll get you up top as well! The trailhead is at the parking lot/base of the gondola and weaves up the mountain. Once you get to the top, you’ll be welcomed with beautiful views, a restaurant to buy food/drinks, access to other trails and the backcountry. I recommend hiking up and taking the gondola down (for a small fee).
Length: 11.6km| Elevation Gain: 955m elevation gain | Route Type: Point to point
For this classic hike in British Columbia, you’ll need a 4×4 or a vehicle with high clearance to get to the trailhead. The hike may be a bit challenging and long—but it is worth it in my books. Once at the lake, you’ll be rewarded with epic mountain views and a beautifully-coloured lake. Be sure to bring your swimsuit and go for a polar plunge. There’s a cabin that sleeps 10 people and tent camping available. Check out this website to snag a spot in the cabin.
Length: 17.2km | Elevation Gain: 736m | Route Type: Point to point
I’ve been here at least seven times because it’s one of my favorite hikes in British Columbia. It is a tough hike and takes me about 4 hours to get up to the lake with my overnight backpack on. The steepness of the hike is pretty relentless but once you reach the top you’ll be rewarded with epic views. If you’d like to camp, which I definitely suggest you do, check out the Camping/Overnight Stay section of the BC Parks’ website. If you’re brave enough, you can take a dip in the water in the summer months but beware—the water will take your breath away (literally and figuratively)!.
Length: 10.3km | Elevation Gain: 1,200m | Route Type: Point to point
If you’ve done a few of the hikes above or have trained a bit, you’re ready to take on Mount Brunswick—the tallest peak in the North Shore Mountains. This hike is steep, relentless and exposed for the last hour or so. Be prepared for scrambling near the summit and to earn your views. You really feel like you’ve conquered a mountain when you stand on the peak looking down at Howe Sound, Vancouver and the surrounding peaks.
Length: 12.6km | Elevation Gain: 1,556m | Route Type: Point to point
This is an iconic hike in British Columbia, and is one of my all-time favorites. It is long, especially if you decide to day hike it—but it’s worth it. There are two trailheads for this hike so I’ll explain each. One is at the Garibaldi Lake/Rubble Creek trailhead, which is the most popular, and the other is at the Cheakamus Lake trailhead. After doing both trails, I recommend starting at the Cheakamus Lake trailhead because it’s just as scenic and you’ll see a fraction of people. The stats below reflect this trail. That said, if you’re wanting to visit Garibaldi Lake on the way to Panorama Ridge (there is a slight detour so it’ll make your hike longer), definitely start at the Garibaldi Lake/Rubble Creek trailhead.
If you’d like to camp, check out the Reservation section of the BC Parks’ website. Camping is a great idea as you’ll be able to break up the hike and it won’t be as strenuous as it would to crush it all in one day. I’ve done it in one day and it takes about 9 hours (give or take). I suggest getting to the trailhead very early, bringing a lot of food, layers and water purification tablets (or a system) as there are streams along the trails. If you’d like to camp, here are my tips:
- Camp at the Garibaldi Lake Campground if you’d like to visit the Garibaldi Lake and Panorama Ridge. Start at Garibaldi Lake/Rubble Creek trailhead.
- Camp at Taylor Meadows Campground if you’d like to visit Panorama Ridge only. Start from the Garibaldi Lake/Rubble Creek trailhead.
- Camp at Helm Creek Campground if you’d like to visit Panorama Ridge only. Start from the Cheakamus Lake trailhead.
Length: 29.1km | Elevation Gain: 1,573m | Route Type: Point to point
I’ve only done this hike once but I’ve always remembered three things: 1) The views were bonkers. 2) Be sure to camp next time. 3) What a grind. I crushed this as a day hike and it took about 9 hours. The trail has a lot of exposed roots and is incredibly steep after Alder Flats so be prepared. If you’re a seasoned hiker and want to tackle this trail with an overnight backpack, I suggest heading up there early so you can take your time hiking, chill at the top and grab a tent pad. Campsites are situated below the summit. As far as I’m aware, for camping, the tent pads are claimed on a first come first serve basis and you don’t need a permit. This may change in the future so please do your research.
Length: 21.7km | Elevation Gain: 1,708m elevation gain| Route Type: Point to Point
PS. I don’t have imagery for this as I hiked Golden Ears 4 years ago and didn’t take many photos. So, I’m sharing an image below by Sonia, a local hiker.
That’s it for now! I hope you found a couple hikes you want to crush this summer. I will be sharing more hikes in my beautiful home province of British Columbia soon, so stay tuned. Any questions? Pop them in the comments and let’s chat.