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 favourite 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: Garibaldi Provincial Park (Wedgemount Lake + Panorama Ridge) and Joffre Lakes Provincial Parks are 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 (June 17/20).
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 epic!
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!
Hike information: 7.7km roundtrip with 491m elevation gain. You can find the trailhead, more info and reviews here.
If you’re looking for a hike that is close to Vancouver, this is a great option for you! It’s 45 minutes from Downtown Vancouver and offers epic views of the city and the surrounding mountain peaks. 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 favourite is First Peak but I definitely recommend checking them all out. I love this hike because it’s easily accessible and great in both the summer and winter season.
Hike information: 8.2km roundtrip with 577m elevation gain. You can find the trailhead, more info and reviews here.
Saint Marks Summit
This is another classic hike in the Vancouver area is located on Cypress Mountain (another ski resort). The well-marked trail will lead you to epic views of Howe Sound—which is one of my favourite views in BC. This is a beautiful spot to watch sunset and take photos! Keep in mind that it can get pretty busy on the weekends so I recommend planning accordingly.
Hike information: 10.8km roundtrip with 605m elevation gain. You can find the trailhead, more info and reviews here.
Lake Lovely Water
This trailhead is a bit harder to reach… but I wanted to add it to the list because I fell in love with the lake when I went. If you’re looking for an adventure Lake Lovely Water is for you! 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—you can canoe across (I don’t recommend this), ask 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.
Hike information: 10.1km roundtrip with 1140m elevation gain. You can find the trailhead, more info and reviews here.
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).
Hike information: 11.6km roundtrip with 955m elevation gain. You can find the trailhead, more info and reviews here.
You’ll need a 4×4 or a vehicle with high clearance to get to this trailhead. The hike is a bit challenging and quite 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. There’s a cabin that sleeps 10 people and tent camping available! Check out this website to snag a spot in the cabin.
Hike information: 17.2km roundtrip with 736m elevation gain. You can find the trailhead, more info and reviews here.
This is one of my favourite hikes in BC! 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 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)!
Hike information: 10.3km roundtrip with 1,200m elevation gain. You can find the trailhead, more info and reviews here.
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. It’s hard, but so incredibly worth it. 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. Be prepared for a lot of scrambling and to earn your views. I’ve done this hike three times and after getting to the top each time I’ve sworn I’d never go back (which I knew deep down was a lie). I’ll probably be climbing this again this summer.
Hike information: 12.6km roundtrip with 1,556m elevation gain. You can find the trailhead, more info and reviews here.
This is hands-down my favourite hike in BC. Many come close, but nothing can beat Panorama Ridge. It is a long hike, 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. 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’s water 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.
Hike information: 29.1km roundtrip with 1,573m elevation gain. You can find the trailhead, more info and reviews here. *Note: this link is for the trail that starts at Cheakamus Lake trailhead*
I’ve only done this hike once but I’ve always remembered three things: 1) Views were bonkers. 2) 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 Flat 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. Please let me know if this has changed!
Hike information: 21.7km roundtrip with 1,708m elevation gain. You can find the trailhead, more info and reviews here.
PS. I don’t have imagery for this as I hiked Golden Ears 3-4 years ago… just trust me… this is worth the grind.