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If you live in Vancouver and don’t make regular trips to the trails of the North Shore, you have to stop and wonder why you live here at all. But fear not — there’s still hope if you haven’t quite lost your hiking virginity yet. Vancouver is patient, and we’re here to help you make the most of it.
If you are short on time and want to work up a sweat, head to Grouse Mountain and up the BCMC trail. Often overshadowed by its more popular neighbour, the Grind, the BCMC has the same grueling stats (3km with 830m elevation gain) but with far less traffic. The trail itself starts just past the Grind trailhead. Take a left and enjoy a few minutes along the Baden-Powell Trail before you make your ascent. It does, however, share a few other things in common with the Grind: The epic view once you reach the top, and, more importantly, the patio of the Altitudes Bistro. Hike, cold beer, city view, done.
This route ticks all the boxes: summer and winter; family- and Fido-friendly; lush forest and mountaintop views; not too short, not too long… it’s safe to say we like it. Find a spot in the Seymour downhill parking lot, and if it’s winter, get here early to snag a spot. You’ll want snowshoes too. The 5km out-and-back, rolling trail takes you through the forest and past lakes before opening up at a rocky outcrop. From here, on a bluebird day, you can see across the city to Stanley Park. Or, you could end up shrouded in clouds. For this reason, we recommend bringing a flask of hot chocolate in the winter. Fitt Tip: In summer, particularly early in the season, this route can be a little muddy. Wear good hiking shoes and be prepared that it might take you a little longer than your regular 5k.
Lynn Headwaters is Vancouver’s largest park and is a myriad of trails for you to mix and match to your heart’s content. Our favourite destination is Norvan Falls. Hit it up in early summer when the falls are at their wildest, in full flow from the snowmelt. While the elevation gain is a lot less than some of the other hikes featured here, the distance is a solid 14–18km round trip. It’s safe to say you need a decent level of fitness before attempting this one. And did somebody say lunch? Yep, we heard that too. We hike to eat, after all. End of the Line General Store has freshly-made wraps, sandwiches, soups, and cakes as well as ice cream and coffee.
Otherwise known as the “donut hike”, this short, family-friendly trail meanders through the forest to a spectacular rocky outcrop with views over the Burrard Inlet and back to the cove. The reward you get in a reasonably short distance—around 4km round-trip—means this hike is probably the busiest on the shore. So, head there in fall because chances are you will have it all to yourself. We know, we know — you just want to know about the donut part. Honey Doughnuts is the place to be post hike. Give their namesake, the Honey Donut, a try. But if you just need to quench a ridiculous thirst, then Bluhouse Cafe is a slightly more nutritious alternative at hand.
Hey, guess what! There is more to Cypress Mountain than skiing. In fact, this mountain is home to some of the most worth-the-journey hikes on the North Shore. All are well marked and most are dog-friendly. You can expect 5km of steady switchbacks that will take you uphill to an incredible view of Howe Sound. Be sure to bring some snacks and take some time to enjoy the view (make sure you hashtag #exploreBC). And when you are all Instagrammed-out, turn around and head the same way back to the parking lot. Bonus: it’s entirely downhill from this point.
Are you one of the lucky ones who managed to bag a coveted camping spot at Golden Ears Provincial Park this summer? If so, you’ll probably want a little hike to work off those campfire s’mores. There are numerous trails in the park, but this 5km return journey follows a pretty creek and is wide, groomed, and has minimal elevation gain. The icing on the cake? You’ll reach a waterfall too. All in, when the North Shore is out of commission with heavy winter snowfall, it’s worth checking the normally better conditions at Gold Creek Falls.
Another beauty in Cypress Provincial Park, count on the route to Eagle Bluffs being a little more technical (that means lots of rocks and roots) than St Mark’s, but with surely another jaw-dropping vista as your destination. Don’t be put off by the switchbacks at the start; they do come to an end eventually. After that, it’s all meadows and lakes until the clearing, we promise. After the view, the easiest way to finish this 10km round trip is to simply head back the same way. Just know in the summer that this hike can get a little sweaty. And by sweaty, we mean it’ll look like you’ve jumped in the lake. So hey, why not take the little detour up to Cabin Lake and just jump right in!
Some days are all about just keepin’ it simple with a lake loop. In particular, a lake that happens to have both dog- and human-friendly beaches for post-hike swims. Perfect. Here, you’ll get 8km of gentle, well-marked, and, for the most part, compact gravel trails around a lake flanked by mountains. Sound good? Yep, we thought so too.
A trip 48km from Deep Cove in the east to Whyte Lake in the west, this trail will satisfy even the most hardcore of hikers. Don’t worry though — you don’t need to be an ultra-hiker to experience the beauty of this trail. It skirts its way along the North Shore mountains, dipping in and out of civilization at various points, so you can pick your distance. We recommend taking your time and just tackling a section of it each weekend. But if you are curious about how fast you could do it, sign up for the Knee Knacker — a foot race along the length of the trail each July. The record is a smoking 4:39:52. Yes, that is in hours, not days.
Fancy a quick little trip to a lake and back before breakfast? Whyte Lake is your jam. Sure, the start of this hike is steep, but it’s only so for a few minutes. The trail is all old-growth giants and trickling creeks after that. Follow the Baden-Powell Trail to the lake, sit on the dock, and enjoy the peace before heading back to the parking lot. You’ll log 5km before most people have even started their day.
A note from Fitt: The trails around Vancouver can change quickly with the seasons. What might be safe in the summer may be treacherous in winter. Always carry your 10 essentials and check out the ‘Survive Outside’ events held by Run Wild Van.