Seb: Hiking in Vancouver

Hey guys! In this post I wanted to share my experiences hiking in Vancouver! The great outdoors was one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to come to UBC and I’m happy to report that British Columbia lives up to all the hype! If you want to up your Instagram game, seriously, this is the place to be!

This year we were treated to an exceptionally long hiking season, with the weather remaining largely (and unusually) excellent across October and November. This meant I had plenty of opportunities to do lots of hiking in the Vancouver area, and I thought I’d share some of the best ones with you!

PSA: Please remember that just because these mountains are close to Vancouver, doesn’t mean you can treat them the same way you would a walk in the Auckland Domain! Make sure you bring appropriate gear for the conditions you’ll be facing! If you’re not sure, the Auckland University Tramping Club website has some good guidelines for gear you should (and shouldn’t) bring!

This also applies to driving – winter driving in Canada is nothing remotely like winter driving in Auckland. Make sure your car is equipped for the conditions you’ll be facing. And drive safe please ❤

Elfin Lakes – 9/10

Near Whistler, this was a nice relaxed hike that started with an uphill forest section and then continued through exposed sub-alpine meadows and grassy areas above the bush line. The hike ends at the beautiful Elfin Lakes, which you can swim in! It took us about 2 hours each way and overall was fairly easy. A good beginner hike! Just keep in mind that the gravel road up to the carpark is a bit dodgy. This one gets a 9/10 for me.

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Cheakamus Lake – 7/10

Also located near Whistler, this is the easiest hike on this list. It just follows the perimeter of a large lake, so there is virtually no elevation gain at all. The time taken depends on how far you wish to walk. We extended the track to one of the campsites and it took us about 5 hours return. An excellent hike for beginners, and it wasn’t too crowded either! But the views are beautiful even if the hike itself is a bit easy! This one gets a 7/10 from me.

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Joffre Lakes – 9/10

This is a very popular hike, and with good reason. You pass three beautiful alpine lakes on the short hike up. It’s a fairly long drive from Vancouver, but the hike can be completed much quicker than the signs suggest. It took us about 2 and a half hours instead of the posted five. This one gets a 9/10 from me due to a superb views-to-effort ratio! Unfortunately, due to its popularity, the carpark fills up quickly so it’s best to start early!

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The Stawamus Chief – 8/10

A huge free-standing granite monolith located in Squamish, about halfway between Vancouver and Whistler. This is an excellent day hike, with great views of Squamish and Howe Sound. There are three peaks you can climb, and depending on how many you want to tackle, the hike can take anywhere between two and five hours. Given how accessible and popular the hike is, it’s surprisingly technical, with lots of rock scrambling! The views weren’t as spectacular as some of the other hikes on this list, so this one gets an 8/10 from me.

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Howe Sound Crest Trail – 10/10

The full HSCT will take you at least two days, but you can choose different sections to match your ability level. We did St Mark’s Summit and the humorously-named Unnecessary Mountain as a day hike, which took us at least 6 hours. I’d recommend starting the hike from the Cypress Mountain ski field, rather than from Lions Bay via public transport, since this removes a lot of the elevation gain. This one gets a 10/10 from me for amazing views, versatility, and proximity to Vancouver.

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Mount Seymour Trail – 10/10

Mount Seymour is one of the ski fields in Vancouver, but during the summer months it’s also a great hiking location! The Mount Seymour trail traverses three separate summits with amazing views of Vancouver, the surrounding mountains, and even out towards the United States. It’s not a bad place to catch a sunset too! (remember to bring a headtorch for the way down!). This one also gets a 10/10 from me.

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Garibaldi Lake – 8/10

This is another very popular hike. The hike to the lake is uphill and moderately hard but shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours. Experienced hikers can use Garibaldi Lake as a base for further walks, such as Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk. If you attempt one of these, you’re looking at 12 hours or so of hiking, but the views look amazing! We didn’t attempt those when we visited, but if I was to go back again I’d definitely give it a go!

The hike to the lake itself gets an 8/10, but if you continued up to Panorama Ridge I reckon that’d be a solid 10/10!

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Rainbow Lake – 9/10

Located in Whistler, this was quite a long hike (around 20km) and fairly moderate in difficulty. What makes this hike awesome is how diverse the track is – you pass forests, meadows and alpine lakes and all of it is beautiful. This gets a 9/10 from me!

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The Grouse Grind – 7/10

Do you like stairs? If you do, then the Grouse Grind is for you! This track is basically a giant staircase set in a forest in North Vancouver. It took us about an hour and a half of suffering hiking to make it to the top! Unfortunately, when we made it to the top, Vancouver was blanketed in wildfire smog which meant we couldn’t see anything at all! Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to hike back down due to dubious “safety reasons” which means you have to purchase a gondola ride ($15) back down the mountain. Hmmm…

This one gets points for being public-transit accessible, having great views (on a good day) and there being a range of other cool attractions at the top of the mountain, such as a bear enclosure!

Overall, I’d give it a 7/10.

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