Waterfalls, mountaintops, swimming lakes, and wildflower meadows are big draws for hikers hitting the trails of southwestern B.C.
However, well-loved destinations offering one or more of these rewards — such as Wedgemount Lake, St. Marks Summit, and Lindeman Lake — are frequently mobbed in summer.
Here are five less-crowded but superb hiking destinations near Vancouver.
Distance: 8.5 km
Elevation gain: 920 m
Location: Eaton Creek Recreation Site, south of Hope
Eaton Lake fills a large mountain bowl in the Skagit Range. It’s a wonderful spot to float on your back and gaze at the sky. This trail, in the territories of the Nlaka’pamux and Stó:lō peoples, is demanding, but it repays your exertion by visiting old-growth trees and waterfalls en route to the scenic destination. Watch jumping rainbow trout and the wind send ripples across the water.
Distance: 13 km
Elevation gain: 1,060 m
Location: Sprockids Park, near Gibsons
As you sail from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale, Mount Elphinstone rises behind the approaching ferry terminal. A hike on this trail in Squamish Nation territory is a very agreeable affair, featuring old-growth trees, a waterfall, and grand views of the Tantalus Range and Howe Sound. On the summit plateau, head over rock and through heather to a pair of stunning viewpoints.
Distance: 5 km
Elevation gain: 630 m
Location: Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, Squamish
More trafficked by rock climbers than hikers, Slhánay’ is the northeastern companion of Stawamus Chief Mountain. Slhánay’, in Squamish Nation territory, beckons with its quiet woods and extraordinary outlook on the Chief’s north walls. See if you can spot kiteboarders catching wind in Squamish Harbour. To the north, spy two stratovolcanoes — Mount Fee and Nch’kay̓ — from the summit.
Distance: 26 km
Elevation gain: 940 m
Location: Garibaldi Provincial Park, Whistler
The hanging valley of Helm Creek is a delight from forested bottom to subalpine top, as well as a less-popular gateway to the Garibaldi Lake area. Enter centuries-old conifer groves, ascend to wildflower meadows, and traverse a volcanic moonscape on the way to Helm Lake in the Squamish Nation’s Kwáyatsut Wild Spirit Place and Líl’wat Nation territory. A particularly dramatic vantage of The Black Tusk awaits.
Distance: 13.5 km
Elevation gain: 840 m
Location: Gambier Island
A day hike involving a ferry ride can be as refreshing as a long-weekend getaway. Coming from Vancouver, this jaunt to one of the tops of Gambier Island, in Squamish Nation territory, requires the use of two ferry routes. Enjoy the quiet and the views on Mount Killam — a world away from the busier trails of neighbouring Bowen Island in Howe Sound.
Stephen Hui is the author of Best Hikes and Nature Walks With Kids In and Around Southwestern British Columbia, a new guide to 55 hiking trails in B.C. and Washington.
His first two books, 105 Hikes and Destination Hikes, were #1 B.C. bestsellers.
Learn more: 105hikes.com