An hour and a half outside Vancouver, charming Chilliwack is booming with outdoor adventures, gourmet finds and family fun
Be honest. Other than a summer swim at Cultus Lake, when was the last time you went to Chilliwack? If your answer is, “uh, never,” then you, my city-slicker friend, need to get out more. A little over an hour outside of Vancouver, Chilliwack is a surprisingly easy day trip for anyone looking for hikes, wineries, farm tours, and yes, superb lake time. And late September, when the leaves are changing and the rain hasn’t truly set in, is the perfect time to start your Chilliwack education.
The Early Fall Hike
Hiking season is only when you say it’s over. With a combination of towering mountains, agricultural valleys, and beautiful lakes, you’re spoiled for choices for spectacular hikes around Chilliwack. And while Cultus Lake is beautiful, try a hike in the Chilliwack Lake area or further afield for a quieter experience. Easy Bridal Veil Falls: Pack a picnic and enjoy the view at the star attraction of Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park. From the parking lot, it’s only a 10-minute stroll to the magnificent waterfall that cascades down 60 metres of rocks to the ground below. And yes, it’s this “veil” of water that gives the park its name. Vedder River Rotary Trail: A gravel-lined road along the river, this is a great spot to walk or ride your bike in nature. Bridal Falls Intermediate Lindeman Lake: Quieter Joffre Lakes, the turquoise beauty of Lindeman Lake is worth the short, steep incline. If you still have energy, it’s worth extending the trip to Greendrop Lake before heading back to the parking lot. There are several first-come, first-served camping sites at both locations. Elk Mountain: Beginning with a steep incline under the forest canopy, this hike eventually opens up to a wonderful view across the Fraser Valley. Mount Cheam: Wander through fields, forest, and into the alpine for one of the best panoramic views over Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley. Be warned—making it to the trailhead could be the biggest challenge of the day. Access is via a notoriously washed-out forest service road and should not be attempted without a four-wheel drive vehicle, preferably with high clearance. Challenging Slesse Mountain Memorial Trail: This longer hike commemorates the victims of one of Canada's worst aviation disasters. Weave through the forest, including over a cool log bridge, before climbing the winding switchbacks up to a steep, narrow trail. Eventually, you’ll reach a plaque commemorating the 62 people killed when Trans Canada Airlines Flight 810 crashed on December 9, 1956. It’s a sombre memorial, and any removal of found debris is forbidden. On a clear day, there is also a great view to Mount Slesse, particularly if you keep hiking to the top.
The Farm Tour
It’s fall, which means it’s time to pick your pumpkin and get lost in a corn maze. Enjoy the season’s attractions and pick up some delicious produce at one of the family-friendly or Halloween-themed farms near Chilliwack. Get lost at the Chiliwack Corn Maze and Pumpkin Farm, open now until October 31. Beyond the 12-acre corn maze, enjoy an indoor hay bale maze as well as family-friendly games, pedal carts, tractor rides, a petting zoo and more. (Photo: Marius Ciocirlan) Petey’s Pumpkin Patch at Fantasy Farms (9423 Gibson Road) in Chilliwack is another place to pick up a pumpkin, listen to music, and enjoy indoor children’s activities, making it worth visiting even on a rainy day. Open October 2-31. And if you prefer a terrifying ordeal over wholesome family fun, The Reapers Haunted Attraction, from September 30- October 31 may be more your style. Also located at 9423 Gibson Road, the Halloween attraction includes an insane asylum-themed indoor horror experience and the “Maze of Terror”—a 22,000 square foot maze with little light filled with all kind of horrors, including someone roaming around with a chainsaw. The night-time tours are aimed at adults and are definitely not recommended for kids under 10.
The Gourmet Experience
From wineries and breweries to fresh produce and cheese, there’s plenty to keep a foodie happy in the Chilliwack region. For a day on the ale trail, try sampling craft brews using local Fraser Valley hops from Old Yale Brewing Co. or Chaos & Solace Craft Brewing. (Photo: BC Ale Trail.) If you prefer wine, the tasting room at Ripples Estate Winery is open until the end of September. And you may as well make a delicious pairing while you’re in the area—pick up some aged gouda at Smits & Co.w, a family-owned and operated farm and cheese shop. For more country charm, fresh fruit and vegetables, and artisan products, follow the self-guided Chilliwack Circle Farm Tour, which includes more local producers such as yarrow Farm Market, The Local Harvest Market, Klassen Farms, Rustic Soap Company and more. Otherwise, top-rated restaurants include Bravo, Shandhar Hut, Frankie’s Italian Kitchen and Garrison Bistro.