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To visit nature’s realm in the woods and mountains around Vancouver is to feel keenly alive and calm all at once. It would be confusing for my psyche were it not so, well, natural. One moment I’m impatiently scrambling up the rocks to take in a view, and the next I’m hypnotized by dangling white huckleberry blossoms for long enough that, were I to take the same time in ordering my morning coffee, I’d be a pariah. There’s no obligation in nature. You can take (a view, a pint of wild blueberries) and give (gratitude) as much or as little as you like.
There are many treats in store along this up-and-down hike that starts at Cypress Mountain and runs parallel to the Sea-to-Sky Highway. St. Mark’s Summit is a particular joy to reach in summer. It’s as if Howe Sound and the Strait of Georgia were laid out at your feet. In other words, the perfect spot to park for lunch, settle your gaze, and flirt with the tame whiskeyjacks before returning down the mountain.
My favourite part about the Endowment Lands is the silence. No traffic. No white noise. It’s still, with moss and spongy dirt to dampen your footsteps and those happy, panting, off-leash dogs. The other delight is that you can safely get lost, yet somehow always find your way. Admiralty Trail on the northern end is a great start. It runs parallel to Northwest Marine Drive, so park in the big Spanish Banks parking lot and enter the woods from here.
It’s the same place, same hike, same destination, but with one notable difference: there are way fewer people on it. If that promise doesn’t convince you to check out the Grind’s lesser-known twin, we may be after different things in the woods. In which case, when you come to the fork just past the trailhead, go left to continue up the Grind rather than heading right, which will lead you to solitude and serenity.
The views from the North Shore trails are stupendous, but even at their very, very best there’s always something that obscures your sightlines: a tree, mountain, or forest. If you want a full, uninterrupted panorama and you have a four-wheel-drive to handle the rugged road, head to Mount Cheam. Here, all directions are open: down the barrel of the Fraser Valley to the west; south toward the jagged North Cascades; north to the stalwart Coast Mountain range.
The sun is out, the day is long, but you’re deskbound. For those office workers who must carpe the diem, look no further than Dog Mountain. It’s a short drive up Mount Seymour, and a short jaunt from the parking lot to Dog Mountain (though you would never guess it from the stellar view). And in early September, take a bucket for those sapid wild blueberries—all the better to make jam with for the winter months ahead.