11 Awesome Hikes Around Vancouver and the Sea-to-Sky Corridor
By Rachel Louise Moore
If one thing is certain, the Vancouver area is definitely not short on breweries, friendly locals and breathtaking (literally) hikes. The Hastings Overland team has compiled a list of our ten favourite exhilarating hiking trails that spit you out at a gorgeous viewpoint, where you can catch your breath. If the concept of “catching your breath” seems undesirable, don’t worry, as we have included hikes that are suitable for all ranges of hiking expertise.
1. Brandywine Meadows/Falls
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park can be found along the beautiful Sea-to-Sky highway drive to Whistler, and is home to a 70 metre waterfall. This park is perfectly suitable for a picnic, but if you are wishing to gain some elevation and cardiovascular exercise, you can embark on the Brandywine Meadows trail which begins at the Brandywine Forest Service Road. The hike is approximately 6 kilometres roundtrip and you will gain most of the elevation within the first hour of the hike.
2. Sea to Summit (Sky) Trail
Fortunately, I did this hike last summer, qualifying me to wisely share my knowledge with you. The Sea to Summit trail is definitely not a hangover-friendly leisure walk and jujube gummies are not an adequate snack to bring along on the hike. The Sea to Summit trail begins at the base of the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, which is what you will take on the way back down from the hike (make sure you bring some cash), as downward travel is not recommended since there are many steep, rope-assisted areas. The Sea to Summit trail takes around 3-5 hours roundtrip and the elevation gain is approximately 918 metres. The insane view of the ocean and beer at the top of the summit really made up for our general lack of preparation!
3. Elfin Lakes/Garibaldi Park
Elfin Lakes are two small but very turquoise, lakes found within Garibaldi Park, located right outside of Squamish. Hiking experts suggest allotting 6 hours roundtrip for the 22 kilometre hike, even though the elevation gain (600 metres) is less than the shorter Sea to Summit trail. The lakes provide a perfect spot to sit, regain strength, and share a little snack with the Whiskey Jack birds. The Elfin Lakes hike is suitable for those who feel comfortable hiking for long periods of time at a steady incline. Also, many other thrilling hikes feed back into Elfin Lakes, making it a great place to set up camp for a couple of days on the tent pads.
4. Joffre Lakes Hike
Although this hike can be considered “intermediate”, I can promise you that it is 100% worth the trip out to Pemberton and up the trail. According to VancouverTrails.com, this hike takes around 4 hours and is approximately 10 kilometres roundtrip. Don’t be surprised if you have to drag some of your friends away from the three lakes when you are feeling ready to descend. All three lakes are filled with crisp glacier water and appear totally photogenic, making them hard to leave! If it is too difficult to say goodbye, you can always post up at the Upper Joffre Lakes campsite which is located right below the glacier.
5. Black Tusk at Garibaldi Park
To simply put it, the Black Tusk hike is really not for the faint of heart. If you aren’t an experienced hiker or want to take your time, we suggest splitting the hike into two days by staying overnight in a tent at Garibaldi Lake. If you wish to tackle the entire hike in one day, it will take around 11 hours and the elevation gain is a very significant 1740 metres. Black Tusk is visually known for its dark, rigid volcanic rocks and colourful wildflowers scattered along the edges of the trails. Hiking boots are definitely recommended for this hike, so leave the Nike Free Runs at home (I have made this mistake a handful of times).
6. Marriott Basin Hiking Trail
This trail is located by Mount Currie, and encompasses 17.7 kilometres of creeks, streams, meadows, wildflowers, occasionally muddy terrain and slippery logs. That took a bit of a turn! Hiking the Marriott Basin trail takes around 10 hours roundtrip from the highway and leads you to a beautiful view at the top of the ridge. The trail is very well-maintained in the summer, and is also open for alpine hiking and snowshoeing throughout the spring and winter months. If the prospect of a 10 hour hike seems daunting, you can always pack along a tent and stay overnight somewhere scenic along the route!
7. Whistler Train Wreck Hike
The Whistler Train Wreck is a popular attraction located near the Cheakamus River, just south of Whistler. This is a great option for beginner hikers as it only takes one hour to tackle the 30 metre elevation gain within the 2 kilometre trail. You’ll walk along the beautiful rushing waters of the Cheakamus River and cross a suspension bridge before you arrive at the 7 brightly painted box cars. Hikers often miss two of the box cars, as they are hidden a few minutes downstream from the rest of them.
8. Panorama Ridge
The Panorama Ridge trail also stems out from Garibaldi Provincial Park and can be considered the best option if you are seeking heart-stopping, one-of-a-kind views. From the summit of the 11 hour hike, you will see Garibaldi Lake, Black Tusk and the Helm Lake area. The Panorama Ridge is a whopping 30 kilometres roundtrip with a 1520 metre elevation gain, so can certainly brag about it once you finish. Since it is quite time consuming, many hikers choose to camp along the route before continuing the hike early the next morning to avoid hiking in the dark (and getting yourself into a situation that eerily mimics The Blair Witch Project).
9. Cheakamus Lake
This 5 hour hike around Cheakamus Lake is a great option for beginner hikers, as there is very minimal elevation gain. This green, lush hike along the forest floor is 16 kilometres roundtrip and includes views of the surrounding towering mountains and the stunningly turquoise Garibaldi Lake. If you are wishing to have a picnic, the Cheakamus Lake trail is perfect, as you can stick your beverages in the ice-cold river or the lake to keep them cool as you kickback with a sandwich in hand.
10. Wedgemount Lake
Do not let it’s friendly name fool you, the Wedgemount Lake hike is one of the most difficult hikes around the Garibaldi area, as it climbs 1160 metres in just 6 kilometres (12 kilometres roundtrip). Just past the uphill halfway mark are viewing areas where you can admire the 300 metre Wedgemount Waterfall, making the quick incline worth it! According to the VancouverTrails.com, the temperatures drop towards the top of the alpine hike, even in the summer, so don’t forget to bring a jacket.
11. Crooked Falls Hike
This last hike is one of our favourites in the Squamish region. This hike is 6 kilometres roundtrip and takes 3 hours to conquer, which is not too bad considering you get to see some phenomenal angles of the Crooked Falls waterfall. With only 380 metres of elevation, you’ll have plenty of energy left in those legs for another hike once you finish Crooked Falls!