By hiking, running and ski mountaineering I have been exploring various mountain ranges in British Columbia over the last fifteen years. Due to work, I have spent most of my adventuring time in the area between Chilliwack and Duffey Lake, near Pemberton. However, I don’t see that as a constraint since the Coast Mountains are tremendously beautiful, wild, and immense.
Here, in this quick “hiking guide” article, I would like to provide you with a couple of ideas for your summer hikes which I believe are significantly less crowded than the well-known options such as Mount Seymour, Chief, Garibaldi Lake or Joffre Lakes. This does not mean they are less scenery worthy! In fact, I think the opposite is true but they get overlooked as people tend to mostly go where many have been before. Kind of like in life, eh? :)
For the below trips, I am not going to describe the hiking routes in any great detail, I only want to give you an idea of what you should be ready for and why it’s worthwhile visiting those places.
Mount McGuire near Chilliwack
Stunning views whole day, Great day trip
Best time: July to October but even November if it has not snowed yet that year.
I think this is one of the “best bang for the buck” hikes I have ever done. With having to only ascent about 800m to reach the summit I thought we would be in the forest most of the day. I mean, that’s where you usually get with 800m on the Coast.
The first 30-40min are a bit challenging with route finding and steeper terrain, however, after that it is an absolutely stunning ridge walk with views changing every couple of minutes. Then you will cross nice alpine meadows to access the final section of the trail that will take you right to the summit McGuire. The mountain is very centrally located and so you will have superb views of steep walls on Slesse as well as big glaciers on Mount Baker, Tomyhoi Peak and Mount Shuksan in the US.
I won’t describe the route to trailhead here, only few important things, as it’s best to look it up in a guide book or online (just search “Mount McGuire hike” or go here http://www.trailpeak.com/trail-Mount-McGuire-near-Chilliwack-BC-6081):
The drive to Chilliwack Valley before you have to go off the paved road takes about 1h 20min from Coquitlam. Once on the logging road, you will travel about 15-20km and gain 1000m up an Alps-style road with switchbacks that provide great views already. You don’t need a 4x4 vehicle (we didn’t have it) but you will need something with better clearance – small truck (our choice), Ford Escape, Honda CRV – I don’t think a Subaru will do.
Mount Rohr near Pemberton
Good trail, Glacier views, Swim in an alpine lake
Best time: end of July to early October, otherwise there could be some snow above the Rohr lake.
With its central location and height of 2423m you will get tremendous views of the whole area, namely peaks and glaciers of Mount Joffre, Matier, Slalok, Cayoosh and Marriott.
Hiking Mount Rohr can be done as a one day or a two day trip. You can also just cut it in half and spend the weekend at the gorgeous alpine Rohr Lake, while still enjoying lots of quality views. The best scenery is higher up but if you have small keen hikers (at least 8 years old) then the lake-weekend option will be great, taking you up to 4h to reach at their pace.
To reach Mount Rohr trailhead you will drive about 35 min from Pemberton towards Lillooet (and about 2.5 h total from West Vancouver). Drive past Joffre Lakes parking for another 4-5 km and park by the big highways maintenance gravel storage shed. The hike starts up a logging road on the opposite side of the road.
Once the road becomes a single track trail just follow the markers until a fork in the forest. Take a right and start climbing up, left goes to Marriott Basin (also a very nice place). After ascending a steeper section up some boulders you will pop out right by the Rohr Lake, an ascent of about 650m from the car. Refresh yourself and if needed then there are a couple of camping spots around the lake. From here, you will continue on the left side of the lake and up the long valley towards a prominent summit of Mount Rohr. The final section might require some very easy scrambling but can be avoided if you look around for an easier way. By the summit, you will ascend about 1200m from the car.
Howe Sound Crest Trail near Vancouver
An absolute gem in our backyard, Overnight trip
Best time: July to October, but even November if it has not snowed yet that year just account for less daylight.
I have been hiking, running and skiing all over the peaks along the Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT) for years before my mother pointed out that I am missing the real gem – hiking the entire HSCT at a more leisurely pace. She has not done it before but she saw amazing photos in some article and wanted to do it ever since. With that bruise on my ego, I went on to verify her claims using my favourite “trip quality validation” tool – Google Earth – and I was immediately convinced that we must do it!
After being away on a high-altitude expedition most of the summer of 2013, I came back with a desire to just enjoy mountains at a more tranquil pace, and so one beautiful Saturday in October my mother and I set out on the much underrated HSCT.
Along the whole way, the trail travels up and down and is generally in good condition and well-marked. I have been volunteering for BC Parks exactly on this trail, to keep it maintained, so that’s how I know it’s been looked after. You will reach summits, pass by stunning mountain lakes and be in awe with ocean views.
This trip is best done as a two or three day hike (we took two days) as it is about 28km long with around 1700m of climbing and 2500m of descending. That is when you hike it in the south-to-north direction, starting at Cypress Mountain ski area and finishing in Porteau Cove. So you will either need two cars or have someone to pick you up. Doing it in reverse presents a lot more climbing and will take much more time.
Once hiking, there won’t be much to marvel for the first 1.5h. After that it will be nature wonderland at its best as you will be travelling mostly along a ridge and above trees!
On the first day, you will pass over the summits of Saint Marks and Unnecessary Mountain, skirt around and in between the summits of West and East Lion (two prominent landmarks that can been seen from Vancouver), and continue over summit of James Peak, around Thomas Peak, and over David Peak (new trail goes over the top, old one goes around it and is difficult to navigate). While you could potentially camp sooner it is best to reach Magnesia Meadows to do so, which is about 1-1.5h hiking past David Peak. This is about half way in distance but virtually all your climbing will be done by this point. Strong hikers, carrying camp gear and water for two days, should be able to reach the meadows in about 7-8h from Cypress Bowl. With more breaks and much easier tempo you can do it in 10-11h, just leave your car by 7.30am and you should be fine. The second half of the trail, from the meadows to Porteau Cove will be much easier as the trail is not technical and you will be mostly descending.
The most important things to note for this trip are:
1) You will need to carry water worth of 2 days (which is about 3-3.5 litres per person) and/or have water sanitation drops,
2) You should have the stamina and some experience to hike for 7-8h on technical trails,
3) Since the whole trail is inside Cypress Provincial Park you are not allowed any camp fires,
4) By carrying all your water, food and camping gear you will be relatively safe,
5) There is cell coverage on about 60% of the route which provides you with a backup option in an emergency, but you don’t really want to really on that one ;)
Which one to pick?
I hope you don’t ask this question because I believe you will like them all. Maybe, if you are a seasoned hiker then the Tunnel Bluffs might be not enough for you but they are a nice option, and close to the city, while the bigger mountains are still covered in snow.
With that, thank you very much for reading and feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help with your trip planning.
Stano Faban is a passionate ski mountaineer, hiker and mountain runner who represented Canada at two World Ski Mountaineering Championships. He is also a website designer and digital marketing specialist.