Tag Archives: hike

Greater Vancouver Hike – Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk

Garibaldi Lake
Date: August 12-14, 2006, August 8-10 2008, and July 10-12, 2009

Location: Garibaldi Pronvincial Park, near Squamish, BC (map)

Description: Black Tusk was my first real backcountry experience, and you never forget your first. Glacial Lakes, towering peaks, alpine meadows – this hike has it all. I’ve seen a lot of BC since that weekend in 2006, but Black Tusk is still my favourite overnight hike in BC. I’ve been up there 3 times, and I’m itching to return again.

The Barrier
It’s a 7.5 km hike from the trail head to the campgrounds – taking anywhere from 2 1/2 – 4 hours depending how fast you can move with heavy pack on. It’s a steady uphill the whole way, rising 915 meters, including a section of switchbacks along The Barrier – an imposing lava damn holding back the water in Garibaldi Lake.

There are two camping options – Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake. Garibaldi Lake is the nicer option, but it fills up quickly, especially on a long weekend. The campsites are pretty good by backcountry standards – with gravel or wood tent pads, outhouses, bear caches, and cooking shelters.

Little Creek
Late July to early August is the best time to visit, as the alpine flowers are in full bloom and the area is mostly snow-free. You can even take a dip in Garibaldi Lake if you’re brave (no matter how warm it might be outside, a glacial lake is never very warm).

The Ascent to Black Tusk
From the campgrounds, there are two day hike possibilities – Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge. Black Tusk is a unique experience. If you’re afraid of heights, like I am, it’s a uniquely terrifying but exhilarating experience. The trail leads up a large scree slope and then traverses a ridge with a steep drop off before reaching the base of an intimidating lava column.

At the Summit
You can rock climb/scramble the top of the tusk but it’s not for the feint of heart. It is steep and the rock is loose. I’ve only ever made it to the top once, on my first trip up when I wore a bike helmet to protect my head. Every other time I’ve chickened out. But if you do make it to the top, the 360 degree views of Garibaldi Provincial Park and Whistler-Blackcomb in the distance are breathtaking.
View of Whistler Mountain

Transportation: It’s a 90 minute drive from Vancouver to the trailhead near Squamish, BC. Directions.

Pictures: Garibaldi Lake 2006, Garibaldi Lake 2008, Garibaldi Lake 2009

Ridge Walking

On the way to the Tusk

Black Tusk Snow Angels

Dr Seuss Flowers

Lake-side Reflections

Backpacking India: Singalila Trek

Singalila Trek day 2 - return to Maney

The Singalila Range forms a ridge of hikeable mountains along the India-Nepal border that offer awesome views of the Himalayan mountains including Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world (8598 m). We set out to do a 5-day trek from Maneybhanjang (near Darjeeling) to Phalut, but unfortunately didn’t make it all the way. 

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1
India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

The first day I was really slow going up the 11 km with over 800 metres elevation gain. That night I was so chilled and achy I couldn’t sleep until the wee hours of the morning. All night all I could think about was the 21 kms we had to cover the next day and the ascent up to 3636 metres above sea level. I was feeling better the next morning but knew I didn’t have enough energy to complete the day. We were lucky to have views of Kanchenjunga that morning before heading back down to Maneybhanjang. We were both disappointed about not making it to Sandakphu and Phalut, the two peaks with amazing views, but knew it was the right decision.
Singalila Trek day 2 - return to Maney
Singalila Trek day 2 - return to Maney
We weren’t in the national park yet so we could do the descent without a guide, at least a human one. We had three different dogs join us for different parts of the day. They were just village dogs that seemed to want a little company and a journey. They responded better to petting than treats.
Singalila Trek day 2 - return to Maney
This one was our favourite, we named him Charzing.

Singalila Trek day 2 - return to Maney

Tour companies will arrange all-inclusive Singalila Trek expeditions for around 3000 rupees per person, but we’re cheap and resourceful so we planned our trek on our own. We wanted to create a comprehensive guide to the trek for others to follow, but since we never made it past Tumling (near Tonglu peak), our knowledge is incomplete. But here is what we figured out. 

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

There are two standard treks out of Maneybhanjang. A 3 day-trek to Sandakphu and down to Rimbik or the 5 day trek that goes to Phalut. Phalut has 360-degree views from the peak (3600 m) so that was the trek we chose.
India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1
We took a shared jeep from Darjeeling to Maneybhanjang in the morning. Apparently it’s not a very popular route. There were three other foreign tourists going to do the same trek and no one else. After waiting for 30 minutes we paid for the remaing five seats so we could get trekking at a reasonable time. We ended up trekking with our new friends to help share the costs.

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

Most of the hike is in the Singalila National Park, which requires visitors to be accompanied by a guide. If you’re not using a private tour operator, you can get guides through the Society for Highlander Guides and Porters Welfare (link), whose mission is to preserve the park and create employment opportunities for youth. The cost is 1200 rupees per day, including food and lodging for the guide, no matter how big your group is. 

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

There are government and private lodges along the way, as well as snack, water, and lunch huts. We only stayed in one, which was lovely. We had our own room with three beds, lots of blankets, and a washroom (cold water and squat toilet) for 800 rupees. We spent most of our time in the main house with the other guests by the fire. 

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

Lunch was either chowmein or noodle soup for 50 rupees and egg could be added for 20. Tea and water were a little more expensive than usual, 15-20 and 30 respectively. The one dinner we had was amazing (although I didn’t eat much) – dal, rice, veg curry, potatoes, fried bitter gourd, egg curry, raw veggies, and apricot dessert – for 150 rupees each. Breakfast was porridge, Tibetan bread, honey, jam, and a boiled egg for 100 rupees.

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

We didn’t hire a porter and carried our own gear. We probably brought too much stuff. I would recommend packing lite – only bringing a few days of clothing, warm hat and gloves, and a headlamp. We rented down sleeping bags in Darjeeling for 80 rupees a day from Trek Mate. We didn’t need them in Tumling as there were plenty of blankets. We also foolishly brought snacks from Darjeeling that we could have bought at any of the tea stall that dotted the trail.

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

Greater Vancouver Hike – Sea to Summit

Upper Shannon Falls Viewpoint
Date: July 1, 2014

Location: Squamish, BC (map)

Description: When a private company decided to build a gondola next to my favourite day hike, I was worried that a great recreational area would be turned into a tourist trap. Luckily, other than greater difficulty finding parking now, the changes have been overwhelmingly positive. The Sea to Sky Gondola opens up a lot of new recreational opportunities, including a great new one-way hike under the gondola from the base to the summit (the Sea to Summit Trail), plus it provides access to a number of hikes from the top.

The Sea to Summit Trail will inevitably be compared to the Grouse Grind, but they are nothing alike. The Grind is an gruelling workout, the Sea to Summit is a real day hike, with fabulous viewpoints, varied terrain, and spots to take enjoyable breaks. The only similarities with the Grind are the licensed patio at the top and the gondola waiting to bring you back to the bottom.

Sea to Summit Trailhead Crowded Chief Trail Passing under the Gondola Hiking Chain
The Sea to Summit trail follows a number of existing trails. The first trail marker is at the gondola base, but most hikers will start at the Chief or Shannon Falls. The trail follows the Lower Shannon Falls trail, climbs the staircases at the beginning of The Chief trail, and ascends the Upper Shannon Falls trail (trail map). The Chief trail is the steepest part of the hike and can get quite congested. Once the trail branches off to Upper Shannon Falls, it becomes less busy. The second half of the hike is virgin trail with more exposure to the sun. There are two options for getting to the summit, you can stay on the Sea to Summit trail or take Wrinkle Rock. We took Wrinkle Rock, which seemed like the more popular route. It is shorter but involves some steep, rocky sections with chains to help pull yourself up.
Old Logging Road Exposed to the Sun Sea to Summit Rope Climbing Finished the Hike

There are two great places to take a break near the midpoint of the hike. At the top of Shannon Falls there’s a spot where you can relax near the creek. 15 minutes further, there’s an excellent viewpoint of Howe Sound.
Upper Shannon Falls Rest Howe Sound View

Sea to Summit Elevation MapThe Sea to Summit is a moderately difficult hike. There are some long, steep sections that will get the heart pumping and a few areas where chains are needed to pull yourself up some rocky areas. The trail covers 6.6 km with nearly 1000 meters of elevation gain. We completed it in just under 4 hours, moving at a leisurely pace with lots of breaks. This isn’t the Grind, so you don’t have to feel like you’re racing up, although a few trail runners did pass us.

There’s a number of things to do once you get to the summit. Most hikers will want to head straight to the Summit Lodge, where there are washrooms, refreshments, and food. There’s also an amazing view from the patio, a suspension bridge, and a number of viewing platforms. Don’t expect to find lumberjack or birds of prey shows – it isn’t nearly as commercialized as Grouse Mountain (at least not yet).
Sea to Summit Patio Sea to Summit Suspension Bridge Suspension Bridge Posing

The summit provides access to several other hiking trails – ranging from some short and family friendly strolls to backcountry access to hardcore trails like Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail. The only one we did was the quick Panorama Trail. It’s more of a walk than a hike, but worth exploring for the epic Chief Viewing Platform, which gives you a sweeping view of Howe Sound and all three peaks of The Chief. It costs $10 to take the gondola down.
The Chief Viewing Platform

More trail descriptions on the Sea to Sky website and on Trailpeak.

Time: 5 hours if you want to enjoy yourself
Hiking the Sea to Summit Trail (including Wrinkle Rock): 3 hours
Lunch Break at Upper Shannon Falls: 30 minutes
Relaxing at the Summit: 30 minutes
Panorama Trail: 15 minutes (plus 15 minutes for pictures at The Chief Viewing Platform)
Gondola Descent: 15 minutes
Hike to the Parking Lot: 15 minutes

Transportation: It is only a 60 minute drive from Vancouver to the trail head. You can park at either Shannon Falls or The Chief parking lots. Avoid the Sea to Summit Gondola parking lot, as it has a 3 hour time limit. Directions.

Pictures: Sea to Summit Hike 2014
The Chief
Sea to Summit Hike Busy Chief on Canada Day Sea to Summit 1/4 Mark Sea to Summit Gondola With the Soft Rocks Rhea Hiking Upper Shannon Falls Jig Upper Shannon Falls Tight Squeeze Upper Shannon Falls Viewpoint At Upper Shannon Falls Lightning Strike Survivor View of the Gondola Narrow Trail False Summit Virgin Trail Hiking with Dogs Sea to Summit Gondola Sea to Summit Gondola Please Leash Your Dog End of Wrinkle Rock Sea to Summit Gondola Terminal Finished the Hike Sea to Summit Peak Area Beautiful Terminal Building Suspension Bridge Sea to Summit Hiking Board Chief Viewpoint Howe Sound Sea to Summit Gondola Sea to Summit Gondola Gondola Descent Wayward Hikers The Chief Sea to Summit Gondola View Sea to Summit Gondola

Greater Vancouver Hike – Brohm Lake

Green Carpet
Date: April 20, 2014

Location: Squamish, BC (map)

Description: Over the Easter long weekend we were looking for a good mountain hike that would be snow free. We found a great one in the Brohm Lake Interpretative Forest, just north of Squamish. It was unbelievable how green and vibrant the forest is, with layers of moss below towering cedar and fir trees. The area was logged until the 1970s and the stumps of giants can be found along the trails.

There’s no mountain to ascend, but there is still quite a bit of ups and downs and some great mountain views (assuming it isn’t cloudy). Be prepared to work your leg muscles. We stopped at one of the viewpoints along the Cheekamus Trail for lunch. It had an open view of the mountains and river below. 10 minutes further along the trail there were two spots with picnic benches, but the view wasn’t as good. Here’s a GPS map and elevation profile of our hike, and a good trail description from Vancouvertrails.com (check out the comments for reports on recent conditions).

Total Time: We spent 4 1/2 hours doing a large loop clockwise loop that covered several trails (Bridge, Cheekamus Loop, High Trail, Tantalus View, and Brohm Lake). You can make your hike longer or shorter by picking different trails.

Transportation: Drive just past Squamish and Alice Lake Provincial Park, 75 minutes from Vancouver.

Pictures: Brohm Lake 2014
Brohm Lake Interpretative Forest Map Brohm Lake Bracken Fern Brohm Lake Forest Windy Path Viewpoint Hiking Lunch Spooky Trunk Picnic Table River Valley Helping Nature Green Beast Observing the Beast Busted Stairs Strawberry Head 1960s Viewpoint

Greater Vancouver Snowshoe – Bowen Lookout Winter Trail

Snowshoeing with a View
Date: February 10, 2013, January 2, 2016, and January 31, 2016

Location: Cypress Provincial Park (map)

Description: The Bowen Lookout Trail is another great snowshoe route on Vancouver’s North Shore. Instead of views of the city, this one gives spectacular views of Howe Sound and Bowen Island. It’s a good route for beginners looking for a trail harder than Dog Mountain with some vertical climbing, but a short route that’s not too strenuous.

Bowen Lookout Panorama
The hike starts at the Cypress Mountain chalet in the alpine area (not at the nordic area where the other snowshoe trails are). Backcountry passes are available in the Brown Bag Room in the old chalet (not from the ticket booths in the new chalet). Then hike goes through the ski area past the Eagle Express chair lift to the start of the snowshoe trail, following the orange-tipped poles. After 20 meters, the trail branches with the left fork heading up Black Mountain along the ski run. The right fork is the Bowen Lookout trail. The first kilometre is flat, as you hike along Yew Lake.

The steady ascent to the lookout is real workout, but it only takes 20-30 minutes. When we reached the top, clouds were obstructing the view but they periodically parted to reveal stunning vistas. It was awesome to see mountains materialize from behind the clouds and then disappear again. The lookout makes for a great spot to sit and have lunch.
Howe Sound Lookout

Like Black Mountain, the trail is a lot quieter than Hollyburn or Mount Seymour. If you bring a crazy carpet (or just wear slippery pants) there are good opportunities to slide on the way down without having to worry about taking anyone out. The switch back section of the ascent has several chutes people have made that make for great sliding runs (trail erosion is less of a concern in the winter).
Attention Dog Owners
Dogs are allowed along the trail in the winter (in the summer they’re not due to sensitive marsh terrain), but must be on a leash and dog owners have to clean up after them. The few dogs we ran into weren’t on a leash, but as long as they’re well behaved I don’t personally mind (although a park ranger might react differently).

Here is the GPS map my phone tracked (also on Strava/Strava). More info on the trail and current conditions can be found on the BC Parks website. Also, remember to check the avalanche risk before heading up. BowenLookoutElevationThis trail heads through safe terrain but it’s good to be prepared.

Total Time: 2 hours
Ascent: 45 minutes
Break for Lunch: 30 minutes
Descent: 45 minutes

Transportation: There is no Translink bus service to Cypress Mountain, but there is a private Cypress Coach that will take you up from Vancouver for $23 round trip. As long as you are not going alone, it probably makes more sense to drive. The drive will only take 45 minutes and parking at the top is free, just head to the alpine/downhill area to start the hike. Directions from Google Maps.

Pictures: Bowen Lookout Snowshoeing 2013 Bowen Lookout Snowshoeing 2016 Bowen Lookout Snowshoeing 2016 #2
Bowen Lookout Snowshoe
Bowen Lookout Winter Trail (Howe Sound Crest Trail) Walking Through the Cypress Ski Area Snowshoeing Beams Making Snowmen Buried Sign Yew Lake Snowshoe Buried Bridge Steep Snowshoe Ascent Raging Granny Snowshoes Frosty BC Forestry Hiking Up Majestic British Columbia Winter Bowen Lookout Beams at the Peak Snowshoeing Lunch Emily at the Peak Admiring the View Between the Clouds The Lookout View Bowen Lookout Leap End of the Trail - Danger Winter Snowshoeing Sun Through the Trees Mairy's Slide Emily's Slide Descent Bowen Lookout Winter Trail Map


Greater Vancouver Snowshoe – Black Mountain Plateau Winter Trail

Black Mountain Plateau Winter Trail
Date: February 27, 2011 and March 2, 2014

Location: Cypress Provincial Park (map)

Description: Black Mountain is the fourth snowshoeing trip we’ve done this winter on the North Shore of Vancouver. Much like Hollyburn Mountain and Mount Seymour, Black Mountain is easy to access, free to hike, and offers lots of snow to play in. The biggest difference is Black Mountain is a lot less crowded than Vancouver’s other snowshoeing trails.

From the top of Black Mountain there are great views of Vancouver to the south and Howe Sound to the north-west. When we were there, the snow was falling so heavily you couldn’t see more then 20 feet in front of you and we were almost breaking fresh trail. I’d love to go back on a clear day. The hike was a workout, but slightly easier then the Hollyburn trail. With all the fresh snow, we didn’t get a view but had a blast crazy carpeting on the way down. Usually most snowshoeing trails are too crowded to slide down without taking out a few people, but here we pretty much had the mountain to ourselves. The avalanche risk was considerable, but the trail goes through fairly safe terrain.

The hike starts at the Cypress Mountain main, alpine parking lot (ignore the signs for the snowshoe area). Near the chalet, head into the ski area and follow the orange-tipped poles. The Cypress staff checking passes will give you a Backcountry ticket for free. Backcountry passes are available at a self-serve station in the old chalet. Past the Eagle Express chair lift, there is a sign announcing the start of the Backcountry access area and the Black Mountain Plateau Trail. The first part of the trail parallels the Fork ski run and is steep (which makes it lots of fun to crazy carpet on the way down). After the climb, there is a mostly flat Black Mountain Loop Trail which takes about an hour to complete.

Black Mountain Plateau Trail MapI haven’t found any good maps of the Black Mountain trail. This is the GPS map my phone tracked – unfortunately we didn’t finish the loop, got lost once, and my battery died before we made it down, but it should give you an idea of the route. On our second trip up Black Mountain in 2014, I got a better GPS Map.

I highly recommend the Black Mountain trail, mainly because it isn’t as crowded as the other snowshoeing trails in the region.

Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Ascent: 1 hour
Loop Trail: 1 hour
Break for Lunch: 30 minutes
Descent: 1 hour

Transportation: There is no Translink bus service to Cypress Mountain, but there is a private Cypress Coach that will take you up from Vancouver for $23 round trip. As long as you are not going alone, it probably makes more sense to drive. The drive will only take 45 minutes and parking at the top is free, just head to the alpine/downhill area to start the hike. Directions from Google Maps.

Pictures: Black Mountain Snowshoeing 2011
Backcountry Pass  Backcountry Access Corridor  Snowshoeing Through the Ski Area  Black Mountain Plateau Winter Trail  Trail Map  Black Mountain Plateau Winter Trail Map  Considerable Avalanche Danger  Snowy Snowshoe  Ghost Tree  Frosted Tree  Peeking into the Ski Runs  Say Ahh  Snowy Lunch  Sandwich in the Snow  Start of the Black Mountain Loop  Sliding into a Tree Well  Face Wash  Crazy Carpet Time  Sliding Down Black Mountain

Black Mountain Snowshoeing and Skiing 2014
Backcountry Passes Cypress Backcountry Black Mountain Plateau Trail Emily on Black Mountain Backcountry Skiing on Black Mountain Skiing and Snowshoeing Backcountry Balancing Act Crazy Carpet In a Tree Well Trail Descent Split Black Mountain Plateau Trail Map

Greater Vancouver Snowshoe – Mount Seymour (First Pump Peak)

Lunch at 1st Pump Peak

Date: January 22, 2011

Location: Mount Seymour Provincial Park (map)

Description: There are two free, marked snowshoe trails starting at the Mount Seymour parking lot. Dog Mountain is a short, easy, and mostly flat hike. The The Mount Seymour Trail is a longer, steeper, and more strenuous hike that ascends 400 meters up the mountain to First Pump Peak (and beyond if you’re feeling adventurous). On clear days, the views from the top of Mount Seymour are breath-taking. But even on cloudy days (like we had) the hike is a great workout, lots of fun, and a fabulous opportunity to play in the snow.

The snowshoe up to First Pump Peak is a lot like snowshoeing up Hollyburn Mountain at Cypress. Both trails are free, start at a ski resort, have significant elevation gain, offer great views of the city, and have opportunities to crazy carpet on the way down. The only difference is the Hollyburn Trail takes 4 hours, while the Mount Seymour Trail takes 3 hours to the First Pump Peak, and can be extended longer if you want to go to the second and third peaks.

The Mount Seymour Trail does go through potential avalanche terrain, so you should check South Coast avalanche conditions before heading up. If the conditions are low or moderate the trail should be safe.

More trail descriptions can be found here and here. You can also check out the map and elevation profile from the GPS on my phone.

Total Time: 3 hours
Ascent to First Pump Peak: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Lunch Break at First Pump Peak: 30 minutes
Descent to Parking Lot: 1 hour

Transportation: There is a $10 Seymour Shuttle that will take you to the top of Mount Seymour from Lonsdale Quay or Parkgate Village. If you drive, make sure you check the road conditions (sometimes winter tires or chains are required). Directions from Google Maps.

Parking Update: In the winter, parking is free but controlled by the ski resort, which has recently limited access to backcountry users. Backountry users are asked to park along the road (P5) or at the group campground (P1), which is 1500 meters down the road from the trail head. The extra hike isn’t a big deal, as along as you budget the time. A bigger problem is the parking lots often fill up on nice weekend mornings. Check the Mt_Seymour Twitter feed for road and parking lot updates. On Saturday morning at 10:45 AM they tweeted “Backcountry Parking Lots 1 & 5 are full. Backcountry users can use our shuttle bus from Parkgate Community Centre.” But by 1:00 PM people had started to leave and there was lots of room in the parking lots.

Snowshoe Start
Snowshoeing with the Holdings
Busy Snowshoe Trail
Brockton Point
Snowshoe Hike
Blue Sky Snowshoe
Steep Ascent
First Pump Peak
Unmarked Trail to 2nd and 3rd Peaks
1st Pump Peak Jump
Emily at 1st Pump  Peak
Crazy Carpet Descent
Lost Carpet
Snow Wedgie
Snowy Slide
Ice Inukshuk

Pictures: Mount Seymour Snowshoeing 2011