Tag Archives: snowshoe

Snowshoeing with a Baby

New Years Day 2017 Snowshoe

We celebrated New Year’s Day by taking Astrid on her first snowshoeing trip. She’s only 6 months old and she handled it like a champ. We chose to go up to Mount Seymour and do the First Lake loop (half way to Dog Mountain), because it’s a pretty easy trail. And we weren’t the only ones. There were dozens of other families with babies and small children hiking along the trail with us.

New Years Day 2017 Snowshoe

We were a bit worried about squeezing the snowshoe into Astrid’s nap schedule. She only stays awake for 1.5-2 hours between naps right now. Luckily, she fell asleep on the car ride up and again in the ErgoBaby on the return part of our hike.

Breast Feeding in the Snow

We probably should have fed Astrid at the lodge before we started our snowshoe, but we forgot. So Emily had to find a nice sheltered spot in the trees and breastfeed her in the sub-zero temperatures. A real Canadian moment.

Pulling Trees

Greater Vancouver Snowshoe – Return to Black Mountain

No View
It’s March already and this is the first snowshoeing trip we’ve done in Vancouver this season. The weather is partly to blame. We were looking to do more snowshoeing around Christmas but the mountains were nearly bare.

Trail Descent SplitAfter a few recent dumps, the local mountains are ready for snowy fun. Emily and I snowshoed, while Dan and Steve put skins on their skis. It was a lot like our previous trip up to Black Mountain – the snow was falling heavily, the views from the peak were nonexistent, and the trail was gloriously uncrowded so we could crazy carpet down. The only difference snowshoeing with skiiers is they’re faster on the flat and downhill sections. On the way down, the skiers use the Cypress Mountain ski runs, while the snowshoers use the trail.

Backcountry PassesCypress Mountain has changed where you pick up the free backcountry passes needed to use trails. Instead of picking them up from staff at the main chalet, they are available from a self-serve station in a room in the old chalet (a few hundred meters away). It’s a bit confusing but it is well signed.

I tracked our trip with GPS on Strava. The map shows how the trail parallels the ski runs and then circles the plateau before descending.
Black Mountain Plateau Trail Map

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

Journey of the Nishiyuu

Nishiyuu warriors leaving Whapmagoostui
Since January 1st, I’ve run 400 km in the course of my marathon training, something I’m very proud of. It sure sounds like a long distance, but it pales in comparison to the 1600 km that 6 young Cree snowshoed over a similar period. If you haven’t heard of the Journey of the Nishiyuu you should check it out. The 6 youth (all under 20) and a guide walked from Whapmagoostui in northern Quebec to Ottawa between January 16th and March 25th, averaging more than 23km per day. Their goal is to unite first nations and bring attention to aboriginal issues.

If you are thinking of following in their footsteps, the Google Maps walking directions won’t help you as there are no roads, just hundreds of frozen rivers and lakes. The map on their website will give a better sense of the route they took.

Pretty inspiring stuff.
Nishiyuu Walkers arrive on Parliament Hill to find a few thousand more gathered, waiting to welcome them to the end of their (emotional and physical) journey.

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


Backcountry Parking at Mount Seymour

End of the Snowshoe
For those heading up to Mount Seymour to snowshoe the Dog Mountain or First Pump trails, it’s valuable to know about new parking rules. It’s still free to park, but backcountry users have been restricted from using the main parking lots.

Winter visitors (Nov to Apr) who are not using the CRA but wish to enjoy the backcountry have access to Dog Mountain, First Lake Trail and the Mt. Seymour Main Trail and are required to park in parking lots 1 and 5. Overnight parking is permitted in parking lot 1 and in the designated area of parking lot 2.

Mount Seymour Winter ParkingLot 1 is at the group camp site, a 1.5 km hike from the start of snowshoeing trails with a 500 meter elevation gain. Lot 5 is along the side of the road. On nice weekends, both lots fill up quickly. Check the Mt_Seymour Twitter feed for updates about road conditions and full parking lots.

On Saturday morning at 10:45 AM they tweeted about the parking lots being full, and suggested using shuttle from the base of the mountain. The shuttle is $6/person each way, so it’s not worth it for large groups. Luckily, when we showed up at 1:00 PM, enough people had left that we had no problems finding a spot.

The hike up from parking Lot 1 adds another 20 minutes to your hike, so plan ahead.
Parking Lot 1 Hiking up from the parking lot

Greater Vancouver Snowshoe – Red Heather and Elfin Lakes

Mountains in the Clouds
Date: March 15-16 2008, January 30 2010, and March 10 2012

Location: Garibaldi Provincial Park, near Squamish (map)

SquamishDescription: For winter fun, the trail up to Red Heather and Elfin Lakes has something for everyone. It’s close to Vancouver but removed from the crowded North Shore trails; it is perfect for snowshoeing and ski touring; the Red Heather hut makes for a great day hike destination; and Elfin Lakes cabin is an excellent overnight shelter for those looking to spend a few days in the backcountry.

Beams AwayThe highlight of all of our trips to Red Heather has been sledding through knee-deep snow. I highly recommend packing crazy carpets. The trail from the parking lot to the Red Heather is wide and gently sloped, which makes for good sliding on the way down. In addition, the Red Heather hut is in a meadow surrounded with sloping hills that are perfect for tobogganing, if you don’t mind creating your own bobsled runs. It’s tiring work, but rewarding. After playing in the snow, you can warm up and dry off in the hut, which has a wood stove.

Gear Parking LotIf you’re feeling adventurous and want to spend the night, you can continue past Red Heather to Elfin Lakes where there is a cabin that sleeps 30. It costs $15/person/night and there are no reservations, so head up early if you’re going on a popular weekend. When we went up in March, we arrived at the cabin around 2 PM and were one of the first groups. By the evening, every bunk was taken. The hut is heated and has a cooking area on the bottom floor and wooden bunk beds on the top floor. You only need to bring a thermarest and sleeping bag, but if you want a real winter camping experience you can pitch a tent outdoors or build a snow cave. More info and trail reports on the BC Parks website.

Snow TrailsThe hike up to Red Heather is in the trees and doesn’t have many viewpoints, but it is relatively safe when the avalanche conditions are high. If you continue on to Elfin Lakes, you’ll end up walking above the treeline along Paul Ridge, which has spectacular views of the surrounding mountains but has a higher risk of avalanches. Make sure you check the Sea-to-Sky avalanche conditions before heading up.

More trail descriptions at Trail Peak, Vancouver Trails, and Snowshoe Magazine.
Trekking Out

Day Trip to Red Heather: 4+ hours
Parking Lot to Red Heather: 1.5 hours
Lunch: 1 hour
Sledding Time: 30 minutes +
Descent down: 1 hour

Snowshoe to Elfin Lakes with a Large Backpack: 5 hours up, 5 hours down
Parking Lot to Red Heather: 2 hours
Lunch Break: 1 hour
Red Heather to Elfin Lakes: 2 hours

Transportation: The trail starts in Squamish, about 90 minutes from Vancouver. You drive past Quest University along Garibaldi Park Road to the Diamond Head Trail parking lot. The road is routinely plowed, but can be hard to drive after a snowfall. Four-wheel drive is recommended. Directions from Google Maps.

Pictures: Elfin Lakes Snowshoeing 2006
Base Camp Gearing Up Practising Group Shot - Front Hiking Up Rhea Hiking Up Red Heather Park Rangers Elfin Lakes Trail Cloudy Mountains Hike or Freeze Snow Cave Inside Snow Cave Outside Elfin Lakes Hut Kitchen Area Monopoly Bunk Beds Elfin Lakes Shelter Dawn Getting Snow Snow Trails Frosted Skis Gear Parking Lot Sunday Morning Crew

Red Heather Snowshoeing 2010
Hiking Up to Elfin Lakes Snowball Attack Ready to Hit the Slopes Crazy Carpets and Snowshoes Crazy Crapeteers Powder Puff Carpeting Airborne Capturing Big Air Poor Form Perfect Form Beams Away All Downhill From Here Superman Style Helmet Cam Captures the Action

Red Heather Snowshoe Bachelor Party 2012
Bachelor Snowshoe Party Snowshoeing Whiskey Jack and the Neon Man Whiskey Jack Whiskey Jack Daniel Red Heather Hut Drying Out the Chest Hair Snowy Outhouse Breaking Trail Deep Snow Free-for-all First Sled Run Deep Snow Sledding Crazy Carpet Dan Head First Crazy Carpet Snowy Fun Penguin Style Shovel Jousting Snowy Sled Run Crazy Carpet Mountain Heading Downhill Drying Out Human Avalanche Snowshoe Descent Heavy Snowfall in Garibaldi

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