Hiking

With its expansive landscape of mountains, inlets, alpine lakes, and approachable glaciers, as well as low-lying rivers, hills, dikes, and meadows, southwestern British Columbia is a hiker's paradise. For easy walking and hiking, you can't beat Stanley Park in downtown Vancouver but for more strenuous hiking, there are fabulous parks not far away. Popular hiking destinations include Mount Seymour Provincial Park, Lynn Canyon, Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, and Capilano River Regional Park in North Vancouver; Pacific Spirit Regional Park in Point Grey; and Cypress Provincial Park and Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. With their photo-worthy profile, the North Shore Mountains may appear benign, but this is a vast and rugged territory filled with natural pitfalls and occasionally hostile wildlife. Areas and trails should be approached with physical ability and stamina in mind, and you should exercise great caution. Every year, hikers wander off clearly marked trails, or outside well-posted public areas, with tragic results. If you're heading into the mountains, hike with a companion, pack warm clothes (even in summer), bring extra food and water, and always leave word of your route and the time you expect to return. Remember, too, that weather can change quickly in the mountains.

In addition to Mountain Equipment Co-op , there are several places around town for good books, maps, and advice.

Hiking Trails

Baden Powell Trail. This 48-km (30-mile) trail crosses the entire length of the North Shore Mountains, from Horseshoe Bay in the west to Deep Cove in the east. On the way it passes through both Cypress Provincial Park and Mount Seymour Provincial Park, and is best completed in three or four sections. For a quick and scenic taste of the route, make the 4-km (2½-mile) round-trip jaunt up to Quarry Rock in Deep Cove. North Shore Mountains, North Vancouver, British Columbia.

Capilano River Regional Park. About 26 km (16 miles) of hiking trails explore in and around Capilano Canyon—where the Capilano River is flanked by old-growth forest. There is also a salmon hatchery that's open to the public. Trailheads are off Capilano Road in North Vancouver (near Capilano Suspension Bridge) and near Ambleside Beach. 4500 Capilano Park Rd., North Vancouver, British Columbia, V7R 4L3. 604/224–5739.

Dog Mountain Trail. One of the popular routes in Mount Seymour Provincial Park, this trail is a scenic 5-km (3-mile) return trip (about 1½ or 2 hours), with minimal elevation. It's best done June to October. For a longer, half-day trek, head to one or all three of the peaks of Mount Seymour. Mount Seymour Provincial Park, North Vancouver, British Columbia. www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/mt_seymour.

Garibaldi Provincial Park. About 80 km (50 miles) north of Vancouver, Garibaldi Provincial Park is a serious hiker's dream. You can't miss it: the 2,678-meter (8,786-foot) peak of Mount Garibaldi kisses the heavens just north of Squamish. Alpine meadows and wildlife viewing await you on trails leading to Black Tusk, Diamond Head, Cheakamus Lake, Elfin Lakes, and Singing Pass. Mountain goats, black bears, and bald eagles are found throughout the park. This is truly one of Canada's most spectacular wildernesses, and being easily accessible from Vancouver makes it even more appealing. A compass is mandatory, as are food and water, rain gear, a flashlight, and a first-aid kit. There are also two medium to advanced mountain bike trails. Take seriously the glacier hazards and avalanche warnings. Snow tires are necessary in winter. Hwy. 99, between Squamish and Pemberton, Squamish-Lillooet, British Columbia. 800/689–9025; www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/garibaldi.

Grouse Grind. Vancouver's most famous, or infamous, hiking route, the Grind, is about a 3-km (about 2-mile) climb straight up 853 meters (2,799 feet) to the top of Grouse Mountain. Thousands do it annually, but climbers are advised to be experienced and in excellent physical condition. The route is open daily during daylight hours, from spring through autumn (conditions permitting). Or you can take the Grouse Mountain Skyride to the top 365 days a year; a round-trip ticket is C$43.95. Hiking trails in the adjacent Lynn Headwaters Regional Park are accessible from the gondola, including Goat Mountain Trail. Grouse Mountain, 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, British Columbia, V7R 4K9. 604/980–9311; www.grousemountain.com.

Saint Mark's Summit. Though the Howe Sound Crest Trail continues north for a multiday trek, this first portion to Saint Mark's traverses old-growth forest and woodland trails to a rocky outlook. It covers about 11 km (7 miles). This is one of many hikes within Cypress Provincial Park. Equally lovely alternatives include the route to Eagle Bluff and cross-country routes near Hollyburn Lodge. 6000 Cypress Bowl Rd., West Vancouver, British Columbia, V0N 1G0. www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/cypress.

Sendero Diez Vistas Trail. In the most accessible section of Indian Arm Provincial Park, the lovely 13-km (8-mile) Sendero Diez Vistas is a moderate trail that reaches scenic heights at 10 or so viewpoints. The return leg follows the shores of Buntzen Lake (stop at North Beach for a swim if it's hot), and takes about four to five hours. At Buntzen Lake, North Vancouver, British Columbia. www.bchydro.com/community/recreation_areas/buntzen_lake_trails.html.

Saint Mark's Summit. Though the Howe Sound Crest Trail continues north for a multiday trek, this first portion to Saint Mark's traverses old-growth forest and woodland trails to a rocky outlook. It covers about 11 km (7 miles). This is one of many hikes within Cypress Provincial Park. Equally lovely alternatives include the route to Eagle Bluff and cross-country routes near Hollyburn Lodge. 6000 Cypress Bowl Rd., West Vancouver, British Columbia, V0N 1G0. www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/cypress.

Guided Hiking Tours

Novice hikers and serious walkers can join guided trips or do self-guided walks of varying approach and difficulty. Grouse Mountain hosts several daily "eco-walks" along easy, meandering paths, including a discussion of flora and fauna and a visit to the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. They're free with admission to Grouse Mountain Skyride.

Rockwood Adventures. This company gives guided walks of rain forest or coastal terrain, in areas including Lighthouse Park, Lynn and Capilano canyons, and Bowen Island in Howe Sound. Many of the tours also include a gourmet picnic or box lunch. 6342 Bruce St., West Vancouver, British Columbia, V7W 2G4 . 604/913–1621; 888/236–6606; www.rockwoodadventures.com.

Stanley Park Ecology Centre. A calendar of guided nature walks and discovery sessions is filled with fun, kid-friendly options. Despite its urban access, Stanley Park offers incredible wildlife diversity—from the namesake rodents in Beaver Lake to a rookery of great blue herons near the tennis courts. The organization also operates the Stanley Park Nature House on the shores of Lost Lagoon. Alberni St. at Chilco St., Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia. 604/257–8544; 604/718–6522; www.stanleyparkecology.ca. Free.

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