Southern British Columbia's 18 Best Hiking Trails

Destinations 2016, Travel Guides -

Southern British Columbia's 18 Best Hiking Trails

The province of B.C is home to four mountain systems, 18 volcanoes, and endless lakes, rivers and marshes. One-third of B.C. is barren alpine tundra, icefield and glacier, and it boasts just over 14 million hectacres of park land and reserves! Which is all just begging to be explored. If it's inspiration you need, we've picked the brain of Explore magazine editor and British Columbia Magazine contributing editor David Webb. Here are his top 18, bucket list worthy southern B.C. trails. PS: if you're hiking one of them, don't forget to share your pictures with us on Instagram. Just tag us @gringosontherun and @BritishColumbiaMagazine and don't forget to use the #ILoveBC. Happy trails!

Metro Vancouver & Sea-to-Sky Corridor

1. The Lions (West Vancouver)

Distance: 15 kilometres (total)

Time: 7-10 hours

Level of difficulty: trail is difficult and reaching the summit requires a technical climb

Details: Taking The Lions Trail via the ridge of Mount Unnecessary will require a spare set of lungs, but hikers are well rewarded with views of Howe Sound. Traversing through dense forest and into the Coast Range Alpine is equally stunning. This is an in-and-out hike along the same route, which will deposit you back at your vehicle. Hikers without climbing skills need not reach the summit to enjoy hiking the Lions.  Be sure to wear or pack layers, plan for changing weather, and bring food and water. 

How do I get to The Lions? Head for Sunset Drive, Lion's Bay. Go early as the designated lot fills quickly. If the lot is full, turn around and back track to the elementary school. (About one kilometre away from the trailhead). This area is patrolled and towed vehicles will be taken to North Vancouver!

Read more about this hikeclick here

2. Al's Habrich Ridge Trail

Credit: Eric Carter

Distance: 12 kilometres

Time: 6 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Get into the backcountry on this advanced, full day hike. Hikers will be rewarded by sweeping views of Howe Sound, Skypilot Mountain and Habrich itself. The terrain the trail winds through is sublime. You'll venture through old growth forests, around glacial formations and all manners of streams and waterfalls. The end of the trail is marked by scenic Neverland Lake. 

How do I get to Al's Habrich? Access via Backcountry Access Road and follow the signs. 

3. Elfin Lakes Trail (Garibaldi Provincial Park)


Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brodieguy/

Distance: 23 kilometres

Time: 8 hours

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: Providing easy access and high alpine, this is a classic and popular hike. The first four kilometres or so from the trail head are the steepest and last until you reach Red Heather Meadows. Here you’ll find a beautiful waterfall, a great place to stop for a cold drink or lunch. You’ll also get great mountain views along your hike. There will be an easy descent down to Elfin Lake, through meadows of heather. If you decide to pack in your camping gear, there are sites where you can stay overnight and turn this day trip into a weekend activity. Note: during summer the campsite can be quite busy. This hike can also be done during winter. 

How do I get to Elfin Lakes trailhead? Follow Mamquam Road which will become a gravel road. When confronted by a fork in the road, go left. You'll eventually reach the parking lot.

Read more about this hikeclick here

4. Mount Cheam (Chilliwack)

Distance: 9.5 kilometres

Time: 4 hours

Details: Moderate

Details: This hike will put you on top of the world! You’ll be out in the open during your trip, as the trail zigzags its way up the mountain through beautiful meadows and gravelly terrain. You’ll get unbeatable views all the way. The high point is at 2,111 metres, with an elevation gain of 662 metres. This hike requires a 4x4 vehicle to reach the trailhead.  

How do I get to Mount Cheam? The trailhead is near Chipmunk Creek Forest Service Rd. See link below for complete driving directions. 

Read more about this hikeclick here

5. Golden Ears Trail (Maple Ridge)


Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mananetwork/

Distance: 24 kilometres

Time: 10 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: With an elevation gain of 1,500 metres (!) and an average grade of 12.5 per cent, this well-maintained trail is a lung buster. The first two hours are a pleasant stroll through the forest and Alder Flats. After Alder Flats is when the trail really starts to get steep.  Although the views may not be unobstructed, it’ll put you in mind of scenery from Lord Of The Rings and the colourful trees make this a picturesque fall hike. Note: most people do this as an overnight hike, camping at Panorama Ridge.

How do I get to the trailhead? Head to the North Beach area of Alouette Lake, along Golden Ears Parkway. Watch for signage advertising West Canyon parking lot.

Read more about this hikeclick here

6. Stawamus Chief (Squamish)


Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/slaunay/

Distance: 7 kilometres

Time: 3 hours

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: Hiking The Chief is a popular choice – it’s easy to find, hard to get lost and great for the occasional hiker. Once you have reached the summit, you’ll have panoramic views of the Squamish Valley, Howe Sound, the town of Squamish and nearby mountain peaks. Although this is a popular destination, don’t be fooled into thinking this is an easy hike. Come prepared with the right footwear, first aid, food and water.

How do I get to The Chief? Driving to Squamish look for signage along Highway 99 advertising Stawamus Chief Provincial Park. There is a large lot and the trailhead is just beyond it. 

Read more about this hikeclick here

Vancouver Island & Sunshine Coast

7. Sunshine Coast Trail (Powell River)

Credit: Jeremy Williams, Sunshine Coast Tourism

Distance: 180 kilometres

Time: one week + (can be broken into sections)

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: If you’re looking for amazing views, pristine wilderness and lakes and some of the best hiking in the province, this is the trail for you. Stretching 180 kilometres from beginning to end, this trail moves from easy to difficult; seasoned hikers can easily complete it. The Sunshine Coast Trail is Canada's longest hut-to-hut trail. Starting at the Sarah Point in Desolation Sound, it winds hikers into alpine meadows and the region's hinterland lakes. There are several rest stops along the way, including campsites, cabins and B&Bs. Ending in Saltery Bay, the entire trail takes about 10 days to complete, but you can break it up into a section that suits your needs and skill level.

Read more about this hikesunshinecoast-trail.com

8. Judges Route, Mt. Arrowsmith (Port Alberni area)

Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/msanseve/3779353204/

Distance: 6 kilometres

Time: 5-6 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Mt. Arrowsmith, at 1,819 metres, is the highest mountain in southern Vancouver Island. The views from the top are worth the uphill grind. This hike, along the Judges Route, is the quickest and easiest way to the top, and has a whopping elevation gain of about 1,000 metres. Although the route isn’t technical, it is steep and will require some scrambling in a few spots. A fit person should be able to make it. Bring plenty of water in the summer months. 

How do I get to the Mt. Arrowhead trailhead? Driving along Alberni Highway turn off on to Loon Lake Main. Follow it to Mount Arrowsmith Ski Road. Use caution on logging roads as the trailhead is 13 km from the highway. See mapped route here

Read more about this hikeclick here

9. Cape Scott Trail (Cape Scott Provincial Park)


Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/n-r-t/

Distance: 24 kilometres

Time: 2 days

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: This trail is situated in the Cape Scott Provincial Park near Port Hardy, a rugged and remote area that offers unpredictable weather. Hikers need to be prepared and properly equipped for (often muddy) wilderness trails and extreme conditions. Dress in layers and be aware of bears and cougars on your journey. There are campsites available.

How to I get to the Cape Scott Trail? Head for the San Josef parking lot at the Cape Scott trailhead. Shuttle service to the parking lot can also be arranged in Port Hardy.

Read more about this hikeclick here

10. Juan De Fuca Marine Trail


Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/10213764@N02/

Distance: 47 kilometres

Time: multi-day

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: The Juan De Fuca Trail is a wilderness hiking trail leads through some of Vancouver Islands most remote and isolated shoreline. It's a rugged 47 kilometres of coastal hiking, marked by scenic old growth forest and thundering surf. The opportunities for spotting wildlife are ample (beware of bears and cougars) and the tidal pools at Botanical Beach are spectacular. This hike can be broken up into four 10 kilometre stretches. 

How do I get to the trailheads? You can start at the north end at Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew or the south end at China Beach. There are campgrounds at both ends of the trail. 

Read more about this trailclick here

11. Mt. Albert Edward (Strathcona Park)

Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jordansnielsen/

Distance: 31 kilometres

Time: 14 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Steep climbs and narrow trails are the hallmarks of this hike, and there is a campsite at Circlet Lake. Most hikers do this as an overnight trip and it's a popular one for local outdoor ed classes to tackle. Start out from the lodge and make your way through Paradise Meadows before heading into the woods. The trail is relatively undemanding. Past Circlet Lake it's an uphill grunt and then some scrambling. Once you reach the ridge you find yourself in the high alpine. The good news? Past this point it's a more gentle uphill trek along the ridge to the summit. 

How do I get to the trailhead? Make your way to the Raven Lodge at Mount Washington Alpine Resort via Nordic Drive. Park in this designated lot. 

Read more about this hike: click here

12. Blue Grouse Mountain (Kelowna)

Distance: 8 kilometres

Time: 5 hours

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: This trail provides great views of the Okanagan Valley, Kelowna City and you can almost see Vernon and Penticton. If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, you can cut your trip time down by parking at the lower communication tower or anywhere lower. As you hike, the views will get better and better.

How do I get to the Blue Grouse Mountain trailhead? Follow Bear Lake Main Road and then make a right on Blue Grouse Road. 

Read more about this trailclick here

13. Paul's Tomb, Knox Mountain (Kelowna)

Distance: 4 kilometres

Time: 2 hours

Level of difficulty: Easy

Details: This is a wide and easy trail that runs along the east shore of Lake Okanagan, in Knox Mountain Park in Kelowna. Once you reach the end, you’ll find a beach and a picnic area.

How do I get to Paul's Tomb trailhead? Take Ellis Street north all the way to the end to reach the park entrance. 

Read more about this trailclick here

Kootenays

14. Iceline Trail (Yoho National Park)


Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/julis_travel_log/

Distance: 21 kilometres

Time: 9 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Advancing from moderate to difficult, much of this trail is above the tree line and over rock. Poor weather conditions could make this a challenging hike, so come prepared. “Yoho” is a Cree expression for awe and wonder, and this hike has it all – amazing alpine views, a vast look across the Yoho Valley, Takakkaw Falls and its reservoir, Daly Glacier and so much more. There are several variations of this route that you can choose from, if you’re interested in finding more adventures. The rather lengthy walk back down the Yoho Valley can seem a bit boring compared to your climb up.  

How do I get to the Iceline trailhead? Set your GPS for Takakkaw Falls parking area (51.497255 N; 116.483012 W)

Read more about this trailclick here

15. Vermillion Peak

Distance: 8 kilometres

Time: 5 hours

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: This hike will take you straight up in an avalanche gully, filled with flowers. The ridge walk can be narrow, but the views will be worth the additional effort – you’ll see glaciers and Castle Mountain.

How do I get to Vermilion Peak trailhead? Simply look for signs when travelling along the Kootenay Highway (see map in link)

Read more about this hikeclick here

16. Dogtooth Traverse (Golden)


Credit: Tourism Golden

Distance: 16 kilometres

Time: 8-10 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Your journey will start off easy, with a gondola ride at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. (Hardcore hikers will skip the gondola and begin their hike at the foot.) From there, the going gets tough. The terrain will be challenging, through the Dogtooth Range in the Purcell Mountains near Golden. You’ll pass by Canyon Creek, Holt Creek, Holt Lakes and Gorman Lakes, all providing beautiful views.

How do I get to the Dogtooth Traverse trailhead? Set off to Gorman Lake 

Read more about this trailclick here

17. Heiko's Trail (Fernie)

Distance: 20 kilometres

Time: 12 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Wooden bridges, cascading waterfalls, dark caverns and mountain scenery are just a few of the reasons people love this hike. The journey begins from Hartley Lake Road and ends at Island Lake Lodge, but you can optimize your time and effort if you get dropped off at Hartley Lake and picked back up at Island Lake. This hike is also referred to as Mountain Lakes Trail. 

How do I get to Heiko's Trail? Drive 5.3 kilometres east from the north Fernie Bridge and turn onto Dicken Road east entrance. After 600 metres turn up Hartley Lake Road (signed) and drive another 9 kilometres on this windy dirt road that climbs past Hartley Lake. Continue on this road and after a few minutes you will see a couple of old trucks at the end of a 4 wheel drive rd. Turn left and drive to the trailhead, marked with a large sign. 

Read more about this hikeclick here

Cariboo-Chilcotin

18. Chain Meadows Lake Trail (Wells Grey Provincial Park)

Distance: 15 kilometres

Time: 6 hours

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: This trail starts and ends at the Clearwater Lake Campsite and takes you around the lake, up to a viewpoint where you can take in the beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains and then through the forest before coming back down again. Be sure to carry lots of bug spray. Nearing the end of the trail, you’ll also be able to see Osprey Falls and volcanic features.

How do I get to Chain Meadows Lake Trail? Enter the provincial park and make for the Clearwater Lake Campground. Park just past here. 

Read more about this hikeClick here

Curated by Jesse Delgrosse @gringosontherun. Follow Jesse's adventures @jdelgrosse and make sure to "LIKE" our Facebook and Instagram pages for all your budget travel needs!!
Originally posted on www.bcmag.ca