Vancouver’s North Shore is teeming with hiking trails. In fact, it can be a little overwhelming to know where to start. To help you out, I’ve put together a list of what are (in my humble opinion) the best hikes on Vancouver’s North Shore. That way you can pick and choose depending on your mood.
Where possible I’ve provided links to other sites which provide descriptions of the routes.
Best for little-to-no elevation
Sometimes you want to get outdoors for a good few hours, but you don’t feel up to tackling any mountains. I get it. If so, I recommend the Big Cedar and Kennedy Falls trail on Mount Fromme. This undulating trail is a 10km round-trip, so it’s still a reasonable distance. But with only 150m elevation gain, you don’t need to worry about any thigh-burning ascents.
Another good option is Norvan Falls in Lynn Headquarters Regional Park. It’s very similar in terms of terrain, but is a little longer at 14km.
Both are also great hikes for the winter months, thanks to their low elevation.
Best for steep elevation
On the flip side, maybe you’re keen for a challenge. For some people, a hike ain’t a hike unless there’s a grinding slog uphill. If you’re one of them, I urge you to try Mount Harvey. The hike begins on the logging trail from Lions Bay, then takes a left turn – after which, it’s a steep climb to the top. Once you get there, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views around. There’s also a secret whiskey stash near the summit!
If you don’t take the left-hand turn, you’ll end up on the Lions Binkert trail. This is another classic North Shore hike, again with a steep ascent and stunning views.
Because of their high elevation, these hikes are only suitable between the months of July and October (or November if there is no snow). Five hikers died on Mount Harvey in 2017, so please stay safe.
Best for lakes
During summer, you might be keen for a refreshing dunk in an alpine lake. There’s so many to choose from, but I particularly enjoy hiking up to Deeks Lake for a swim. If you start at Porteau Cove then it’s a steep ascent, but that just makes it all the more rewarding. You’ve got to work for it, right?
If you’ve got time, head past Deeks Lake and onto Hanover Lake. It’s not so good for swimming, but the turquoise water set against the backdrop of Brunswick Mountain is beautiful.
Remember that alpine lakes are cold! Muscles can quickly seize up, making it difficult to swim. So, stay close to the edge and use a buoyancy aid if needed.
Best for peace and quiet
Despite the abundance of hiking trails near Vancouver, it can sometimes feel like the whole city is out there with you. If you’re craving seclusion, hike to the top of Mount Fromme. You’ll encounter mountain bikers to begin with, but human contact quickly peters out. On a clear day you can see all the way to Mount Baker from the summit.
Alternatively, you could make your way to Mount Elsay. Once you get past the turning for Mount Seymour the trail becomes extremely quiet. Although be careful, it can be easy to lose your way. There’s also an unforgiving boulder field to cross. For these reasons, this one’s best left to those with the necessary experience.
Whenever you go on a hike, be sure to leave a trip plan with a family member, friend or colleague. This is particularly important if you’re heading to a lesser-travelled trail.
Best for backcountry camping
If you’re looking for an overnight hike, then top of the charts has got to be the Howe Sound Crest Trail. This 29km trail stretches between Cypress Bowl and Porteau Cove, and takes in a number of the North Shore Peaks. Most people opt to camp at Magnesia Meadows or Brunswick Lake. Take note – this is no walk in the park.
Or consider an overnight hike in Seymour Provincial Park. Wilderness camping is permitted north of Brockton Point, although fires are prohibited year round.
Don’t forget that snow continues well into the summer months in the North Shore. Hikes such as the Howe Sound Crest Trail and Elsay Lake in Seymour Provincial Park are not do-able until July (unless you are an experienced mountaineer, of course).
Best for foraging
When the forest is dripping with berries, I like to carry a Tupperware or two in my bag while hiking. If I do stumble upon a fruitful foraging spot, I can pick ‘til my heart’s content. In the past, I’ve found the trail to Norvan Falls to be rife with salmonberries, while the trail to Eagle Bluffs offers rich pickings for blueberries.
It goes without saying that if you don’t know what something is, don’t eat it!
Best for a quick walk
When does a walk become a hike? I’m not sure, but I know that sometimes I just want a little stroll amongst the trees. Nothing too long, and nothing too strenuous. In these situations, my go-to move is either Lynn Loop in Lynn Valley Headquarters, or Rice Lake in Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve.