Five West Coast hikes you probably don't know about (but should!)
It's been an uncharacteristically long, cold, snowy winter in Vancouver. But hiking season finally just around the corner, and many "Lotus Landers" are gearing up to hit the mountains for a much-needed dose of nature. The question is: how to escape the crowds? With many of the marquee trails like The Grouse Grind in North Vancouver or The Chief in Squamish guaranteed to be packed with eager outdoor enthusiasts, now's the time to look farther afield and discover some of the West Coast's hidden gems. Stephen Hui is a local writer and photographer, a hiking columnist at VancouverIsAwesome.com, and the author of a forthcoming guidebook on B.C. hikes. I asked him to help me seek out five off-the-radar wilderness adventures to discover this spring.
Triangle Lake, Sunshine Coast, B.C.
Located north of Sechelt, B.C., the Triangle Lake trail is one of the few "hiking only" trails on the Sunshine Coast, so there won't be any mountain bikers whizzing past you, kicking up dust and disturbing your zen. Hiking time through this gorgeous, moss-drenched forest is approximately 3 hours — 5km round trip — and you're likely to spot deer along the way. "This hike is definitely under the radar," Hui says. "There's probably plenty of people on the lower Sunshine Coast who haven't heard of this yet. It's a beautiful forest walk that takes you to a pretty fantastic wetland. And it's a nice, easy stroll in the woods. Perfect for rainy days."
Mount Maxwell Provincial Park, Salt Spring Island, B.C.
This little-known, 6km trek has everything you'd want in a destination hike: a two-hour time commitment (so you don't miss your ferry back), a vigorous climb through stunning woods, and the payoff of a spectacular vista at the summit. The view from Baynes Peak is unparalleled, with Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Lower Mainland of Vancouver laid out before you. "There's something special about hikes on islands – the view from Mount Maxwell is amazing," Hui says. "There's really something to be said for these lower hills that are more accessible a larger part of the year, but still provide thrilling views."
Norvan Falls, North Vancouver, B.C.
Located in the popular Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, this low-elevation, 5-hour, 14km hike takes you to a beautiful waterfall. While the shorter trails in the park can often be busy, this excursion is typically quieter. "Norvan Falls has been a go-to hike for me on the North Shore," Hui explains. "It's really easy to access by transit, and it's good most of the year when a lot of other trails are too snowy. But it's a decent-length hike, and it's far enough that you leave most of the crowds behind as you head up to the falls. It's also a great lunch spot."
Mount Daniel, Sunshine Coast, B.C.
This hike is well worth a day trip from Vancouver, and is located about an hour drive from Gibsons, B.C. on the Sunshine Coast. The view of Pender Harbour from the summit is the stuff of Instagram legend, and although this 2.5 km jaunt up takes just 40 to 60 minutes, the steepness of the climb makes for a good workout. "Mount Daniel is short and sweet," says Hui. "It has pretty amazing West Coast views, but it's also got some steepness and challenge. It's a low time commitment with high reward." Since it's such a short hike, there's lots of time left to explore the area, which is becoming a major tourist draw with its artist studios, craft breweries and thriving local food culture.
Lakeview Trail at Buntzen Lake, Coquitlam, B.C.
This stunning, 5 to 6 hour trail at Buntzen Lake (6 km one-way) offers the best of all worlds. "Buntzen Lake is pretty popular with joggers and dog-walkers, but most of them stick to the main loop trail around the lake," Hui explains. "The hikers tend to go for the Diez Vistas Trail up Buntzen Ridge, which is nice, but it takes you to viewpoints that are all pretty much the same thing. The Lakeview Trail is between those two options and it gets you above the lake, and has ups and downs so it will definitely make you sweat, but it's not a huge commitment. And when you finish, you return for easy stroll along the lakeshore to the beach area."