British Columbia

5 great hikes around the Lower Mainland you can do without a day pass

Many of the region's popular trails now require a free B.C. Parks day pass, as demand is heightened by the pandemic and people's thirst for the outdoors, but there are lots of worthwhile alternatives around the Lower Mainland.

Many of the region's popular trails now require a B.C. Parks day pass, but there are worthwhile alternatives

The Campbell Lake Trail (also known as the Harrison Grind) on Mount Agassiz in Harrison Hot Springs, B.C., is one of many great hikes that people can do without the need for a B.C. Parks day pass. (Stephen Hui)

Many of the popular trails around B.C.'s Lower Mainland now require a free B.C. Parks day pass, as demand is heightened by the pandemic and people's thirst for time outdoors, but there are lots of worthwhile alternatives in the region for those looking to avoid the new system.

According to Stephen Hui, author of 105 Hikes In and Around Southwestern British Columbia, the trails everywhere are seeing more traffic than normal this year. Some of the most popular trails like Quarry Rock in North Vancouver and Joffre Lake north of Pemberton have been closed to keep crowds away.

"Everyone wants to get outside, so if people can't go to Joffre Lake, you know, they're going to go to another turquoise lake and crowd that trail," said Hui.

"All of the already somewhat popular trails are super crowded now with parking going all the way down and traffic jams on the narrow parts of the trails," he said.

Some people have also expressed frustration with the B.C. Parks day pass system, which is required for people heading to places like Seymour or Cypress Provincial parks.

But there's still a vast wilderness that can be accessed. Here are five of Hui's suggestions for people unable to get a day pass or just looking for a good hike.

Tantalus View Lookout

The Tantalus View Lookout trail is in the Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest in Squamish. According to Hui, it's a fairly easy hike that leads up to an old fire lookout.

A hike to Tantalus View Lookout in Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest, Squamish, B.C., on Sept. 27, 2015. (Stephen Hui)

"There are amazing views of the Tantalus Range, so you know snow-capped peaks and glaciers and there's just a beautiful forest and a perfect lake for swimming," he said.

In Hui's view, the hike is a 3½ hour loop, but it can be done in less time if you take a direct return route.

Lynn Peak Lookout

The Lynn Peak Lookout trail starts from Lynn Headwaters Regional Park in North Vancouver and can easily be accessed with public transit. Hui warned that the parking lots often fill up early.

The trail climbs up Lynn Peak, through a grove of old growth trees to a rocky bluff overlooking the Seymour Valley.

Lynn Peaks, as seen from Dog Mountain in Mount Seymour Provincial Park, North Vancouver, B.C. on Jan. 13, 2015. (Stephen Hui)

"It's a great forest hike. It'll get the heart pumping and give you some time in the woods," said Hui, adding that it's a good alternative for people looking to avoid the crowds of the Grouse Grind.

The hike takes about four hours.

Coquitlam Lake View Trail

The Coquitlam Lake View Trail is in Pinecone Burke Provincial Park — a park that, according to Hui, is a little under the radar and less likely to be crowded.

The trail goes to a viewpoint overlooking Coquitlam Lake, as the name would suggest.

The trail to Saw Blade Falls in Pinecone Burke Provincial Park, Coquitlam. (Stephen Hui)

"On the way back, you can visit Saw Blade Falls, which is a pretty spectacular waterfall in the woods," said Hui. "You can kind of cool off in the creeks and enjoy the mist of the waterfalls."

The hike takes about 5½ hours, but there's a shorter return route if you skip the waterfalls.

Hui said there are often lots of cars in the parking lot, but they're mostly mountain bikers that use different trails.

Campbell Lake

Hui said the Campbell Lake hike is also referred to as the 'Harrison Grind' — a steep trail up Mount Agassiz.

"It takes you to a fabulous lookout overlooking Harrison Lake, and if you want to continue hiking up the mountain, there's Campbell Lake where you can take a swim in the quiet waters up there," he said.

It starts just off the Agassiz-Rosedale Highway near Harrison Hot Springs. According to Hui, you may have to park on a residential street, so he reminds hikers to be respectful of neighbours. There are transit options, but they're less practical unless you're already nearby.

The hike takes about six hours to complete.

Hope Lookout Trail

The Hope Lookout Trail is maintained by the Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning and found at the foot of Hope Mountain. It's just off the TransCanada Highway.

It goes up to a few viewpoints overlooking Hope and the Fraser River, and Hui said it will likely get you sweating.

A hike on the Hope Lookout Trail on Hope Mountain in Hope, B.C. (Stephen Hui)

"You get great views and lovely forests for your effort," he said.

The hike takes about 2½ hours, round trip.

Respectful hiking

Hui cautions hikers that with the threat of COVID-19 and the added crowds out on the trails, it's important to be respectful and courteous in the woods, as well as in neighbourhoods at the trailhead.

"Let's keep groups small, travel single file, make room for other people, not hog the only view point on the hike for lunch, let other people enjoy it," he said.

People will also want to make sure they don't become an added stress for search and rescue teams by being prepared with gear, food, planning, and other essential equipment.

And even if you're making a last-minute hiking plan, have a nearby alternative just in case.

"If you get to a place and the parking lot is overflowing, that might be a sign that you need to go to your Plan B and have that Plan B," said Hui.


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About the Author

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

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