By Laurel Borrowman, Life & Style Editor
Back in April, I got jazzed for the end of the school semester—so was everyone else—mainly because all the hours normally reserved for school were free to spend to all things un-school. Mixing the slew of extra hours with the possibility of spending said hours happily outside, I imparted some knowledge about one of the best parts about living in the Lower Mainland: hiking.
Rugged geography and beautiful scenery; fresh air, clean water, and good vibes. The Lower Mainland has it all, and if you glazed over my last written kick-in-the-pants like an 8 a.m. lecture, here’s another encouraging dose of outdoor advice for the summer.
Hopefully you’ve worked out some of the kinks in your body now that your world doesn’t revolve around textbooks, lectures, and studying. Whether you’ve gotten any physical activity now that you have more time for it is another issue. Maybe exercise isn’t your thing, but with a plethora of paths to adventure on, exercise doesn’t even have to be the name of the game. Hiking is just plain fun; the fact that it’s good for you, is a bonus.
It can be difficult and sometimes intimidating to know where to start. Last time, we discussed Lynn Canyon, Buntzen Lake, and Elfin Lakes, all of which had varying degrees of time commitment and difficulty.
There are dozens of trails for every skill level. Here are three more to lead you into July.
Location: Sasamat Lake in Belcarra Park (Tri-Cities area)
Length: 8 km / ~ 3 hours
Terrain: Like a walk in the park
Scenery: A spa for your eyeballs. Lush green trees, a quiet lake, and a soft, welcoming path to guide your way.
This is one of the most city-dwelller-friendly hikes in the area, and especially accessible to those of you who are nervous about your first foray into the wilderness. Not only is the trail welcoming as heck to your inexperienced legs, it’s also welcoming to your dogs (and kids, if they factor in). You can get there by bus, and you can walk for as long or short a distance as you like. While eight kilometres may seem like a lot, the Sasamat Lake trail is mostly flat, so three hours is probably a healthy estimate, even for the beginner.
Stawamus Chief (The Chief)
Length: Depending on your route 5 – 11 km / 3 – 6 hours
Scenery: Raging waterfall? Check. A 360 view of Howe Sound and Garibaldi Park? Check. Try not to suffocate from how breathtaking it is.
If you’ve ever driven through Squamish then you’ve seen The Chief. It’s that massive ominous rock face that looms over the highway. It’s apparently the second-largest granite monolith in the world. There are only so many times one could linger in its presence before attempting to summit it.
And now, you can too! With ropes, ladders, and well-maintained paths, The Chief is indeed a challenge, but it’s not impossible, and the payoff is huge. There are two routes you can take, each doable in a day. The shorter South Peak route rewards most of the elevation gain with a shorter round-trip. About 3.5 km from bottom to top and back, the South Peak can be conquered reasonably in a few hours.
The longer route will take you to three separate peaks. The distance is about double, but you’ve done the tough part by reaching the South Peak. Hike one, hike two, or hike all three peaks.
Plus, next time you’re driving to Whistler, you can be that guy in the car: “Yeah. I’ve hiked up that. So what?”
Location: North Shore, a bit west of West Van
Length: 6 km max / 2 hours
Scenery: From the shrouded cathedral-esque old growth forest to the crashing waves on the rugged point, this “hike” is all about the views.
Unless you plan to cycle to Lighthouse Park (which I highly recommend), consider this excursion a leisure activity, and not exercise. Regardless, being in this neck of the woods is good for your mind and reconnecting with nature. It’s removed from the city, but close enough that if you drive, you can probably roundtrip it in a half day (it’s accessible by transit, too).
Lighthouse Park is stunning. The path that weaves along the forest floor is a thick carpet of dirt and moss, and the giant Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar trees tower overhead like giants. When you break through the forest onto the exposed point where the lighthouse stands, the view extends from Point Grey, to Burrard Inlet and the Lions Gate Bridge, to downtown Vancouver, to the Gulf Islands, and on a clear day, even to Vancouver Island.
The terrain is relatively simple, but there are some rocky faces to scale to the beach if you want to add some variety and challenge.