The pandemic has imposed a staycation of sorts for most of us. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get out and enjoy some magical spots close to home. Fall is a terrific time to be out hiking but with changeable weather, it pays to be prepared with the right gear, the 10 essentials (find these at HikeBikeTravel.com) and an easy-to-access can of bear spray.
The Whyte Lake Trail
The 5-kilometre return hike to tiny but beautiful Whyte Lake above Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver is a delight. To get to the Whyte Lake trail start with a steep hike up a gravel access road from the Westport exit. Once at the water tower, the grade moderates and the hike gets interesting. Continue up through a mix of second growth and old-growth forest, passing some massive Western redcedars and Douglas-fir trees. Listen for wrens in the lush green understory, filled with ferns and moss-draped trees. At the lake, there’s a dock, a bench and a pretty boardwalk.
Matheson Lake Loop
Just 40 minutes from downtown Victoria, experience exceptionally pretty forest walking on a 3.8-kilometre loop hike around Matheson Lake near Mechosin. Ramble through temperate rainforest interspersed with great views of the lake, especially at the high point on the hike. For a 90-minute outing there’s a surprising amount of variety including a short section on the Galloping Goose Trail, a small waterfall that requires a quick side-trip, a fantastically green understory and a beach should you want to finish with a swim. Extend the hike by exploring the network of trails in neighboring Roche Cove Regional Park.
The Buntzen Lake Trail
The 10-kilometre Buntzen Lake loop trail is a popular one. With just 110 metres of elevation gain, it can usually be hiked in any direction over three to four hours, but with COVID-19, follow the one-way signs and get to the parking lot early. Visitor numbers are limited. Along its length, enjoy sections of scenic forest walking, multiple lake access points, a couple of beaches and frequent viewpoints. There’s also a 50-metre long suspension bridge at the north end of the lake. If you hike counter-clockwise, note the numerous bridges you cross are alphabetically named for plants and trees.
The strenuous hike up Mount Gardner, the highest point on Bowen Island, starts and ends with a scenic 20-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay. The starting point, the Hiker’s Trail Road Trailhead, is a 3-kilometre drive or walk from the Snug Cove ferry terminal. From there allow five hours to do the 11-kilometre return hike, with an elevation gain of 719 metres. The reward, apart from peek-a-boo views on the way up and peaceful forest hiking, is the exceptional panorama from the summit, including Mount Baker, Howe Sound, the Sunshine Coast, West Vancouver and Burrard Inlet.
Norvan Falls in North Vancouver
While there are no grand vistas on the hike to Norvan Falls, the wonderful 30-metre tall waterfall is the reward for a 14-kilometre out-and-back hike in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. Start at the Lynn Creek Bridge and follow the easy trail for 4 kilometres to Third Debris Chute. Stop to enjoy views of Goat Ridge and Mount Fromme before continuing on the quieter, muddier and more difficult Headwaters Trail. You know you’re getting close when you hear the sound of rushing water. One short final climb puts you at a viewpoint, the perfect spot for lunch.
10 Essentials for hiking
- Warm clothes
- Sun protection
- First-aid kit
Check trail reports before you leave in case of any last minute closures.
RBC Olympic hopefuls Hayley Daniels, Sam Effah and Kate Wright as our inspiring cover athlete stories! Get prepared for winter running, making movement part of your workday, and exploring great hikes near Calgary and Vancouver.