British Columbia's Best Hiking Trails

keen hiking boots


If you think that 'Beautiful British Columbia' has become a trite moniker, it's time to get off the sofa. Our province is home to four mountain systems,  18 volcanoes, and host of lakes, rivers and marshes. One-third of B.C. is barren alpine tundra, icefield and glacier, and we boast just over 14 million hectacres of park land and reserves. It's all just begging to be explored. If it's inspiration you need, we've picked the brain of Explore magazine editor and British Columbia Magazine contributing editor David Webb. Here are his top 25, bucket list worthy B.C. trails. PS: if you're hiking one of them, don't forget to share your pictures with us on Instagram. Just tag us @BritishColumbiaMagazine and use the #ILoveBC. Happy trails!


Metro Vancouver & Sea-to-Sky Corridor

The Lions (West Vancouver)

The Lions Hike Vancouver British Columbia
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/md9/

Distance: 15 kilometres (total)

Time: 7-10 hours

Level of difficulty: trail is difficult and reaching the summit requires a technical climb

Details: Taking The Lions Trail via the ridge of Mount Unnecessary will require a spare set of lungs, but hikers are well rewarded with views of Howe Sound. Traversing through dense forest and into the Coast Range Alpine is equally stunning. This is an in-and-out hike along the same route, which will deposit you back at your vehicle. Hikers without climbing skills need not reach the summit to enjoy hiking the Lions.  Be sure to wear or pack layers, plan for changing weather, and bring food and water. 

How do I get to The Lions? Head for Sunset Drive, Lion's Bay. Go early as the designated lot fills quickly. If the lot is full, turn around and back track to the elementary school. (About one kilometre away from the trailhead). This area is patrolled and towed vehicles will be taken to North Vancouver!

Read more about this hikeclick here

 

Al's Habrich Ridge Trail

habrich ridgeCredit: Eric Carter

Distance: 12 kilometres

Time: 6 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Get into the backcountry on this advanced, full day hike. Hikers will be rewarded by sweeping views of Howe Sound, Skypilot Mountain and Habrich itself. The terrain the trail winds through is sublime. You'll venture through old growth forests, around glacial formations and all manners of streams and waterfalls. The end of the trail is marked by scenic Neverland Lake. 

How do I get to Al's Habrich? Access via Backcountry Access Road and follow the signs. 

Read more about this hikeclick here

 

Elfin Lakes Trail (Garibaldi Provincial Park)

Elfin Lakes Trail
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brodieguy/

Distance: 23 kilometres

Time: 8 hours

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: Providing easy access and high alpine, this is a classic and popular hike. The first four kilometres or so from the trail head are the steepest and last until you reach Red Heather Meadows. Here you’ll find a beautiful waterfall, a great place to stop for a cold drink or lunch. You’ll also get great mountain views along your hike. There will be an easy descent down to Elfin Lake, through meadows of heather. If you decide to pack in your camping gear, there are sites where you can stay overnight and turn this day trip into a weekend activity. Note: during summer the campsite can be quite busy. This hike can also be done during winter. 

How do I get to Elfin Lakes trailhead? Follow Mamquam Road which will become a gravel road. When confronted by a fork in the road, go left. You'll eventually reach the parking lot.

Read more about this hikeclick here

 

Mount Cheam (Chilliwack)

Distance: 9.5 kilometres

Time: 4 hours

Details: Moderate

Details: This hike will put you on top of the world! You’ll be out in the open during your trip, as the trail zigzags its way up the mountain through beautiful meadows and gravelly terrain. You’ll get unbeatable views all the way. The high point is at 2,111 metres, with an elevation gain of 662 metres. This hike requires a 4x4 vehicle to reach the trailhead.  

How do I get to Mount Cheam? The trailhead is near Chipmunk Creek Forest Service Rd. See link below for complete driving directions. 

Read more about this hikeclick here

 

Golden Ears Trail (Maple Ridge)

golden ears
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mananetwork/

Distance: 24 kilometres

Time: 10 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: With an elevation gain of 1,500 metres (!) and an average grade of 12.5 per cent, this well-maintained trail is a lung buster. The first two hours are a pleasant stroll through the forest and Alder Flats. After Alder Flats is when the trail really starts to get steep.  Although the views may not be unobstructed, it’ll put you in mind of scenery from Lord Of The Rings and the colourful trees make this a picturesque fall hike. Note: most people do this as an overnight hike, camping at Panorama Ridge.

How do I get to the trailhead? Head to the North Beach area of Alouette Lake, along Golden Ears Parkway. Watch for signage advertising West Canyon parking lot.

Read more about this hikeclick here

 

Stawamus Chief (Squamish)

Stawamus Chief Squamish
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/slaunay/

Distance: 7 kilometres

Time: 3 hours

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: Hiking The Chief is a popular choice – it’s easy to find, hard to get lost and great for the occasional hiker. Once you have reached the summit, you’ll have panoramic views of the Squamish Valley, Howe Sound, the town of Squamish and nearby mountain peaks. Although this is a popular destination, don’t be fooled into thinking this is an easy hike. Come prepared with the right footwear, first aid, food and water.

How do I get to The Chief? Driving to Squamish look for signage along Highway 99 advertising Stawamus Chief Provincial Park. There is a large lot and the trailhead is just beyond it. 

Read more about this hikeclick here

 

Vancouver Island & Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast Trail (Powell River)

sunshine coast trail hutCredit: Jeremy Williams, Sunshine Coast Tourism

Distance: 180 kilometres

Time: one week + (can be broken into sections)

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: If you’re looking for amazing views, pristine wilderness and lakes and some of the best hiking in the province, this is the trail for you. Stretching 180 kilometres from beginning to end, this trail moves from easy to difficult; seasoned hikers can easily complete it. The Sunshine Coast Trail is Canada's longest hut-to-hut trail. Starting at the Sarah Point in Desolation Sound, it winds hikers into alpine meadows and the region's hinterland lakes. There are several rest stops along the way, including campsites, cabins and B&Bs. Ending in Saltery Bay, the entire trail takes about 10 days to complete, but you can break it up into a section that suits your needs and skill level.

Read more about this hikesunshinecoast-trail.com

 

Judges Route, Mt. Arrowsmith (Port Alberni area)

Judges Route, Mt. Arrowsmith (Port Alberni area)
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/msanseve/3779353204/

Distance: 6 kilometres

Time: 5-6 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Mt. Arrowsmith, at 1,819 metres, is the highest mountain in southern Vancouver Island. The views from the top are worth the uphill grind. This hike, along the Judges Route, is the quickest and easiest way to the top, and has a whopping elevation gain of about 1,000 metres. Although the route isn’t technical, it is steep and will require some scrambling in a few spots. A fit person should be able to make it. Bring plenty of water in the summer months. 

How do I get to the Mt. Arrowhead trailhead? Driving along Alberni Highway turn off on to Loon Lake Main. Follow it to Mount Arrowsmith Ski Road. Use caution on logging roads as the trailhead is 13 km from the highway. See mapped route here

Read more about this hikeclick here

 

Cape Scott Trail (Cape Scott Provincial Park)

Cape Scott Trail
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/n-r-t/

Distance: 24 kilometres

Time: 2 days

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: This trail is situated in the Cape Scott Provincial Park near Port Hardy, a rugged and remote area that offers unpredictable weather. Hikers need to be prepared and properly equipped for (often muddy) wilderness trails and extreme conditions. Dress in layers and be aware of bears and cougars on your journey. There are campsites available.

How to I get to the Cape Scott Trail? Head for the San Josef parking lot at the Cape Scott trailhead. Shuttle service to the parking lot can also be arranged in Port Hardy.

Read more about this hikeclick here

 

Juan De Fuca Marine Trail

juan de fuca marine trail
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/10213764@N02/

Distance: 47 kilometres

Time: multi-day

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: The Juan De Fuca Trail is a wilderness hiking trail leads through some of Vancouver Islands most remote and isolated shoreline. It's a rugged 47 kilometres of coastal hiking, marked by scenic old growth forest and thundering surf. The opportunities for spotting wildlife are ample (beware of bears and cougars) and the tidal pools at Botanical Beach are spectacular. This hike can be broken up into four 10 kilometre stretches. 

How do I get to the trailheads? You can start at the north end at Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew or the south end at China Beach. There are campgrounds at both ends of the trail. 

Read more about this trailclick here

 

Mt. Albert Edward (Strathcona Park)

Mt. Albert Edward
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jordansnielsen/

Distance: 31 kilometres

Time: 14 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Steep climbs and narrow trails are the hallmarks of this hike, and there is a campsite at Circlet Lake. Most hikers do this as an overnight trip and it's a popular one for local outdoor ed classes to tackle. Start out from the lodge and make your way through Paradise Meadows before heading into the woods. The trail is relatively undemanding. Past Circlet Lake it's an uphill grunt and then some scrambling. Once you reach the ridge you find yourself in the high alpine. The good news? Past this point it's a more gentle uphill trek along the ridge to the summit. 

How do I get to the trailhead? Make your way to the Raven Lodge at Mount Washington Alpine Resort via Nordic Drive. Park in this designated lot. 

Read more about this hike: click here

 

 

 

Thompson-Okaganan

Okanagan High Rim Trail (Vernon/Kelowna)

Distance: 55 kilometres

Time: 2-3 days

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: This trail stretches across the east side of the Okanagan Valley, from Vernon to Kelowna. It was given a facelift in 2009, including improvements to trail surfaces, signs, access points and an updated GPS file. The trail starts at Kalmalka Lake Park and continues by Oyama Lake and through Wrinkly Face Provincial Park to Mission Creek in Kelowna. There are camping spots along the way and, with several access points, the trail can be hiked in stages.

How do I get to the High Rim Trail trailhead? Cosen's Bay gate in Kalmalka Lake Park or Highway 33, near Mission Creek in Kelowna. (See link below)

Read more about this hikeclick here

 

Sun Peaks Resort Trail Network (Sun Peaks/Kamloops)

kamloops sun peaks trails
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bcgovphotos/

Distance: There are 16 trails available in this network. The shortest one, the Juniper Ridge Loop, is 0.6 kilometres; the longest, the West Bowl Trail, is 5.4 kilometres.

Time: varied - anywhere from 20 minutes to the half-day hike to West Bowl summit

Level of difficulty: Trails in this network range from beginner to advanced.

Details: 12 of the 16 trails can be accessed by lift. There are amenities nearby, such as a restaurant, washrooms and a first aid station.

How do I get to Sunpeaks Resort? Set your GPS for 1280 Alpine Road, Sun Peaks, BC V0E 5N0

Read more about these trailssunpeaksresort.com/hiking

 

Blue Grouse Mountain (Kelowna)

Distance: 8 kilometres

Time: 5 hours

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: This trail provides great views of the Okanagan Valley, Kelowna City and you can almost see Vernon and Penticton. If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, you can cut your trip time down by parking at the lower communication tower or anywhere lower. As you hike, the views will get better and better.

How do I get to the Blue Grouse Mountain trailhead? Follow Bear Lake Main Road and then make a right on Blue Grouse Road. 

Read more about this trailclick here

 

Paul's Tomb, Knox Mountain (Kelowna)

Distance: 4 kilometres

Time: 2 hours

Level of difficulty: Easy

Details: This is a wide and easy trail that runs along the east shore of Lake Okanagan, in Knox Mountain Park in Kelowna. Once you reach the end, you’ll find a beach and a picnic area.

How do I get to Paul's Tomb trailhead? Take Ellis Street north all the way to the end to reach the park entrance. 

Read more about this trailclick here

 

Kootenays

Iceline Trail (Yoho National Park)

Iceline Trail
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/julis_travel_log/

Distance: 21 kilometres

Time: 9 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Advancing from moderate to difficult, much of this trail is above the tree line and over rock. Poor weather conditions could make this a challenging hike, so come prepared. “Yoho” is a Cree expression for awe and wonder, and this hike has it all – amazing alpine views, a vast look across the Yoho Valley, Takakkaw Falls and its reservoir, Daly Glacier and so much more. There are several variations of this route that you can choose from, if you’re interested in finding more adventures. The rather lengthy walk back down the Yoho Valley can seem a bit boring compared to your climb up.

How do I get to the Iceline trailhead? Set your GPS for Takakkaw Falls parking area (51.497255 N; 116.483012 W)

Read more about this trailclick here

 

Vermillion Peak

Distance: 8 kilometres

Time: 5 hours

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: This hike will take you straight up in an avalanche gully, filled with flowers. The ridge walk can be narrow, but the views will be worth the additional effort – you’ll see glaciers and Castle Mountain.

How do I get to Vermilion Peak trailhead? Simply look for signs when travelling along the Kootenay Highway (see map in link)

Read more about this hikeclick here

 

Dogtooth Traverse (Golden)

dogtooth traverse
Credit: Tourism Golden

Distance: 16 kilometres

Time: 8-10 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Your journey will start off easy, with a gondola ride at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. (Hardcore hikers will skip the gondola and begin their hike at the foot.) From there, the going gets tough. The terrain will be challenging, through the Dogtooth Range in the Purcell Mountains near Golden. You’ll pass by Canyon Creek, Holt Creek, Holt Lakes and Gorman Lakes, all providing beautiful views.

How do I get to the Dogtooth Traverse trailhead? Set off to Gorman Lake 

Read more about this trailclick here

 

Heiko's Trail (Fernie)

Distance: 20 kilometres

Time: 12 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: Wooden bridges, cascading waterfalls, dark caverns and mountain scenery are just a few of the reasons people love this hike. The journey begins from Hartley Lake Road and ends at Island Lake Lodge, but you can optimize your time and effort if you get dropped off at Hartley Lake and picked back up at Island Lake. This hike is also referred to as Mountain Lakes Trail. 

How do I get to Heiko's Trail? Drive 5.3 kilometres east from the north Fernie Bridge and turn onto Dicken Road east entrance. After 600 metres turn up Hartley Lake Road (signed) and drive another 9 kilometres on this windy dirt road that climbs past Hartley Lake. Continue on this road and after a few minutes you will see a couple of old trucks at the end of a 4 wheel drive rd. Turn left and drive to the trailhead, marked with a large sign. 

Read more about this hikeclick here

 

Cariboo-Chilcotin

Chain Meadows Lake Trail (Wells Grey Provincial Park)

Distance: 15 kilometres

Time: 6 hours

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: This trail starts and ends at the Clearwater Lake Campsite and takes you around the lake, up to a viewpoint where you can take in the beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains and then through the forest before coming back down again. Be sure to carry lots of bug spray. Nearing the end of the trail, you’ll also be able to see Osprey Falls and volcanic features.

How do I get to Chain Meadows Lake Trail? Enter the provincial park and make for the Clearwater Lake Campground. Park just past here. 

Read more about this hikeClick here

 

Rainbow Range Trail (Tweedsmuir Provincial Park)

Distance: 7 kilometres

Time: 3 hours

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Details: This area is well known for its colourful ranges. Your hike will start at Highway 20, near Tweedsmuir Provincial Park’s east entrance and Heckman Pass. You’ll pass through forested areas and open alpine before coming to a small lake. The best time for hiking is mid-June to mid-September. It's just a 300 metre elevation gain on this trail that can also be enjoyed on horseback. While the trail itself does not take more than a half day, a network of connected trails offers days of additional hiking. 

How do I get to Rainbow Range Trail? Just off Highway 20, shortly after entering Tweedsmuir Provincial Park (when driving west). Approximately a 40 minute drive from Anahim Lake.

Trail mapClick here

 

Northern British Columbia

Mt. Edziza Plateau Traverse (Northeast BC)

Mt. Edziza Plateau Traverse
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/23882980@N00/

Distance: 75 kilometres

Time: 7-10 days

Level of difficulty: Extreme

Trail details: This hike is not for the faint of heart. Carrying in your gear, camping as you go, the chance to spot magnificent wildlife and not come across another human being for days – it could be argued this is what hiking is all about. Mt. Edziza Provincial Park is home to a volcanic peak, as well as caribou, bears and wolves. After you hike to the cinder cone, you'll be able to brag about climbing a volcano. 

How do I access the Mount Edziza trail system? Per BC Parks website: "Visitors may access the trail from Kinaskan Lake Park to Mowdade Lake via an un-official route from the end of Willow Creek Forest Service Road. This is an unmaintained roadway and there are several areas that are susceptible to overgrowth, flooding and/or washouts. Access is feasible but challenging and a 4x4 vehicle along with strong knowledge of the Willow Creek area is necessary. "

More infoClick here

 

East Beach Trail (Haida Gwaii)

PesutaCredit: Brandon Smith via Dollar Photo Club

Distance: 90 kilometres

Time: 4-6 days

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Trail details: This hike will take you along the eastern shoreline of Graham Island on Haida Gwaii, stretching from just north of Tlell to Tow Hill near Masset. You’d be better off to do the hike from south to north – it’s better to have the wind and rain at your back than in your face. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears and there will be several river crossings, so bring your waterproof boots. There are three primitive shelters along the trail. 

How do I get to the East Beach Trail? As the trail is a beach hike, one simply must make their way to the rural community of Tlell. Drive to the beach and start your journey!

Read more about this hikeClick here

 

Teetering Rock Trail (Fort Nelson)

Distance: 23 kilometres

Time: 8 hours

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Details: This hike includes several steep sections and can be completed as a long day hike. Alternatively, a small campsite along the trail (at kilometre 7) allows leisurely hikers to do it in two days. The summit offers a great view of Steamboat Mountain. You'll want to pack in an ample amount of water as there are very few sources along the trail. 

How do I get to Teetering Rock Trail? Access the trailhead by heading for Mile 345 of the Alaska Highway. From Fort Nelson drive 99 kilometres northwest before turning off at Tetsa River Park. A map marks the trailhead, park here. 

Read more about this hikeClick here

 

Mineral Licks Trail (Muncho Lake)

Mineral Lick Trail (Muncho Lake)
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petechar/

Distance: 1.3 kilometres

Time: 2 hours

Level of difficulty: Easy

Details: This is a relatively easy hike that affords stellar views of Trout River and the mineral-laden cliffs, where you might be able to see wildlife.

How do I get to Mineral Licks Trail? Access the trailhead by heading to Mile 454 of the Alaska Highway, roughly 275 km northwest of Fort Nelson. 

Read more about this hikeClick here

 

    

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