VANCOUVER — Want a break from the hustle and bustle of the city? Then head for the hills — of British Columbia. But there are a few things to remember before taking a hike. For instance:
• Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or first timer, remember weather can change rapidly in the mountains.
• Don’t think proximity to the city guarantees safety.
• Wear sturdy boots with soles with good grip.
• Carry collapsible trekking poles in your pack, ready when needed.
• Be prepared to take care of yourself in an emergency.
• Include water, food, extra clothing, rain gear and a map of the area as daypack essentials.
• Don’t rely on cellphone service to call Search and Rescue.
• Carry a compass with a mirror and a shrill whistle to signal for help.
• Know the suggested hiking time, then allow a few extra hours.
• Last up, a headlamp, to keeps hands free in case you are forced to return after dark.
Now get out there and enjoy these Fabulous Five hikes in B.C.
Above: B.C.'s Fab Five hiking trails offer people a place where they can get away from it all.
1- Mount Seymour
Distance: 9 km round trip / Elevation gain: 577m / Time: 5 hours
There’s more to North Shore hiking than the Grouse Grind. My love affair with mountain hiking began when I moved from Toronto to Vancouver in the 1970s. Mount Seymour, a great beginners’ hike, was my first foray into the North Shore Mountains.
For years after that first hike I shared towering coastal rainforest cedar and dwarfed alpine fir with my new Canadian Grade 5 students as often as I could.
I never tired of watching them experience the beauty of Mount Seymour for the first time. They scrambled up the trails mesmerized by craggy peaks and ocean views, marveling when I pointed out Stanley Park and their home neighbourhood in East Vancouver.
Granola filled outstretched palms stretched skyward, they giggled as greedy Canada jays, also known as Whiskey Jacks, landed on their hands to nibble the treats. They fell in love with the outdoors. You will, too. A great hike for kids, parents and grandparents to enjoy together.
2- Hollyburn Peak Trail
Distance: 7 km / Elevation gain: 450m / Time: 3.5 hours
Also rated as moderate, this scenic trail is suitable for three generations. The peak was first reached by members of Vancouver Mountaineering Club in 1908 and has been a popular destination ever since.
Be sure to pack a picnic to enjoy along with the panorama view at the summit. Small lakes border the Lower Powerline, Upper Powerline and Baden Powell Trail.
Keep your dog on a leash and watch out for hungry black bears filling up on berries, especially in the fall before hibernation season.
Be sure to make time for a short side trip. Wander by historic Hollyburn Lodge, built in 1926, still a mecca for cross-country skiers and snowshoers. You might catch a glimpse of some of the rustic cabins built by Hollyburn pioneers.
Above: Hiking the Fab Five with a close friend or family member is a special event.
3- The Lions (Binkert) Trail
Distance: 16 km / Elevation gain: 1,285m / Time: 8 hours
The Lions are the two most familiar peaks seen from the city of Vancouver. Rated as difficult, this trail is popular for hiking as well as trail running.
To avoid snow, try this July to October.
It can be a long day, so take lots of water and snacks.
The steep trail through Western red cedar and Douglas fir forests changes from a dirt track, to gravel to rocks and then to boulders.
Sturdy hiking boots, a map and attention to trail markers are a must. Missing markers could mean an even longer day with a detour to aptly named Unnecessary Mountain.
When I hike this trail, I always remember Norwegian- born Dag Aabye, who survived an avalanche when he pulled off the first ski descent of the Lions in the ‘70s, earning him the title of the Father of Freeride skiing.
4- Deeks Lake
Distance: 13 km / Elevation: 980m / Time: 7.5 hours
If you love fishing, this trail within the boundaries of Cypress Provincial Park, is for you.
After the first relatively easy 3 kms along an old logging road, the trail turns into a very steep climb. The beautiful little lake at the summit is chock-a-block full of hand-sized trout that will bite at anything you throw at them.
The trail can be slippery even when dry. Melting snow and rain, even during July and August, make the trail challenging, especially downhill. I ended up sliding down tough sections on my rain pants last time I hiked this trail in late spring.
Muddy, but fun. Just don’t get going too fast.
5- Elfin Lakes (Diamond Head)
Distance: 22 km / Elevation gain: 700m / Time: 6 hours
Alpine flowers in summer, a heated shelter in winter, what’s not to love? You’ll certainly fall in love with red heather meadows, pristine alpine lakes (one for swimming, one reserved for drinking water) and access to other more challenging destinations such as Opal Cone, the Gargoyles or Mamquam Lake.
It’s a summer picnic destination that allows a reconnaisnace for a possible return in winter. From November to June this trail offers an excellent seven-hour (or overnight) snowshoe or my favourite ski tour excursion to the heated Elfin Lakes shelter.
Tire chains are mandatory in winter to reach the Elfin Lakes (Diamond Head) parking lot. Remember mountain weather can change rapidly. Sunshine one minute, blizzard the next. Be prepared with extra food, water and warm and waterproof clothing.