1. Joffre Lakes, Pemberton BC
About a three hour drive from Vancouver, this 11 km hike is well worth it for beginner hikers who are up for a day long adventure. It took us almost six hours to complete, but we did stop frequently to take in the views and spent almost an hour eating lunch at the top. The hike itself isn’t difficult (only a 400 m elevation gain), and most of the time feels more like a leisurely stroll among breathtakingly beautiful mountain ridges.
The trail leads you to three lakes, (creatively named First Lake, Second Lake, and Third Lake), each more spectacular than the last. First Lake is only a ten minute walk from the parking lot, and a beautiful sight, but we were itching to get started and didn’t spend too long there. The path snakes through a heavy forest until suddenly you’re out of the green canopy and emerge under a bright blue sky, snowy tipped mountains looming to the left.
Second Lake (left) is a serene pool of deep, green water, nestled in the basin of a glacier. In early May, Second Lake is the most popular, for reasons we soon discovered. Third Lake (right) is barely a lake- its mostly huge chunks of ice drifting amidst rushing glacier water. We stepped off the trail and onto the thick ice sheet, and then hastily tip-toed back onto solid ground after watching my dog go too far, crack the ice, and expose the freezing lake below. Luckily, she scrambled back before actually falling into the water, and we decided to march back down to Second Lake- a much safer spot to appreciate the glacier.
Joffre Lakes is a popular hike, so don’t expect silent serenity on the trail. But even with the near constant line of fellow hikers, the surrounding mountains impose their quiet majesty in that ancient and soothing way, and its quite possible to lose yourself in the peaceful landscape and your methodical steps along the trail.
2. Stawamus Chief, Squamish BC
Moving a bit closer to Vancouver, The Chief is about an hour drive away from the city centre. The drive itself is spectacular- vast stretches of sparkling blue ocean peek out between the trees that line the highway.
My friend and I started our hike giggling and chattering, but soon our conversation became sporadic and then ceased altogether as we followed the steep, lung-burning path up the mountain, scrambling over rocks and roots. The Chief has three Peaks, but we only wanted to go to First Peak, which offers awing views of the Howe Sound.
This hike is challenging because of how steep it is- get ready to be gasping for breath for 90% of the trail. Although only 2 km to the top of First Peak (4 km round trip), the elevation gain is 535 m. We stumbled up the mountain, huffing and puffing and joking about how out of shape we were, and then finally stopped for a rest about 30 minutes in. Just as I was reaching for my water bottle I noticed an elderly couple jogging smartly up the trail towards us. We watched as they nodded to us and then continued past, breathing normally and barely breaking a sweat. Appropriately ashamed, we continued upwards, both vowing to work out more.
It took us just over an hour to reach the top, which is a bare, steep cliff with ropes designed to help you pull yourself to the summit. And wow, the summit is spectacular (and definitely worth the gruelling climb).
Exposed to the wind with no tree protection, we got cold pretty quickly, and decided to head back down the cliff and into the forest. By this time my legs felt wobbly with every step, but we were exhilarated and happy, and drove back to the city with a sense of proud accomplishment (and awesome instagram photos).
3. Dog Mountain, North Vancouver BC
Only a short drive from the city, this trail is on Seymour Mountain and offers beautiful views of the Vancouver skyline. I drove up with three friends and it took us a long time to find the trailhead- Google Maps weirdly took us to a logging site instead. So it was almost 5 o clock in the evening when we actually got started, and a recent rain had made the forest damp and muddy. On top of the quickly fading light and squelching mud, the trail was still packed thick with snow in multiple places. My dog was ecstatic, stomping through the mud and rolling in the snow, but a few of my newbie hiker friends were not impressed. We were all wearing sneakers, and the mud and snow led to dirty shoes and lots of slips- I would recommend boots to anyone planning on hiking here in May.
Despite it all, we had a lot of fun. The trail is quite flat, and makes for a quick hike and easy conversation. Its about 5 km round trip, and took about 2 hours to complete. Considering the minimal elevation gain, I didn’t expect a sensational view, but we were pleasantly surprised. The tree cover breaks to reveal a magnificent view of the city.
Evening on top of the mountain is cold, so we quickly hurried back to the car (not without a few hilarious falls on the slippery snow), and drove back to the city for a warm Pho dinner- the perfect end to another great hike.
4. Kinney Lake, Mt Robson BC
Mt Robson Provincial Park is 7 hours north of Vancouver, right near the Alberta border, so this hike is definitely not easily accessible from the city. But, because Mt. Robson is the highest peak of the magnificent Rockies, this incredible hike still warrants mention.
Despite the dreary weather and constant drizzle of rain, we decided to hike to Kinney Lake, a 9 km round trip. The trail goes on to Berg Lake (21 km one way), which is supposedly a spectacular glacier view, but since we were just looking for a day hike we stuck to Kinney. The trial is wide and gentle, curling around mountains alongside a rushing river. The lake is a shocking turquoise, mist drifting off the azure blue water and through the surrounding trees.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t spend too long admiring the view because swarms of vicious mosquitoes started attacking, gleefully feasting all over my arms, legs, and face. I’m slightly allergic to mosquitoes- nothing serious, but their bites tend to swell up to small welts. I’m not sure what was up with these mosquitoes, but their bites swelled to golf ball sizes. My skin looked freakishly lumpy and red, so we hurried back down the trail, away from the marshy, damp mosquito paradise.
Despite turning into a human buffet for nasty blood suckers, I really enjoyed the hike. Far away from any major city, we only encountered two other people on the trail. The wilderness here is more wild, somehow, fiercely untouched by civilization, which makes for a very different experience than the uber popular hikes near the city.
Here’s to many more days of exploring the trail. Kelly wrote a similar post describing her adventures in the Adirondacks- check it out here!