Picture yourself finally reaching the lookout after more than two hours of intense vomit inducing backcountry hiking straight up the back side of a mountain. You are drenched in sweat. You can't see straight and your limbs are numb but that's okay. The view is worth all of it. From up here, you can see the Indian Arm, the North Shore, the Alex Fraser Bridge, Mount Baker and even the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal! Hiking can be an extremely rewarding experience albeit not without a few bumps along the way.

A partial view from the Polytrichum Lookout near Buntzen Lake
A partial view from the Polytrichum Lookout near Buntzen Lake

Going on a Lower Mainland or Vancouver hiking trail? Officially, we can't tell you what to do.. But that won't stop us from sharing what we would do and what we would bring.

Things to Do Before Leaving
  • Let someone else know where you are going and when you are expected back. Even though many Vancouver hiking trails are often ripe with traffic, you may find yourself alone on the trail with the nearest person several kilometres away.
  • Hit the washroom one last time (you never know).
  • Make sure your cell phone is charged.

A lot of hiking safety is learning from experience. One of the first hikes I ever took all by myself, I misjudged the amount of time it would take me to finish the trail. By the time I returned to my car, the sun had nearly set and the park gate was closed and locked for the night. From now on, I check the park hours before I start my Vancouver hiking adventure.

Things to Bring With You

Ideally, I would bring every cool gadget and hiking tool with me. I've attempted doing that once, but it's an unrealistic request to expect your back to bear that amount of weight all day.

The Basics:
  • Map
  • Hiking Shoes with good tread
  • Fluids (electrolyte mixes are great for rehydration)
  • Ultralight med kit
  • Cell phone
  • Low fibre energy bar (trust me on the low fibre)
  • Lighter
  • Watch
  • A buddy
  • Extra pair of socks
  • Change of clothes
  • Breathable light pants that can convert into shorts
  • Backup battery for cell phone
  • GPS
  • Digital Camera
  • Bear Spray
  • Flash light
  • Garbage bag
  • A knife
  • Baseball Cap
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Some toilet paper/paper towel
  • Aspirin
One of the unique features of the coastal British Columbia region is that the weather can be unpredictable. Within an hour and just a slight difference in elevation, the sky can turn from clear and sunny, to thick fog or rain. Also, you may start a hike early in the morning when the air is crisp and cold only to find that as the morning turns to afternoon, you start working up a sweat and become uncomfortably hot risking sun stroke. It is best to dress prepared.

Helpful Tips
  • Ensure you bring the right footwear. A deep tread is ideal for most conditions.

  • Coastal British Columbia weather changes frequently. Add layers and bring a backpack to store away unnecessary clothing if required.

  • Bring a buddy along or at the very least let someone know where you are going.

  • Bring a light emergency kit and extra water to keep hydrated.

  • Hiking trail types and conditions can vary. Look for markers, tags, and reflectors.

  • Pay attention to the signage (i.e., "Viewpoint 2 KM") and be wary of the distance you have travelled.

BC Parks has created a great online pamphlet with ample information what to do to keep yourself and your group safe. You will need Adobe Reader.

Beginner Trails

New to Vancouver hiking trails? Consider some of the following hikes to get started. Many of the trails are less than an hour drive from anywhere around Vancouver

Sasamat Lake Loop in Anmore
This trail is a short loop with minimal elevation changes and high traffic.

Energy Trail
Located at the south end of Buntzen Lake, the Energy Trail is a short an equestrian trail not too far a walk from the parking lot.

Birch Grove Trail
Just a stones throw from the Tynehead Hatchery in Fleetwood that parallels the north end of the Serpentine River in Surrey.

South Arm Dyke Trail
Overlooking the southern arm of the Fraser River from Richmond, the Dyke Trail is a short, consistent and visible trail frequented by runners and seagulls.
Follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. -- Thomas Henry Huxley


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