The Ubyssey’s hiking guide: Intermediate adventures

Looking to get out and enjoy the beauty of the Vancouver trails, but not sure where to start? Here are a few suggestions, from shoreside to mountaintop, for you to get into the hiking craze. We’ve showcased the beginner walks — now it’s time for the more intermediate hikes, some of which can be done now or can be scheduled for your summer!

St. Mark’s Summit

Location: Cypress Mountain, North Vancouver.

Distance (round trip): 11 kilometres.

Estimated time: 5 hours.

Elevation gain: 460 metres.

Dogs: On-leash.

Season: July to October.

St. Mark’s Summit is part of the more extensive Howe Sound Crest Trail that extends over 30 kilometres from Mount Seymour to Porteau Cove, and is a popular day trip. The terrain is a bit varied, but for the most part, it is well maintained. There are some junctions that aren’t marked quite as clearly, especially when you are heading back down, so pay attention to where you’ve passed through.

The first view you’ll see is of the Lions and Unnecessary Mountain, but if you continue on, there is a great look out to Howe Sound, the Tantalus Range, the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.

There are also small squirrels that like to flit about at the top, so watch your snacks closely if you don’t want them stolen!

You can see all the way to Vancouver Island on a good day from St. Mark's.
You can see all the way to Vancouver Island on a good day from St. Mark's. Courtesy Josianne Haag

Norvan Falls

Location: Lynn Valley, North Vancouver.

Distance (round trip): 14 kilometres.

Estimated time: 5 hours.

Elevation gain: 195 metres.

Dogs: Yes!

Season: Year-round.

This is a nice hike simply because it is one of the only longer ones near Vancouver that is good to do any time of year. It doesn’t offer any breathtaking viewpoints from a high vantage point but it’s a quiet, dog-friendly trail with personality (in a good way).

Starting from Lynn Headwaters, it’s pretty flat all the way to Debris Chute halfway to the falls. Along the way, you might spot a metal rusting car part or pipe just off the path from years ago — I still have no idea why they are there.

The first section is nice if you want to run it and then take a break at the chute where there is a nice path down to the river. If you do the hike in the middle of summer, there can be quite a few annoying, flying bugs down by the water, but otherwise it’s a great break and it can give your dog a good place to take a drink.

From there, the trail gets a little bit more rugged as it slopes up to the falls. Enclosed in the forest, the falls will pop seemingly out of nowhere, the rushing water bringing with it gusts of cold air. There are plenty of big rocks to lay out sweaty socks while you dip your toes into some of the pools of water below. This part of the woods is not too busy as dog walkers don’t often go past the Debris Chute.

Garibaldi Lake

Location: Squamish.

Distance (round trip): 18 kilometres.

Estimated time: 5 hours.

Elevation gain: 820 metres.

Dogs: No.

Season: July to October.

Garibaldi Lake must be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

This hike could be done as an overnight trip if you wanted — you can camp right beside Garibaldi Lake or Taylor Meadows a few kilometres away in the middle of a field of flowers and soft land, with wooden pathways leading the entire way through. Either way, you are waking up in the most gorgeous location.

However, the switchbacks can be much more difficult with the added weight of a backpack, so a day trip can be just as fun. The path is very well maintained the entire way, and there are clear markers leading to the meadows and to the lake. One warning: even though the lake is a pristine turquoise on a sunny day, it is glacier water so bring your swimsuit if you dare.

There’s even a mini island in the lake that you can access by jumping across the rocks. This is a view that you won’t be able to get without the effort it takes to get up there — no matter where you drive — which makes the entire experience so much more special.

The alpine lake of Garibaldi.
The alpine lake of Garibaldi. File Tetiana Konstantynivska

Lynn Peak

Location: Lynn Valley, North Vancouver.

Distance (round trip): 9 kilometres.

Estimated time: 4 hours.

Elevation gain: 720 metres.

Dogs: On-leash.

Season: June to October.

Have you ever wanted to do the Grouse Grind, but didn’t want people to watch you suffer? Then this hike is perfect for you. Buried deep within Lynn Headwaters, this hike offers numerous stopping points for views of Mount Seymour and Grouse Mountain.

Lynn Headwaters has very clear signs to show you where the trail branches off from the more populated walking paths. The entire walk is beautiful, from the old growth forest to the quick peeks of Mount Seymour before you get to the first good viewpoint an hour and a half later. The trail only gets steeper after that, but it’s leading to better views so stick with it.

It’s best to do this hike on a clear, sunny day because the final viewpoint – a little further up than the clear spot to see Grouse – is of Mount Seymour and even the States if you’re lucky. Be careful on the way down because the trail can get slippery and steep, which is a dangerous combination.

Stawamus Chief

Location: Squamish.

Distance (round trip): 11 kilometres.

Estimated time: 6 hours.

Elevation gain: 600 metres.

Dogs: On-leash.

Season: March to November.

If you wanted to make an overnight trip of Stawamus Chief, there is camping at the bottom of the hike (so backpacking up is not necessary). However, this is also a great day trip.

The path starts immediately with stairs that might give you nightmares of the Grouse Grind, but it is right next to a rushing stream so the noise can drown out your negative thoughts. There is a quick side trail you can take to pop by the top of Shannon Falls, which can also be seen by an easy trail below as well. But, when you’re done soaking in the views, it is back to the stairs.

Just when you think you’ve had enough (after 20 or 30 minutes of stair walking from the bottom) the steep climb is over with and it turns into rugged terrain.

The simplest hike is just to the first peak of the Chief, but the other two can still be done in the same day if you decide to commit to the journey. On the way to the first peak, there are some ladders bolted into the rock. As the tree line falls away and it’s nothing but exposed rock, there are even chains nailed into the side of the mountain to help you heave yourself to the top without fear of slipping.

On a clear day, you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of Howe Sound and the Sea-to-Sky highway.