Places to Be: Eagle Bluffs

I’m perched on the edge of a boulder, gazing out at the endless Howe Sound. It’s a partly cloudy Saturday morning, the white billows of cloud adding character to the sky – a sky that I feel part of. The view is humbling. Breathing is different up here. The air is rare. I inhale.

Eagle Bluffs is one of those hikes that’s grown on me. The first time I did it, I vowed I would never do it again. I’ve done it four times since.

You can start the hike from either Horseshoe Bay or the ski parking lot at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver. If you’re an amateurish-intermediate hiker like myself, choose the latter. From the parking lot, head towards the ski rental lodge and follow the signs on the wooden boards to the trailhead. The route you are looking for is to Black Mountain via the Baden Powell Trail, which you will pass on your way to the bluffs.

Once you begin, you may want to turn back. I sure did my first time. Don’t.

After about five to ten minutes, you start ascending a series of switchbacks. It’s about a half hour of pure uphill trail, exposed with no tree cover. If you’re doing this on a hot day, do it early in the morning. The good news is, because you’re out in the open, you can take a breather at the corner of any switchback and admire the view. Many hikes, you have to wait until the end for the reward. On Eagle Bluffs, you get an immediate reward during the hardest section.

View from one end of a switchback.
View from one end of a switchback. Courtesy Brandon Wei

After you finish trekking up the switchbacks, you’ve gained most of the elevation for the hike – no more long, uphill portions. You’ll also be in the alpine for the remainder of the trail, which is a welcome reprieve when the sun is heavier than your backpack. I love the sensation of hiking through the forest on the top of a mountain. All that exists are the trees around you and the soil under your feet.

You’ll hit Cabin Lake – a popular swimming spot and venue to make some new friends. I certainly did. Bring snacks!

The rest of the hike is pretty serene, unless it’s a busy day and you’re constantly stepping off to the side of the trail to let fellow hikers pass — like I said, go early. You have to do a tiny bit of climbing up to Black Mountain, then the trail undulates until you reach the bluffs.

Groups of hikers enjoying Eagle Bluffs.
Groups of hikers enjoying Eagle Bluffs. Courtesy Brandon Wei

After a few weeks that have been particularly hard on my mental health, I find myself back in this moment: 1,200 metres above all the anxieties and insecurities that life has me feeling. The elevation makes the world feel so small. It makes the interview that just fell through for my story seem inconsequential. It makes applying for internships seem less like a life-or-death task. It makes me feel like I can make mistakes and still succeed – like when I tripped over that branch at Black Mountain but got up and still finished the hike.

It makes me feel like I can breathe.

Breathing is different up here. This air is rare. I exhale all my tension and stress and watch it dissipate before the dignity of the mountain that has just been conquered.

This is a place to be.