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With its expansive landscape of mountains, inlets, alpine lakes, and approachable glaciers, as well as low-lying rivers, hills, dikes, and meadows, southwestern British Columbia is a hiker's paradise. That said, areas and trails should be approached with physical ability and stamina in mind. The North Shore Mountains, for example, may appear benign, but this is a vast and rugged territory filled with natural pitfalls and occasionally hostile wildlife, and you should exercise great caution. The Baden-Powell Trail is a roughly 48-km (30-mile) trail for only the ablest hikers; it extends the entire length of the North Shore Mountains, from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove, passing through both Cypress Provincial Park and Mount Seymour Provincial Park. Every year, hikers wander off clearly marked trails, or outside well-posted public areas, with tragic results. If you're heading into the mountains, hike with a companion, pack warm clothes (even in summer), and extra food and water, and leave word of your route and the time you expect to return. Remember that weather can change quickly in the mountains.
Environment Canada. It's always a good idea to check the weather forecast with Environment Canada. www.weatheroffice.gc.ca.
In addition to the Mountain Equipment Co-op, there are several places around town for good books, maps, and advice.
International Travel Maps & Books. The well-regarded International Travel Maps & Books publishes its own maps, and is also the local distributor for the Canada Map Office, stocking federally made topographic maps and charts of the region. 12300 Bridgeport Rd., Richmond, Vancouver, BC, V6V 1J5. 604/273–1400. www.itmb.ca.
Wanderlust. A major supplier of goods and gear for travelers, Wanderlust has a well-stocked section of maps and guidebooks. 1929 W. 4th Ave., Kitsilano, Vancouver, BC, V6J 1M7. 604/739–2182. www.wanderlustore.com.
Capilano River Regional Park. This small but spectacular park is where you'll find old-growth fir trees approaching 61 meters (200 feet). In addition to 26 km (16 miles) of hiking trails in and around Capilano Canyon, there are a dramatic suspension bridge and a salmon hatchery that's open to the public. The park is at the end of Capilano Park Road in North Vancouver. 4063-4077 Capilano Park Rd., North Vancouver, BC, V7R 4L4. 604/224–5739. www.metrovancouver.org.
Cultus Lake Provincial Park. About 11 km (7 miles) southwest of Chilliwack is Cultus Lake, known for its great fishing and water sports. All five types of salmon live here, as well as rainbow, steelhead, and cutthroat trout. In summer, a free fishing camp for kids under 16 is offered by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of British Columbia. There are also waterskiing, windsurfing, and swimming, as well as hiking. The Cascade Mountains, where you'll find Cultus Lake, are about an hour and a half east of Vancouver. 4150 Columbia Valley Hwy., off Hwy. 1, Cultus Lake, BC, BC V2R 5S4. 604/858–7241.
Cypress Provincial Park. This 3,012-hectare (7,442-acre) park sprawls above Howe Sound, embracing the Strachan, Black, and Hollyburn mountains. On a clear day you can see Mt. Baker (in Washington State) and Vancouver Island. While the park includes a commercial ski and biking area operated by Cypress Bowl Resorts, much of the terrain is a public hiking paradise (bikes are permitted on roadways, but not on hiking trails). This is backcountry, though, and only experienced hikers should attempt the more remote routes, including the Baden-Powell and Howe Sound Crest trails, which traverse this mountain region. Cypress Bowl Rd., off Hwy. 1, West Vancouver, BC, V7G 1L3. 604/926–5612. www.env.gov.bc.ca.
Garibaldi Provincial Park. About 97 km (60 miles) north of Vancouver, Garibaldi Provincial Park is a serious hiker's dream. You can't miss it: the 8,786-foot (2,678-m) peak of Mount Garibaldi kisses the heavens just north of Squamish. Alpine meadows and wildlife viewing await you on trails leading to Black Tusk, Diamond Head, Cheakamus Lake, Elfin Lakes, and Singing Pass. Mountain goat and bald eagles are found throughout the park. If you venture into the Red Heather area, also be prepared for black bears. This is truly one of Canada's most spectacular wildernesses, and being easily accessible from Vancouver makes it even more appealing. A compass is mandatory, as are food and water, rain gear, a flashlight, and a first aid kit. There are also two medium to advanced mountain bike trails. Take seriously the glacier hazards and avalanche warnings. Snow tires are necessary in winter. Hwy. 99, between Squamish and Pemberton, Squamish-Lillooet, BC. 800/689–9025.
Golden Ears Provincial Park. Hiking, horseback riding, and swimming in Alouette Lake are popular pastimes in Golden Ears Provincial Park. There are also windsurfing, waterskiing, boating, and fishing in these traditional lands of the Coast Salish and Interior Salish First Nations peoples. When it was split off from Garibaldi Provincial Park in 1927, Golden Ears earned its name from the twin peaks of Mount Blanshard. Binoculars come in handy for wildlife viewing like beaver, deer, mountain goat. Be on your guard, as there are frequent black bear sightings. Fern Crescent Rd., Maple Ridge, BC, V2W. 604/466–8325.
Grouse Mountain. Vancouver's most famous, or infamous, hiking route, the Grind, is a 2.9-km (1.8-mile) climb straight up 2,500 vertical feet to the top of Grouse Mountain. Thousands do it annually, but climbers are advised to be very experienced and in excellent physical condition. The route is open daily, 6:30 am to 7:30 pm, from spring through autumn (conditions permitting). Or you can take the Grouse Mountain Skyride to the top 365 days a year; a round-trip ticket is C$39.95. There are additional hiking trails accessible from the gondola, including the Goat Mountain Trail, which can take you even farther up. At the ski resort, drop-in ski and snowboard lessons are C$125, including lift and equipment rental. 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, BC, V7R 4K9. 604/980–9311. www.grousemountain.com.
Indian Arm Provincial Park. This somewhat remote region of rugged mountains, alpine lakes, vigorous creeks, and the 150-foot-high Granite Falls lies just east of Vancouver along an 18-km (11-mile) fjord called Indian Arm. The park is co-managed by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, who have lived here since "time out of mind." There's boating, kayaking, scuba diving, and fishing, as well as excellent hiking opportunities through old-growth forests. Most trails are steep and are not for novices. Downloadable maps are available at vancouver.ca/maps.htm. At this writing the access road was closed, making the park accessible only by boat. On the eastern and western shores of Indian Arm, North Vancouver, BC. 604/990–3800.
Lighthouse Park. This 75-hectare (185-acre) wilderness wraps around the historic lighthouse at Point Atkinson, where Howe Sound meets Burrard Inlet in the municipality of West Vancouver. A bank of soaring granite (popular for picnicking) shapes the foreshore, while the interior is an undulating terrain of mostly Douglas fir, arbutus, and rich undergrowth. Three miles of trails, from easy to challenging, bring you close to the birds and other wildlife. Beacon La., off Marine Dr., West Vancouver, BC, V7W 1K4. 604/925–7200. www.westvancouver.ca.
Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. This 5,668-hectare (14,000-acre) reserve includes 25 km (15.5 mi) of hiking trails, some steep and challenging. End of Lillooet Rd., North Vancouver, BC, V7M 1N5. 604/432–6286.
Mount Seymour Provincial Park. Located 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver, this 3,508-hectare (14,683-acre) wilderness park offers 14 hiking trails of varying length and difficulty and spectacular views of the Lower Mainland. Warm clothing—and caution—are advised. Routes include access to the Baden-Powell Trail, which continues northwest to Horseshoe Bay. You can also hike 3.2 km (just under 2 miles) down to Deep Cove on Indian Arm. In winter, the trails are used for snowshoeing, and there's a supervised snow play area. Mount Seymour Rd., off Seymour Pkwy., North Vancouver, BC, V7G 1L3. www.env.gov.bc.ca.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park. A 763-hectare (1,185-acre) forest, Pacific Spirit has 54 km (33 miels) of walking and hiking trails around Point Grey. It sits on Vancouver's west side, close to the University of British Columbia. Open dawn to dusk year-round, it provide access to beaches on Burrard Inlet and Georgia Strait. 4915 W. 16th Ave., Vancouver, BC, V6T 2C9. 604/224–5739. www.metrovancouver.org.
Stanley Park. With its moderate walking and easy hiking paths, it's no wonder that Stanley Park attracts 8 million visitors annually. The most picturesque route is the 8.8-km (5½-mile) seawall around its perimeter, but the 1,000-acre park also offers 27 km (167 miles) of well-maintained trails through the coniferous forest, including patches of old growth forest. Here you'll experience a true rain forest and spot birds and small mammals. An easy interior trail runs around Lost Lagoon, and Beaver Lake is a popular destination. Vancouver Aquarium's beluga whales are not to be missed. Northern end of Georgia St., Vancouver, BC, V6G 3E2. 604/602–3088. www.vancouver.ca/parks/parks/stanley.
Novice hikers and serious walkers can join guided trips or do self-guided walks of varying approach and difficulty. Grouse Mountain hosts several daily "eco-walks" along easy, meandering paths. Discussion of flora and fauna and a visit to the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife is included. They're free with admission to Grouse Mountain Skyride.
Rockwood Adventures. This company gives guided walks of rain forest or coastal terrain, including Lighthouse Park, Lynn and Capilano canyons, and Bowen Island in Howe Sound. It also offers walking tours of Vancouver with an emphasis on wine and food. 6578 Acorn Rd., Sechelt, BC, V0N 3A7. 604/980–7749 or 888/236–6606. www.rockwoodadventures.com.