When I first got into hiking I did as many day hikes and backpacking trips as I could during the fleeting summer season, and then sat around bored the rest of the year. My second stage of hiking involved adding snowshoeing in the winter, which covered me for two seasons, but left me sitting around in the dreaded “shoulder season” as the wet fall and spring seasons are known. These days, you’ll find me hiking every weekend, year round, regardless of weather. What changed for me was finding a repertoire of lower elevation hikes that are good for exploration and exercise. I’m not going to lie – a good Gore-Tex jacket and gaitors are definitely necessary!
Here are some of my top should season hikes in Vancouver.
The Brothers Creek area is my top destination for off-season hikes. Waterfalls, several forest lakes, ancient trees and historical logging equipment make for an engaging day out. Beyond the Brothers Creek Trail itself, there is a lovely portion of the Baden-Powell Trail here, as well as several connectors such as the Crossover Trail and Larsen Forestry Loop. If you and your friends are into Geo-Caching, this area boasts a very high concentration of caches. The Hollyburn Fir and the Candelabra Tree are both well worth a visit. Note: You are likely to run into snow on the upper portions of this trail around Lost and Blue Gentian Lakes, so wear good footwear. Bus accessible from West Van.
Big Cedar Trail
A lesser-travelled trail in the Lynn Headwaters area, the Big Cedar Trail travels to a 600 year old red Cedar in a secluded section of forest. Intrepid parties can carry on on a rough trail beyond the cedar that goes to Kennedy Falls, which in the wetter off seasons will be magnificent. Start out on the Baden-Powell travelling in the direction of Grouse and head uphill on the Griffen mountain bike trails until you hit the Cedar Tree Trail. Take this wide trail until it ends and then follow the markers into the forest (this is now the Big Cedar Trail). Bus accessible.
Perimeter/Old Cabin Trail
Lower Seymour offers some good trail options for inclement weather, as they are sheltered somewhat by the dense forest. The Perimeter Trail and Old Cabin Trail are pleasant and offer a reasonable workout without requiring a lot of time. It’s possible to connect with Goldie and Flower Lake further up, but you will get into some deeper snow.
Another fun option in these parts is to try and find the old private cabins. Seymour used to be home to more than 300 private cabins, but now only a handful remain. For more of a workout, start lower down on Seymour and take the steep Three Chop Trail. The Three Chop and Old Buck trailheads are bus accessible.
More of a walk than a hike, the Fisherman’s Trail off the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve (LSCR) is still a good option. What it lacks in elevation it gains in length. The trail also has excellent views of the Seymour River valley and some peaks in the Fannin Range including Mount Seymour and Runner Peak. If you’re into big trees, the Fisherman’s Trail can be combined with a visit to The Temples of Time Grove, which is an amazing group of very big and old Douglas Firs and Cedars that were someone spared from the intense logging that took place in the Seymour Valley. The Temples of Time Grove is found by following a flagged trail up from between the 4KM and 5KM points on the LSCR. Bus accessible.
Mosquito Creek Cascades
Last but not least, the trails of Lower Grouse are a good option for short, dark days. In particular, the Mosquito Creek Cascades Trail is fun and scenic. It travels by some big trees and ends at an open section of Mosquito Creek. This trail also boasts my favourite bridge on the North Short, a narrow, beautifully crafted suspension bridge called the Kwai Bridge.
It’s extra important to be prepared for all conditions when hiking in shoulder season as the days are shorter and can be chilly. Always let a responsible person know where you’re going and what action to take if you don’t check in or return on time. There is lots of good, inexpensive safety gear on the market such as emergency “space” blankets and hand warmers that are wise to pack along.
In addition to maintaining your cardio and muscle conditioning for when peak hiking season does finally return, shoulder season hiking allows you to explore some new areas that can seem “wasted” on a perfect dry, sunny day, yet are still worth a visit in their own right.
So without further ado, I wish you happy trails; as muddy, misty and soggy as they may be right now!