Hanes Valley route in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park is a 15-kilometre trophy trek
There are at least two approaches to most destinations: low or high, short or long. If you’re in no hurry to make your way around North Vancouver between Lynn Valley and Grouse Mountain, now is the prime time to hike the Hanes Valley route in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park that links them.
Make no mistake: this is a 15-kilometre trophy trek. On the upside, Metro Vancouver Parks operations supervisor Tom McComb told the Georgia Straight that the 15-kilometre route has experienced rising popularity.
“Many don’t do the whole thing, but we estimate about 32,000 people found their way into what we call the Grouse alpine meadows [in 2009]. That’s where I challenged my staff to set up signs that we could take down in winter. We just built mesh-covered rock cairns topped with removable markers, and we’re already getting positive feedback from hikers.”
Grouse Mountain operations manager Erik Bowkett agreed that the route is now in fine form. “We just got a letter last week from a hiker thanking us for what good shape the trail is in. Of course, I passed it along to Tom as well.” One thing that McComb and Bowkett want hikers to keep in mind is that the Hanes route leads farther from civilization than one might think. “At this time of year, when daylight hours are shorter, it’s important to know your timelines,” Bowkett said. “Enjoy it, love it, but always be prepared to overnight, even if you don’t plan to.”
The first decision you’ll have to make is which direction to follow. If you’re in top shape, start at first light and ascend the Grouse Grind as a warm-up. From there, circle around Grouse and Dam mountains down into Lynn Headwaters. On paper, this may look pretty good. In practice, even if you were to get a lift to the top of the Grind on the Grouse Mountain Skyride, the toll on your legs would be much greater than if you were to begin at the Lynn Valley entrance to the park. Blame the pain on a stretch of talus that must be negotiated at the route’s midpoint no matter which way you go. This steep skree slope in the Hanes Valley presents a far greater challenge for stable footing on the way down than up.
McComb agreed. His advice? “It’s far better for your peace of mind to self-register at the entrance before setting off.” Ease into the 11-kilometre ramble along the Cedar Mill and Headwaters trails, which lead in four hours into Hanes Valley. From there, budget three hours to cross the slope between the north end of Headwaters Trail in the valley bottom and Crown Pass at the top.
When it comes to the necessary route-finding skills, Gordon White, author of Stein Valley Wilderness Guidebook, told the Straight that hikers should have the ability to read a detailed topographic map. “It’s important to understand the terrain around you to find a safe route in case the weather closes in, and to carry a decent amount of water, at least two litres, especially on the talus slope when the sun comes out.” As for footwear, White recommended something sturdier than running shoes, preferably leather with good ankle support.
One of the joys of following the Cedar Mill and Headwaters trails is that for much of the way they lead beside energetic Lynn Creek. Although the water is rarely deep or warm enough for a swim, some of the best pools occur where the two trails meet. Pause there to splash a bracing spray on your face. The tingling, cleansing feeling will sharpen your wits and prepare you to cross Lynn Creek on conveniently placed logs farther along at the entrance into Hanes Valley.
As you look to the top of Crown Pass, from where the well-signed Headwaters Trail ends, cairns mark the way. The distance doesn’t appear all that great, but think again. It won’t take long to reconsider that initial assessment as you chart a course through the swath of greenery and boulders that carpet the steep-sided basin. Except for the occasional clatter of rocks being shed from Crown Mountain’s steadily eroding basalt features—the source of the talus—silence reigns supreme. Once at the top of the pass, the trail west to Grouse Mountain levels considerably and will deliver you to the Skyride in two hours.
Stay alert for signs of black bears along this section; scat or overturned stones are telltale signs. Keep up a conversation with your companions to alert the shy bruins of your presence. After the energy you’ve expended to reach this point, the choice of beverages at the end of the jaunt will be foremost on the list of topics.
ACCESS: To reach Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, follow Mountain Highway or Lynn Valley Road north off the Upper Levels Highway (Highway 1/99). Signs pointing to the park begin at the turnoff to popular Lynn Canyon Park. Stay on Lynn Valley Road until it ends, then follow Intake Road for about 1 kilometre to the parking lot, where trails begin. By transit, catch the #228 Lynn Valley bus from the SeaBus terminal at Lonsdale Quay to Intake Road, the last stop on its route. Grouse Mountain is serviced by the #232 and #236 buses. Due to the rough terrain, crossing Hanes Valley is not recommended for dogs. Note: pets are not permitted on the Grouse Mountain Skyride.