10 awe-inspiring B.C. hikes to do before you die

From Three Brothers Mountain to the North Coast Trail, these spectacular trips belong on your to-do list

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      Hikers in the Vancouver area are spoiled for choice.

      From Black Tusk and the Stawamus Chief to the Howe Sound Crest Trail and Elk Mountain, the unceded First Nations territories of southwestern British Columbia have no shortage of spectacular trails.

      Indeed, it’s downright difficult to narrow them down to a list of the best hikes within a day’s drive of Vancouver, so I’m not even going to try.

      That being said, here’s 10 amazing day hikes and backpacking trips in B.C. that deserve to be on your ever-growing to-do list.


      1. North Coast Trail

      Shuttleworth Bight.
      Stephen Hui

      Where: Cape Scott Provincial Park, Vancouver Island.

      Category: Multi-day backpack (7 days recommended, water taxi required).

      There’s nothing easy about the North Coast Trail, a 43.1-kilometre extension to the Cape Scott Trail. But a backpacking trip on this rugged and remote trail at the northern tip of Vancouver Island just might be one of the best experiences of your life. If you’re thinking about tackling the NCT, I recommend obtaining a copy of Maria I. Bremner’s excellent guidebook, Cape Scott and the North Coast Trail (Harbour Publishing).


      2. Brandywine Mountain

      Cairn on the summit of Brandywine Mountain.
      Stephen Hui

      Where: Near Whistler.

      Category: Day hike and scramble.

      There’s a good chance you’ve visited Brandywine Falls on the way to Whistler. Across the Sea to Sky Highway lies two other spectacular natural features bearing the same name. Together, Brandywine Meadows and Brandywine Mountain make for a top-notch hiking and scrambling day trip lasting around eight hours. The route travels through interesting forest, across the wondrous subalpine meadows, up steep rocky and snowy slopes (ice axes are advisable), and along the south ridge to Brandywine’s 2,200-metre-high summit.


      3. Three Brothers Mountain

      Subalpine meadows on Big Buck Mountain.
      Stephen Hui

      Where: E.C. Manning Provincial Park.

      Category: Day hike.

      As far as day hikes go, Three Brothers Mountain has it all: rocky ridges and summits, subalpine meadows with colourful wildflowers, and sweet views of the Cascade Range. That’s why it’s easily one of the best hikes in southwestern British Columbia, right up there with the likes of Black Tusk. From the start of the Heather Trail at Blackwall Peak, hiking to 2,272-metre-high First Brother Mountain, the closest peak of the Three Brothers, involves a round trip of around six hours.


      4. Sunshine Coast Trail

      Tin Hat Mountain hut.
      Stephen Hui

      Where: Powell River, Upper Sunshine Coast.

      Category: Multi-day backpack (12 days recommended, water taxi required).

      While the Sunshine Coast Trail isn’t as difficult as the North Coast Trail, it offers its own special set of challenges. Traversing B.C.’s Upper Sunshine Coast from Sarah Point on Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay on Jervis Inlet, the SCT offers no beach hiking, climbs up and over a few mountains, and covers three times as much distance as the NCT. It’s largely a forest trail—one that visits old-growth groves, clear-cuts, and everything in between. Eleven huts provide shelter along the way, so hikers can plan to spend all but two nights under their roofs. Hotels in the city of Powell River, which is a good place to resupply, often profit from one of the remaining nights, while the other typically involves tent camping near Lois Lake.


      5. Crown Mountain

      Crown Mountain from Dam Mountain.
      Stephen Hui

      Where: North Shore.

      Category: Day hike and scramble.

      Aside from the Lions, Crown Mountain is the most distinctive peak on Vancouver’s North Shore. Rising north of Grouse Mountain, the main summit is fittingly referred to as the Pyramid, while the curiously shaped rock formation known as the Camel sits on its shoulder. Crown is a classic North Shore hike, but it’s not for everyone. Novices, kids, and dogs have no business on this mountain. Gaining the top requires negotiating steep trails and some exposed scrambling—and is better left to days without rain, snow, or significant wind. One slip on this mountain could do you in.


      6. Mount McGuire

      Wildflowers at Mount McGuire.
      Stephen Hui

      Where: Chilliwack River Valley.

      Category: Day hike and scramble (4x4 vehicle required).

      Mount McGuire’s northeast ridge route is a challenging, mostly off-trail trip (for experienced hikers only). It involves ascending a rockslide, following a path along the ridge, and wading down through steep wildflower meadows to the east side of McGuire. After traversing over rocky ground to the southeast ridge, hikers meet the formerly standard trail to McGuire. Then it’s up to the summit ridge, with the crux being a brief exposed traverse to the right side of the crest. The rewards: views of Mount Baker and the Cascade Range, the Cheam Range across the Chilliwack Valley, and the Fraser Valley.


      7. Snow Camp Mountain

      Hozomeen Mountain from Snow Camp Mountain.
      Stephen Hui

      Where: E.C. Manning Provincial Park.

      Category: Day hike.

      The Skyline Trail is often done as a backpacking trip, but a day hike to Snow Camp Mountain is a good way to sample the area’s delights. From the Strawberry Flats parking lot, the Skyline Trail climbs steadily through forest before passing through subalpine meadows and across steep rocky slopes. From the grassy mountaintop, fantastic views of nearby Lone Goat and Red mountains as well as striking Hozomeen Mountain across the U.S. border, are had. The 17-kilometre round trip involves an elevation gain of 600 metres and takes around six hours.


      8. Mount Steele

      Lesser Mount Steele at sunset.
      Stephen Hui

      Where: Tetrahedron Provincial Park, Lower Sunshine Coast.

      Category: Day or overnight hike.

      For hikers, Mount Steele is the destination of choice in Tetrahedron Provincial Park. Amazing views are the reward waiting atop this mountain. Much credit must be given to the Tetrahedron Outdoor Club, which maintains trails and facilities in the Class A park.


      9. Evans Peak

      On top of Evans Peak.
      Stephen Hui

      Where: Golden Ears Provincial Park.

      Category: Day hike.

      Located north of Maple Ridge, Golden Ears Provincial Park is known for such hiking destinations as its namesake twin peaks and Alouette Mountain. It can take a long day or an overnighter to tackle these attractive summits. However, if you don’t have time for a lengthy hike, there’s always Evans Peak. You won’t find this trail in any guidebooks or on the official park map, but it’s a terrific day trip for experienced hikers.


      10. Mount Galiano

      Gulf Islands from Mount Galiano.
      Stephen Hui

      Where: Galiano Island.

      Category: Day hike.

      Hikers heading to Galiano Island, one of the Gulf Islands, often take a vehicle with them on the ferry and make it an overnight affair. But if you stick to the southern end of the island, you can go as a foot passenger and do it as day trip. Bald eagles and spectacular vistas will greet you at the viewpoint on top of Mount Galiano. The scenery includes Mayne, North Pender, Prevost, and Salt Spring islands, as well as ferries sailing in and out of Active Pass.


      Have you done all of these hikes? Perhaps it’s time to stop dreaming and start trekking long-distance trails!