As a travel writer, Chloë Ernst has hiked in amazing places across Canada and in Bolivia, Spain, and the U.K.
However, Ernst believes the backcountry around Vancouver is perhaps only rivalled by the wilderness of Alaska.
“I think it’s painfully awesome here,” Ernst said in an interview at the Georgia Straight office. “I was thinking about it on the way here, actually. The more time I spend in Vancouver, the more it amazes me how much we have within an hour.”
Ernst is the 30-year-old author of Best Hikes Near Vancouver, a guidebook published in July by FalconGuides, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press. Raised in Wales, she moved to Vancouver in 2006 from Nova Scotia.
She’s also the author of Day Trips From Seattle (2010) and Scenic Driving Atlantic Canada (2011), and coauthor of Frommer’s Best Hiking Trips in British Columbia (2009) and other books. Her latest book took just over a year to complete.
Best Hikes highlights 41 day hikes and walks within an hour’s drive of the city. Ernst noted that she selected “easy to find, easy to get to” trails for inclusion in the book. These range from an easy, hour-long stroll around Sasamat Lake to a difficult slog to the Lions lasting six to eight hours.
“You’ve got a Saturday morning,” Ernst said. “It was supposed to be raining on the weekend, and suddenly it’s a bright, beautiful day and you want to go out hiking. How do you get on the trail as fast as possible?”
For each hike, the book features a brief summary, statistics, trailhead directions, a description, route details with distances, photos (shot by Ernst), and a full-page map. Also provided is information about nearby events and restaurants that may be useful to tourists and locals alike.
“I do think that I approach a lot of the hiking trails and parks with a bit of a travel writer’s mindset—digging into the history a little bit, trying to figure out why something is named a certain thing, or trying to go a level deeper than what’s on the surface,” Ernst said. “My journalistic background and also my travel writing background, I drew on both of those in writing the descriptions.”
According to Ernst, one challenge involved in writing the book was settling on which hikes deserved to be chosen as the “best”. She noted she decided to include trails representative of areas such as Burnaby and Indian Arm, and south of the Fraser River.
“For example, you have Burns Bog,” Ernst said. “It’s a little nature trail. In terms of an actual hike, is it really the best hike? Maybe not, but it is representative of this fantastic area of wilderness.”
Other destinations in the book include Norvan Falls, Petgill Lake, and Widgeon Falls. One of her favourite outings is the one-hour walk on Acadia and Tower beaches in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, with its old searchlight towers.
“You go down the stairs, and suddenly you don’t see the city, you don’t hear the city, you don’t smell the city,” Ernst said. “You’re looking out at the water. I love the World War Two history in that area.”
Describing herself as a “homebody”, she said that one reason she liked working on this book is because it let her stay closer to home than her other travel writing projects.
“It’s a very intense life,” Ernst said.