Hike it Out: British Columbia Showcases Epic Trails, Sweeping Views

Posted Monday, February 29, 2016

Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, Northern British Columbia, Vancouver Island, Vancouver, Coast & Mountains, Outdoor Adventure / Ecotourism

The pull of Mother Nature, for many, means exploration in the wild. And where better to quicken the pulse than BC’s vast and varied landscape.  

For high-adrenalin wilderness hikes, enthusiasts are best to lace up along the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, on southern Vancouver Island’s wild west coast. Here, four trailheads — China Beach, Sombrio Beach, Parkinson Creek and Botanical Beach — stretch along 47 kilometres (29 miles) of rugged landscape, and while the trail does feature a number of easy day hikes, it’s best suited for those eager to take on vigorous day or multi-day outings. Backed by roaring surf, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail lures with an abundance of waterfalls, grottos, estuaries and old-growth forest; the shale and quartz shoreline of Botanical Beach, in particular, is home to one of the richest tidal areas along the west coast — a sensitive ecosystem, and vivid visual showcase, best viewed at low tide.  env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/juan_de_fuca 

Back on the mainland north of Vancouver, the Sea to Sky Gondola takes advantage of its pretty vantage point, high above Squamish. Here, eight-passenger gondolas transport hikers to the clouds, complete with sweeping views of Howe Sound, the coastal forest and the surrounding mountains below. Once at the top — 885 metres (2,903 feet) above sea level, to be precise — enthusiasts can make the most of the area’s surrounds while taking in the cantilevered viewing platforms along interpretive walking trails, the heart-thumping Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, and hiking paths and backcountry routes, all mere steps from the gondolas. In all, eight hiking trails snake in all directions, from simple-to-navigate stretches to rugged paths that challenge even experienced trekkers. At journey’s end, a local Howe Sound Brewery Sky Pilot Pale Ale at the mountaintop Summit Lodge is a cool reward before heading back down to earth. seatoskygondola.com

For more natural wonders, the Nusatsum River Trail, further northwest, showcases the changing of the season with dramatic results. Set deep in the Coast Mountain range in the Nusatsum Valley near Bella Coola, adventurers wind through thick forests of western hemlock, Sitka spruce and amabilis fir, all framed by spectacular peaks and glaciers. This two-kilometre (1.2-mile) trek over the Nusatsum River rewards with neck-craning views of Odegaard Falls: a camera-ready local attraction, Odegaard draws the masses, particularly in spring, when the snow swell begins its slow melting decent. bellacoola.ca/activities/hiking-sightseeing

In Northern BC, hikers are drawn to the Babine Mountain Provincial Park’s mix of peaks and valleys along the Silver King Basin Trail. Just east of Smithers, this former mining road is a favourite local jaunt, thanks to its historic landmarks and subalpine meadows. One must-see: the historic Joe L’Orsa Cabin, situated nearly 8.5 kilometres (5.2 miles) along the trail. At just $10 per adult and $5 for children (arranged through BC Parks), up to 20 keeners can spend the night at the cabin, cosying up to a wood stove at day’s end. It’s a bit of respite to fuel the fire for another day of exploration, particularly for those eager to check out the remnants of the abandoned Silver King Mine, further along the trail. wlapwww.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/babmtn.htm



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