Canada’s West Coast is a rare treat – it’s a wonderful combination of all worlds – sky-framing mountains, wild waters, giant forests and precious meadows. Canada’s West Coast is the land of great wilderness and adventure with a convenient touch of cities and towns and a well-developed infrastructure. Here is a list of some of the best places to go hiking in Canada’s West Coast, whether you are seeking for a multi-day adventure or just a half-a-day stroll.
Squamish is a very special town. It’s special in its simplicity, adventure culture and proximity to all major outdoors opportunities. Regardless if you are a rock climber, mountain biker, kite-surfer, mountaineer or a runner, Squamish will steal your heart and will never return it to you. It has some prime hiking, listed below.
Squamish Chief Peak
Squamish Chief is the most prominent massive granite wall just off the main road. It’s impossible not to notice it and not get carried away by it. Rising 700 m up, it’s one of the major rock climbing destinations in all of Canada. However, the 3 stunning granite peaks of the Chief are accessible not only to climbers, there is a steep hiker’s path sneaking up behind the massive walls. It takes 1-2h to go up the first peak, and the view is not to be missed. Separate trails lead to summits 2 and 3, but it’s a bit more complicated to access and could be tricky when wet or icy.
Sea to Sky
On the of the major tourist attractions in the area – Squamish Gondola has a more exciting hiking alternative. The trail starts with the climb to the chief and then splits off. It is a 15 km return route with over 1k elevation gain, some people also choose to hike up and take the gondola down.
Once you get to the top of Sea to Sky trail, you can continue hiking up and climb a very unique Sky Pilot peak. Even if you don’t make it all the way to the top, the trail leading to peak has a true wilderness feel to it, even being just a few kilometers away from the town of Squamish and a major Canadian road.
Tantalus range is a very prominent set of peaks just over the Squamish River. In order to get there, you need to cross the Squamish River and hike up a steep forest trail to the Tantalus Hut. It’s situated next to a peaceful mountain Lake, Lovely Water lake, and is a gateway to some adventurous mountaineering and hiking.
Whistler is best known for its skiing wonderland in the winter and world-class downhill mountain biking in the summer. However, it also has a list of wonderful trails for hiking and trail running. Climb up the peaks of Whistler or Blackcomb from the base of the village or drive a few kilometers south to the start of Black Tusk trail. The last section of getting to the summit is technical and requires climbing gear and experience, but there is plenty to enjoy about this trail without summiting this prominent feature.
Vancouver is a major Western Canadian city, and despite its large population, it is located very close to mountains and wilderness. North Vancouver is home to a number of hiking and mountain biking trails. Some of the best routes include:
Want to get your heart beating? Try the Grouse Grind. It’s a steep 2.9 km climb up the Grouse Mountain with 850m elevation gain (do the math on the steepness of the trail). It’s a popular challenge among the locals and any visiting guests. The views are wonderful, regardless of your pace.
Only a short ferry ride from the mainland, Vancouver island is known for its mountaineering, surfing, rock climbing and of course – hiking; a complete land of contrasts. One great hiking option is the West Coast trail – a very famous 75 km southwestern edge of Vancouver Island. Don’t forget to book your permit early.
Due to their harsher climate, these areas are sparsely populated, with nothing but the mountains and the lonely road sneaking between the magnificent peaks. Some very special examples include Bella Coola.
A word about gear…
Proper preparation is essential for mountain adventures, especially if venturing into more remote areas. Don’t forget your Gore-tex layer, appropriate insulation depending on the season and your first aid kit. Moreover, a reliable navigation equipment will not only make your trip smoother but might also save your life in case the weather changes or you get off route.
A word about wild animals…
For those new to North America and not familiar with its wildlife, be aware of bears and cougars when out in the wild. Learn to recognize animal marks, such as footprints, feces and broken tree branches and avoid encounters by making noise or bringing a bear bell. It is always advisable to travel in a group and carry bear spray as a precaution. If you’ll be camping, always carry a bear barrel and place all your food and any scented products, such as toothpaste and sunscreen in it and away from your campsite.
The best part about the West Coast is that you can choose how far and remote you want to go. There are a lot of options for all levels of experience and fitness; all options being incredibly accessible and well developed by the local outdoor community. Enjoy the inspiring Canadian wilderness spirit!
About the Author
I’m Dan, and I’m the Editor in Chief of True North Athletics. I’m also an avid adventurer, digital nomad, and traveler. I enjoy all types of outdoor sports, a good golf tan, and spontaneous weekend trips. I currently live in Brazil where I can be found frequently hiking the rain forest around my city!