10 amazing off-leash dog hikes that aren't on the North Shore
Once you’ve exhausted your hiking explorations of the North Shore with your dog, set your sights a little wider.
It’s not difficult to find other areas in the Lower Mainland where you can let your pup roam free.
In fact, here are 10 really great ones.
For your own safety, please make sure you are well prepared before you head out on your next adventure. Information on how to prepare for your trip and to stay safe while you’re hiking is available from North Shore Rescue and Adventure Smart.
Parks Canada advises you to stay on marked trails, abide by trail closure signs, and hike with a friend. It also recommends that you keep a safe distance back from slopes, river edges and bluffs.
Pacific Spirit Park
Let’s start off easy at Pacific Spirit Park. Situated next to UBC, it’s accessible by transit or car and has over 55 km of trails to explore on foot. Not all these trails are leash-optional, as you can see from the map, but a good chunk is. Here’s a sample route you can take. You’ll be surrounded by so many trees, you’ll forget that civilization is simply a short walk away. The trails are mostly gravel paths but there are some hilly sections if you want to step up your workout.
Heading north on the Sea to Sky Highway, you’ll hit Tunnel Bluffs near Lions Bay. There is a parking lot on the other side of the highway across the trailhead which you’ll have to make a U-turn to get to and carefully cross the highway. Once at the trailhead, follow the yellow markers and maps to an almost 4.5 km ascent with steep sections. Get ready to take in the beauty of Howe Sound and the surrounding islands as they will be your reward for this tough workout. Be prepared to help your dogs out on the more difficult sections and keep them controlled at all times.
Stawamus Chief (First Peak)
Often called the “second largest granite monolith in the world,” the Stawamus Chief is a huge draw for tourists and locals alike, especially when the weather is nice. Good news, you can take your pup with you, but there’s a catch. There are some challenging sections on this roughly 4.5 km hike including stairs, metal ladders and chains you have to pull yourself up. Some dogs can handle the terrain but if not, you’ll have to give them a boost. Don’t forget to take a photo at the top because the view is breathtaking.
Sea to Summit Trail
So you want to break a sweat? The Sea to Summit hiking trail is definitely a challenge at a distance of 7.5 km and over 900 meters of elevation gain. You’re welcome to bring your dog with you, but be mindful of other hikers and keep them in control at all times. Keep the leash handy as you’re required to put it on Fido at some areas due to safety reasons. Once you reach the summit, note that dogs need to be leashed and aren’t allowed on the maintained trails, inside buildings and on the suspension bridge. They are however allowed in the backcountry. Purchase download passes for you and your pup to ride the gondola down. Descending the Sea to Summit trail is not recommended.
Further north in Squamish is Crooked Falls, a spectacular waterfall that is worth the hike to get to. It’s an intermediate 5 km roundtrip trail which can be steep at times, so mind your footing. There are opportunities to get Instagram-worthy shots at various viewpoints along the way. Save some snaps for the main event, though. Don’t be too distracted by the rushing water as there are some sketchy areas around here. The only thing we want swept away is your breath.
Let’s head east now to Coquitlam. Nestled between Westwood Plateau and Burke Mountain, the Crystal Falls trail is a low-key 6 km round trip hike with minimal elevation. You might want to bring your bathing suits in case you want to take a dip. The route is open year-round but tends to get quite muddy during the rainy months. A waterfall, an easy hike, and a day out with your best furry friend… what more can you ask for?
Abby Grind (Glen Ryder Trail)
Did you know that Abbotsford has its own “Grind” climb? The Abby Grind is a 4 km out-and-back which is not as long nor as steep as its North Vancouver counterpart. It’s a popular hiking trail where you can get a quick 1.5 hour workout with your pup. The trail eventually hits a junction which goes to a more difficult trail to Taggart Peak or a viewpoint. Choose the viewpoint, claim your reward and start making your way back down. Unlike the Grouse Grind, there’s no gondola ride down (which also means it’s free!).
Elk Mountain is a great hike that offers enough of a challenge and ends with a breathtaking view. The 8 km roundtrip route will occupy you for about 4 hours. You hike through forests, alpine meadows and eventually be treated to a picturesque view of the Fraser Valley. Make sure to bring plenty of water because there are no water sources along the way.
It’s a known fact that you have to put in a lot of effort to get the best views. Hiking Mt. Cheam is one example. Not only is it a two-and-a-half hour drive from Vancouver, it also requires a 4×4 truck to navigate the rough terrain to get to the trailhead. Once there, plan to spend at least 4 to 5 hours hiking the 9 km out-and-back trail. Adventure-seekers will be rewarded with 360-degree views of the Fraser Valley including Lady Peak and as far as Mount Baker. Do take care at the top and keep your dog leashed or controlled as there is quite a bit of loose rock at the summit.
Save the longest for last, Sumas Mountain. Prepare yourself for a long day as this 13.5 km roundtrip hike will take about 6.5 hours. You won’t be bored though since you’ll be traversing over a variety of terrain like lush forests, through a ravine, and narrow trails with overgrown vegetation. Bring lots of water and food for yourself and your dog too. Do this hike on a sunny day so you can take advantage of the beauty of the Fraser Valley and Mount Baker.
Happy adventuring! Don’t forget to bring the 10 essentials with you and let people know about your trip plan. Your pets will want some food and water too so make sure they’re taken care of too. As always, please keep our trails clean by taking your garbage out with you. Thanks to RunGo for providing the routes for all these great hikes. Download the app before you go to get turn-by-turn directions for these routes.