Written by Harry Crerar, author of Family Walks and Hikes on Greater Vancouver’s North Shore.
Disclaimer: To ensure your safety and well-being when visiting parks, practice physical distancing between you and other visitors, stay on marked trails and abide by trail closure signs. To avoid hazards, we recommend keeping a safe distance back from slopes, bluffs and river edges. More info on how to prepare for a visit to Parks Canada places during COVID-19. And please, leave no trace. Dispose of your waste properly and respect wildlife.
As recommended by BC’s provincial health officials, if you choose to participate in events or leisure activities outside of your home, please adhere to COVID-19 health and safety measures, including proper physical distancing and frequent handwashing. If you are sick or are experiencing any symptoms, please stay home.
After months (!) of quarantine and social distancing, an adventure out of the house seems especially appealing. Dealing with the pandemic can be stressful, but hiking is a great way to de-stress. It also helps people to stay healthy and keep active during this time. Luckily, Vancouverites can easily access an outdoor paradise by car or public transit: the North Shore. There’s something for everyone — hike anywhere from neighbourhood strolls to mountain peaks along trails for almost any pace and skill level.
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Remember to stay safe: always tell someone where you’re going, and bring the 10 Essentials, especially on longer hikes. It is winter in the mountains and hiking boots and winter gear are still required for alpine hikes.
The trails discussed below (and many more) are included in my new book Family Walks and Hikes of Vancouver’s North Shore, a hiking guide to the North Shore focusing on family-accessible trails with lots of suggestions for hiking with kids. Many of these trails are accessible by public transit.
If you have not hiked with your kids before, this may be a great year to start out with a fun and easy trail that people of all ages can enjoy.
1. Lower Mosquito Creek
This easy local neighbourhood ramble has a lot to offer. Although it’s close to Capilano Mall and Edgemont Village, it feels very serene. Park at the new Delbrook Community Recreation Centre or at 17th Street and Fell Avenue to find the trail, which is on the west side of the creek. Follow Mosquito Creek through its ravine as far as you like. The wide, smooth trail has many creek access points, and makes for easy social distancing even for groups. Public transit: Buses 236, 239, 240, 241, 242, 255, or N24 stop at Marine Drive and Fell Avenue (at the south end of the trail), and bus 232 stops at Del Rio Drive (at the north end).
2. Yew Lake
Good news for experienced hikers: Cypress and Mount Seymour Provincial Parks were opened on June 1, allowing access to many trails, including classics such as Mount Seymour, Dog Mountain, and St. Mark’s Summit. Right now, however, the higher-altitude trails are covered in snow: check forecasts before planning an alpine hike and always bring the 10 Essentials and winter gear.
Luckily, the Yew Lake trail, being on the lower reaches of the mountain, is flat and easily accessible. From the Cypress Bowl parking lot, follow the signs for the Yew Lake trail, which leads you around a small mountain lake along a flat gravel path. There are picnic tables along the way and lots of opportunities to see wildlife. Note: No dogs allowed. This hike is not accessible by public transit.
3. Coho Loop and Dam viewpoint
Not all parks are closed! Capilano River Regional Park is open and provides several family-friendly routes. From the fish hatchery at the end of Capilano Park Road (off Capilano Road), hike around the Coho Loop trail circuit in Capilano Canyon. The trail is wide enough for social distancing and along the way you can see a view of Cleveland Dam, bridges over the Capilano River, old-growth trees, and ancient nurse logs. For more scenery and a photo op, hike up to Cleveland Dam for a view of Capilano Lake and the Lions. (Public transit: Take bus #232 (from Phibbs Exchange) or #236 (from Lonsdale Quay) to Capilano Road at Clements Avenue, then hike to Cleveland Dam). Be Bear Aware – like many places in North and West Vancouver, the Capilano Regional Park has seen bear activity of late.
4. Fisherman’s Trail
This easy walk along the Seymour River is perfect for families. Park near the intersection of Blueridge Avenue and Hyannis Road, then take the Baden-Powell Trail to the start of the Fisherman’s Trail, which follows the Seymour River. This trail used to be a logging road so it’s wide enough for social distancing. Along the way, you’ll pass a rockslide that blocked the river in 2014, a new suspension bridge over the Seymour River, an abandoned tunnel built in 1907, and the ruins of old homesteads. Also, there are many places to take a break and rest tired little legs, by the river or at the side of the trail. Public transit: take bus #214 from Phibbs Exchange to Berkeley Avenue at Hyannis Drive.