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Urban Wilderness Treks: Backpacking Journeys in and around Vancouver

Ultimate Travel Guide to Vancouver
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Vancouver is undoubtedly one of Canada’s hotspots for those living the outdoor lifestyle. Why? Well, Vancouver boasts a network of over 130 breathtaking trails, making it a haven for backpacking enthusiasts.

Our guide unveils the best backpacking trips, from panoramic vistas to hidden gems. Your next backpacking escape begins here – read more for an insider’s guide to unforgettable journeys! 

Give It All You Got at the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

Address: Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Capital, BC, Canada

Duration: 3-5 days

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Distance: 47 kilometers

Best Time to Go: July – September

Famous as one of the best trails in British Columbia, this multi-day hike is right in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island.

There are four starting points: Juan de Fuca East, Sombrio Beach, Parkinson Creek, and Botanical Beach. These trails treat you to awesome views along the Pacific coastline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

You’ll find bridges, boardwalks, and stairs on most of these trails. Plus, there’s more to do, like checking out the wildlife, camping, and chilling by the tide pools (just keep your hands off the marine life).

Pro tip:
Make sure to bring sufficient water with you because there won’t be any opportunity to replenish your supply.

Venture Deep into the Howe Sound Crest Trail

Address: West Vancouver, BC V0N 1G0, Canada

Duration: 2-4 days

Difficulty: Very challenging

Distance: 31.7 km

Best Time to Go: Mid-July to September

The gorgeous Howe Sound Crest Trail stretches from Cypress Bowl to Porteau Cove, which takes backpackers over multiple summits, with great views of Howe Sound, The Lions, and the turquoise Deeks Lakes.

Kick off your adventure at the Cypress Mountain parking lot, where you can’t miss the signposts pointing the way to the ‘Howe Sound Crest Trail’. 

We recommend starting from the south and heading north, as it gives you a net-downhill experience from Cypress Bowl to Porteau Cove. A word of caution though, this trail is not for the faint-hearted.

You’ll encounter a mix of small scrambles, some gentle exposure, and a handful of tricky spots where you’ll need to rely on chains or ropes.

Pro tip:
You’ll find ample water after Magnesia Meadows, but there’s not much available before that, so be sure to bring sufficient water for at least the first half.

Meander through Flower Ridge

Address: Comox-Strathcona D, British Columbia

Duration: 1-3 days

Difficulty: Moderately challenging

Distance: 32 kilometers

Best Time to Go: May through September

The Flower Ridge Trail will take you deep into the ranges of Vancouver Island. You’ll enjoy unobstructed views of Mount Septimus, Mount Rousseau, Nine Peaks, the Golden Hinde, the Red Pillar, and Mount Myra.

True to its name, this trail is a vibrant display of colorful wildflowers, especially in late spring and summer. As you head south, the terrain becomes more challenging, unveiling routes that venture deeper into the mountains.

The grand finale features a breathtaking alpine ridge adorned with a carpet of flowers, offering stunning views into the southern expanse of Strathcona Provincial Park.

Pro tip:
Since the ridge is quite exposed to the sun, be sure to find shade whenever possible.

Hike through Rainforests at the West Coast Trail

Address: Pacific Rim Highway, Ucluelet, BC V0R 3A0, Canada

Duration: 5 – 8 days

Difficulty: Challenging

Distance: 75 km

Best Time to Go: June to September

The West Coast Trail weaves through the temperate rainforest to unveil breathtaking west coast beaches. The trail is rugged, with countless man-made ladders and bridges, lush rainforests, and picturesque beach campsites.

Prepare for a challenging adventure as hikers ascend over 100 ladders with a hefty pack, slog through thick mud, and navigate mountain-fed rivers with brisk, waist-deep waters. 

Pro tip:
Look for a bear box concealed in the forest on the North side of Tsusiat Falls, close to a run-down toilet. You can use the buoys as a guide to locate it.

Take a Quiet Hike at Marble Meadows Trail

Address: Westmin Rd, Comox-Strathcona D, BC T9E 0V3, Canada

Duration: 4 hours

Difficulty: Challenging

Distance: 21.2 km

Best Time to Go: June through October

Marble Meadows Trail is  where you’ll tackle what feels like an endless series of switchbacks, rewarded with breathtaking alpine vistas in the final stretch. Begin your journey at the Phillips Creek Marine Campground.

Marble Meadows isn’t just a trail; it’s a captivating realm waiting to be discovered. Picture vast stretches of rock, serene ponds, pristine lakes, lush grassy meadows, and low vegetation—all surrounded by towering mountains on every side.

Pro tip:
Don’t forget to take in the breathtaking view of Marble Rock Lake from the ridge line above; it’s truly exceptional.

Tackle the Helen Mackenzie to Battleship Lake Loop Trail

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Address: Comox-Strathcona C, British Columbia.

Duration: 2 days

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 8 to 15 km loop

Best Time to Go: July to September

If you’re new to hiking, the Helen Mackenzie to Battleship Lake Loop Trail is a fantastic choice. This beginner-friendly route guides hikers through a blend of sub-alpine meadows adorned with colorful flowers and forests featuring yellow cedar, amabilis fir, and mountain hemlock.

Kick off your adventure at the Raven Lodge parking lot on Nordic Drive. As you stroll along, keep an eye out for informative signs highlighting the diverse plant life around you.

Convenience is key on this trail, with amenities like bathrooms, picnic spots, and camping areas waiting for you at Battleship Lake.

Pro tip:
Make sure to bring your trekking poles along, especially after you leave the boardwalks in Paradise Meadows flats. The forest terrain transitions to a mix of tree roots and short boardwalks over potentially wet areas.

Venture the Circlet Lake and Mount Albert Edward Trail

Address: Westmin Rd, Comox-Strathcona D, BC T9E 0V3, Canada

Duration: 2-3 days

Difficulty: Challenging

Distance: 31 kilometers

Best Time to Go: July to September

Though it’s a lengthy trek, the journey to the summit of Mount Albert Edward pays off in spades. The initial stretch leading to Lake Helen MacKenzie boasts excellent maintenance, complete with elevated wooden walkways.

The trail skirts the southern base of Mount Brooks, introducing a touch of technicality with some ups and downs. However, the gradient is just right, making it ideal for a smooth run with only a few sections steep enough to challenge your pace, all the way to Circlet Lake.

Given its popularity for backpacking, camping, and hiking, be prepared to share the trail with fellow outdoor enthusiasts as you explore this vibrant area.

Pro tip:
In the alpine areas with bare rocks, the trail can be a bit elusive. Just follow the rock cairns as they guide you along the way.

Hike up to Gorgeous Lakes at the Bedwell Lakes Trail

Address: Bedwell Lake,Alberni-Clayoquot, BC V0R 1A0, Canada

Duration: 2 to 3 days

Difficulty: 22 kilometers 

Distance: Challenging

Best Time to Go: July to September

The Bedwell Lakes Trail takes you up to two beautiful lakes, hidden away in the mountains: Bedwell and Baby Bedwell. These lakes are surrounded by gorgeous mountain peaks.

This trail boasts a well-crafted and gently graded path leading you to the subalpine. Along the way, you’ll discover prime lakeside campsites, allowing you to immerse yourself in the tranquility of these picturesque locations.

Pro tip:
Consider bringing a hiking pole—it might not be essential for the ascent, but it can provide valuable support on the downhill journey.

Hike below the Elk River Trail

Address: Strathcona, BC V0P 1G0, Canada

Duration: 2-3 days

Difficulty: Moderately challenging

Distance: 22 kilometers

Best Time to Go: May to October

What sets the Elk River Trail apart is invigorating lakes at the summit and captivating mountain views to ascending waterfalls and weaving through enchanting forest trails. Cap it all off with a riverside campsite.

The initial 3 miles treat you to a moderate terrain alongside the river, setting the stage for the journey ahead. The final 2 miles bring a moderately strenuous challenge.

Pro tip:
This trail isn’t your usual one-way-up, one-way-down setup. It’s lengthy, so make sure to allocate enough time for a full day of exploration.

Travel through First Nation Reserves at the Nootka Trail

Address: Nootka Island, Strathcona, BC, Canada

Duration: 2-3 days

Difficulty: Moderately challenging

Distance: 35.9 km

Best Time to Go: May to October

The Nootka Trail is a blend of 75% beach hiking and 25% forest trekking. Renowned as one of the top coastal hikes in BC, it promises a genuine wilderness adventure set against the backdrop of stunning west coast scenery.

Immerse yourself in the majority of the hike, which unfolds along the ocean, navigating a mix of hard packed sand beach, slippery boulders, and rugged rocky shelves. 

The forested segments offer a diverse experience, ranging from spectacular with towering giant trees to challenging sections filled with mud and slippery logs.

Pro tip:
Opt for sturdy hiking shoes and consider bringing an extra pair of beach shoes for river and creek crossings. The last 7 kilometers can be challenging, but as you approach the lighthouse, the terrain becomes easier.

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