10 Vancouver Area Hiking Trails That Take You to Mountain Summits
There’s something special about climbing a mountain. Whether it’s a short hill or a lofty peak, it gives you a sense of accomplishment. Several of Vancouver’s mountains require technical expertise to ascend. But you can safely hike to the top of many others. Here are my picks for the best mountain summit hikes around Vancouver.
Vancouver Summit Hiking Tips
- Most of the trails on this list are best in summer (between July and October). The rest of the year, they are too snowy for hiking.
- Choose a sunny day for a summit hike. There’s nothing worse than hiking to the peak to be met with fog. Check the forecast before you go, and remember that it is often cloudier in the mountains than in the city.
- Pack the 10 essentials and leave a trip plan on every hike. Make sure you include warm clothes. Even if it’s a sunny day, it can be much colder up in the mountains.
Officially known as Stawamus Chief Mountain, this is the shortest peak on the list. However, the granite face of the Chief drops away precipitously on the north side, making it a spectacular summit despite its stature. Trails lead to three separate peaks: First Peak is the lowest at 610 m. Second Peak is 655 m high. And Third Peak tops out at 702 m. In the Squamish language, the mountain is called Siám’ Smánit and is said to be a longhouse transformed to stone.
Just getting to the trailhead for Mount Gardner is an adventure, as you’ll have to take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island. The 727-metre-tall mountain is the highest point on the island. Your hike to the peak is a loop with spectacular views from the North Peak at its apex.
St. Mark’s Summit
The Howe Sound Crest Trail traverses a rocky spine of peaks in Cypress Provincial Park from the Cypress Mountain ski area to Porteau Cove. St. Mark’s Summit is the southernmost mountain in the chain, making it easier to climb than the rest. The 1371 m summit is actually a high point on a long ridge. But the spectacular views down to Howe Sound from granite outcroppings make it worth the visit.
Head uphill from the cross-country ski area in Cypress Provincial Park to tag the top of 1326-meter-tall Hollyburn Mountain. The trail climbs gradually through the forest before a steep pitch at the end leads to the rocky summit. Enjoy the views of the mountains to the north, Greater Vancouver below you, and Vancouver Island in the distance to the west.
The three peaks of Mount Seymour make up the signature hike in Mount Seymour Provincial Park. Many hikers only make it as far as First Peak (1407 m), also known as Pump Peak where you can admire incredible views from the granite bluffs. But if you have more energy, continue on Tim Jones Peak (1425 m) and Third Peak (1449 m) for a different perspective.
Chilliwack’s Elk Mountain occupies a prime position at the edge of the Chilliwack River Valley. That means that it enjoys spectacular views of Chilliwack’s farmland from the 1432-meter-tall summit. It’s worth hiking further along the ridge that extends to Mount Thurston (1630 m) so you can look south to Mount McGuire and the peaks across the American border.
At 2104 m, Mount Cheam is one of the tallest peaks in the Fraser Valley. Despite this great height, the route to the summit is moderate, thanks to a series of rough, 4WD-only logging roads that snake up its southeastern flank. The mountain sits in Sto:lo territory and in the Halkomelem language, the peak is called Theeth-uhl-kay, which means “the place from which the waters spring”.
Three Brothers Mountain
The views from the summit of 2272 m-high Three Brothers Mountain are spectacular. You can see dozens of other peaks in Manning Park. But the hike to get there offers incredible beauty on its own. Time your visit for late July or early August to enjoy one of the best wildflower displays around.
Frosty Mountain is the highest summit in Manning Provincial Park, at 2426 m. It’s a long and challenging hike to the peak as you switchback upwards through the forest. Take a break partway along to admire a plateau studded with larch trees, a rare alpine species that turns golden in the fall. The final push to the summit is steep and rocky.
Zoa Peak is located near the high point of the Coquihalla Highway. Unlike the technical rocky summits nearby, it is a rounded mountain with a gentle ridgetop approach. It has great views of the surrounding granite peaks and you can look down to Falls Lake below you. Like its neighbours, the 1869 m mountain is named for mountain ungulates from around the world. A zoa is the female offspring of a male cow and a female yak.
Taryn Eyton is a Squamish-based outdoor and adventure travel writer and Leave No Trace Master Educator. She is the founder of the hiking website HappiestOutdoors.ca and the author of Backpacking in Southwestern British Columbia: The Essential Guide to Overnight Hiking Trails (Greystone Books, 2021).