Hiking is a wonderful way to experience nature, but I find that camping in the backcountry deepens the experience. You can enjoy the solitude of sunrise, gaze at the stars, and explore further than you can hike in a single day.
My new guidebook, Backpacking in Southwestern British Columbia: The Essential Guide to Overnight Hiking Trips, includes 40 backpacking trips within a few hours of Vancouver. These trips cover over 800 kilometres of trails and showcase mountain peaks, alpine meadows, waterfalls, old-growth forests, and more.
Here are my picks for five backpacking trips near Vancouver that have incredible views.
The alpine meadows at Russet Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park are some of the best in the region. Hike here in late July or early August to enjoy the pink and white blooms of heather, bright red paintbrush, and indigo lupins.
The lake is nestled in a subalpine bowl with great views of Decker Mountain to the north and the Overlord Glacier. The dramatic reddish rocks of Fissile Peak rise above the east shore of the lake. Three trails lead to Russet Lake. Choose to ride the lifts to the top of Whistler Peak, then hike the High Note Trail or the Musical Bumps Trail. They both have dramatic views of Cheakamus Lake, Black Tusk, and the enormous Cheakamus Glacier.
Garibaldi Lake is one of BC’s most popular hiking destinations and it’s easy to see why. It’s an awe-inspiring place with a gorgeous blue lake, alpine meadows, tumbling glaciers, and fascinating volcanic geology.
But if you stay the night at one of two campgrounds, the crowds go home and backpackers have it all to themselves. The mountain views from the shores of Garibaldi Lake are sublime, especially when bathed in the glow of the setting sun. The campgrounds are also a great basecamp for day hikes to the top of Panorama Ridge or Black Tusk, both of which have lofty views of the massive lake.
Tin Hat Hut
The 360-degree view from the summit of Tin Hat Mountain near Powell River on the Sunshine Coast is so spectacular that the peak was once home to a fire lookout station. Today there’s an insulated hut near the summit (currently closed to the pandemic) and a few campsites.
Stay overnight to catch both sunrise and sunset or just gaze down at expansive Powell Lake and the peaks of the Powell Divide. You can also look southwest across the Strait of Georgia to the snowy summits of Strathcona Provincial Park.
Enjoy a scenic section of the HBC Heritage Trail on your way to Palmers Pond. This historic fur-trade route has been reinvigorated as a modern hiking trail that stretches from Hope to Tulameen. Choose from two creekside campsites near the pond, or extend your trip further along the trail.
On this portion of the HBC Heritage Trail, you’ll stroll through subalpine terrain past picturesque Palmers Pond and cross the Cascade Divide on the shoulder of Mount Davis. The mountain views to the north are incredible as Tulameen Mountain and the peaks of the Coquihalla Range rise above the others.
At 2,409 m, Frosty Mountain is the tallest peak in E.C. Manning Provincial Park. From the top, you’ll have a panoramic view of jagged, snow-capped peaks on both sides of the international border. A campsite mid-way up the mountain lets you break up the journey and gives you more time to savour the views.
Visit in the fall to see the green needles of the larch trees a few kilometres from camp turn gold and drop to the forest floor. Carry on above the treeline to reach the peak and its unique alpine tundra landscape. In the last few minutes of the ascent, you’ll pick your way across sharp rocks, sculpted by centuries of freezing and thawing.