November and December are typically the gloomiest months in Vancouver when it comes to hiking as the region experiences lots of rain at the lower elevations and minimal daylight hours as the sun sets in the late-afternoon or early-evenings. While it might be tempting to hike trails like Garibaldi Lake and other popular summer routes, these trails are sure to have snow on them and challenging winter conditions.
However, there are plenty of trails at lower elevations that offer great hikes during the November and December months. While they are generally snow-free, the Vancouver area does occasionally have snowfalls during November or December, so it is possible that there maybe some snow on the trails… but it’s rare.
Before heading out, don’t forget to pack the 10-Essentials and plan to complete your hike early so you don’t get caught on the trail in the dark.
Here are some hiking recommendations for the months of November and December:
Jug Island Beach
Located in Belcarra, the hike to Jug Island Beach offers a good workout as it climbs steeply up a well defined trail. The route levels off before branching to the right and climbing again, then descending very steeply down to the beach where Jug Island just off the shore from Indian Arm.
Baden Powell Deep Cove to Lynn Canyon
The section of the Baden Powell trail starting from Deep Cove to Lynn Canyon is generally snow-free, however there can be a few sections that have some snow in December. The popular trail to Quarry Rock is where most people will hike to but continuing to follow the trail all the way to Lynn Canyon offers a great 1-way hiking trip. This is a popular transit hike as there is very good bus access to the trailhead and also near the Seymour Suspension Bridge at the end of this route.
Gold Creek Falls
A drive to Golden Ears Provincial Park makes for a scenic outing as the lower elevations of the park are usually snow-free year round. The trail to Gold Creek Falls follows the river and is a relatively easy route, although muddy this time of year. However, there’s often plenty of water flowing over Gold Creek Falls making it a scenic sight this time of year.
Swan Falls Viewpoint
Since the floating bridge is usually flooded this time of year on the south end of Buntzen Lake, another option is to hike to the Swan Falls Viewpoint, which involves a very steep climb up the start of the Halvor Lunden Trail. From the parking lot at Buntzen Lake, following the trail along the east side of the lake to the beach and continue along the gravel road north. Watch for markers on the right of the trail and then follow the steep trail upwards until just above a section where you pull yourself up with a rope, you reach the top of Swan Falls with a partial view of Buntzen Lake.
Who knew Coquitlam has such a beautiful waterfall? The easy walk to Crystal Falls follows the Coquitlam River through a scenic forested area. The route rarely gets snow, however it’s often very muddy during the winter months. The waterfall has lots of water flowing over the rocks from above. Sometimes when the temperatures become very cold, parts of the waterfall become frozen, however be wary of falling ice and don’t venture too close.
Whistler Train Wreck
If you are in Whistler during November and December, the trail that crosses the suspension bridge to the Train Wreck Site is a short, scenic hike for this time of year. If there is snow in Whistler Village, then chances are there is snow on this trail and it would be best advisable to take crampons or snowshoes. However, most of November, the snow is falling on the high elevations and this trail remains snow-free. Fallow the route into the forest and make sure to go right at the junction where it continues before descending down a hill to the suspension bridge that crosses the Cheakamus River. Just on the other side lies several box cars that were left in the forest from a train wreck decades ago and are now an important part of Whistler’s history.