At this time of year, snow covers the North Shore Mountains and will remain there for some weeks yet. If you are looking for a low level walk, this one offers three different destinations, which can all be combined in a single walk or taken separately depending on how you feel.
To get to the trailhead, drive over the Second Narrows Bridge. Take exit 23A – Lillooet Road – and at the traffic light go left up the hill, past the two exits for Inter-River Park (another good starting point for winter walks), past Capilano U on your right, through the cemetery to the entrance gate to the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. As you go through the open (at 8 a.m.) gate note the time the gate is closed (5 p.m. in February). Now drive the three km to the Rice Lake parking lot (the speed limit is 50 km/h but there are 25 speed bumps along the way – one every 120 m).
1. From the parking lot make for the Gazebo in the small park. Do not go along the paved road you will see on the right (the Seymour Valley Trailway). You will be walking along this later. Instead, follow the signs for Rice Lake. You can go along either the east or the west side to the north end of the lake, the distance is the same. At the north end there is an information board and a stone bench. Behind the bench you will see a short track – about 200m – leading out to the paved road. You have saved yourself more than 1 km of walking on pavement. Now begins the least attractive part of the hike along the dead straight stretch of road ahead of you. This road was built for bikers some years ago to make up for the loss of Seymour Main during construction of the water filtration plant and goes as far the Seymour Dam (11 km from the Gazebo; bikes – and hikers – divert into the Old Growth Trail at 9 km) but on the right hand (east) side there is normally a narrow verge on which, in the winter months, you can walk if, like me, you abhor walking on asphalt (in the summer the verge is overgrown with tall spiky grass and giant dandelions). You will pass the 2 km sign on your left and as you proceed you will see a yellow sign come into view. You are nearing the end of the straight stretch. As you do, the road twists, passes a fence barring you from Seymour Main, and begins to rise. Now there are views and pleasant scenery as you pass a speed gate and near the top of the rise another speed gate. In 2007 a male biker was killed on this section of the road in a collision with a female rollerblade. (Both were wearing helmets). The speed gates were then installed. Next, you will pass the 3 km sign and soon after cross the bridge over Balloon Creek, so named because in the 1960s an attempt was made to log the ridge above, using a balloon. (It was not successful, helicopters proved more efficient. The creek is also called Gin Pole Creek).
The next stretch is unremarkable, undulating a bit until you come to Mackenzie Creek at the 5km marker. A few years ago I myself witnessed a collision between mountain bikers at this point. One man was injured and required an ambulance. Now the road begins to rise, there are speed gates, and you gain about 30m to reach Hydraulic Creek. Allow about 1.5 hours to get from the parking lot to this point.
Sit down for 5 minutes at a picnic table. Now look up. That’s Lynn Ridge above you. There is a challenging trail along that ridge from Lynn Peak to the South Needle. Now look across the road. Just this side of the bridge you will see a track. It leads for a few metres to a ditch, on the other side of which is the trailhead for another challenging hike: the Hydraulic Creek route to Lynn Ridge where it intersects with the other trail at 905m. The combined trail then continue to the South Peak at 1160m. Either trail is for fit and experienced hikers only.
2. From Hydraulic Creek there is a pleasant stretch of trail leading down (speed gates) in about 20 minutes to Seymour Main (“closed to the public”) which you cross to the picturesque Mid-Valley Viewpoint where there are picnic tables and a Gazebo in spacious meadow-like surroundings. Again, sit for 5 minutes. The valley you see before you was gouged out thousands of years ago by a retreating glacier at the end of the ice age. The ridge on the other side leads to Mount Seymour. On the right side of the gully you will see a creek cascading down below Suicide Bluffs. This is Suicide Creek. I’ll return to it later. As you resume, you’ll see outhouses to your right. This is the last pit stop you’ll encounter on today’s walk. The short trail leads down in about 10 minutes to a broad gravel road called Spur 4 Road. Go left downhill towards the Spur 4 Bridge. On the way, you’ll notice a side trail on the left and very soon after another side trail also on the left. This is a loop trail that I’ll come back to later. (The Loop can be your destination; if so, skip to para. 5). Now you are at the bridge. If you are wondering why there is such a fine concrete bridge out here in the wilds it’s because it was built years ago to accommodate the logging trucks that came thundering down Spur 4 from the forests beyond the Seymour dam, over the bridge, up the hill, onto Seymour Main, then along Lillooet Road into North Vancouver. This has now stopped. Beyond the bridge you will come to a T-junction where Spur 4 goes left. You now have two choices: Lost Lake and Suicide Creek.
3. To Lost Lake. Go left on Spur 4, a road which continues up to the Dam. Some years ago, the LSCR constructed two small bridges at the end of this road connecting it with the Seymour Valley Trailway, making it possible to bike (and walk) the circuit. It’s about 24 km in total. I’ve done it once and don’t recommend it – pavement one way, gravel the other. For now, you will walk about 2 km up this road as it twists and turns, crossing Intake and Baxter Creeks. Next the road rises, gaining about 45 metres to a turnoff on the right, marked for Lost Lake. Go up this pleasant old road for 20 minutes and where it ends follow the taped track down to the lake in 5 minutes. The view of the lake (c. 240 m) is nice (apart from the logs) but it may be difficult to find a dry place to sit if you have lunch in mind. (If so, you must retrace your steps to the T-junction and choose either Suicide Creek Bridge or the Loop). It’s about an hour to the lake from the bridge; 1h 30 minutes from Hydraulic Creek; about 3 hours from the parking lot.
4. To Suicide Creek Bridge. At the T-Junction, go straight ahead on Suicide Branch. The stretch you’ll walk is pleasant and level. Soon after passing the 6 km marker you come to the concrete bridge. Here you can definitely sit for lunch. Face up the creek, the one you saw from Mid-Valley. Just beyond the bridge, there is a marked trail leading upwards. It’s a dangerous trail, so no description here. I don’t recommend proceeding the 2 km to the end of Suicide Branch. It narrows after the bridge, the trees close in, there are no views, and the road peters out in a tiny meadow beyond which there is no progress. It is 15 minutes from Spur 4 Bridge to this one, so 1h 45 minutes from Hydraulic Creek; 2 hours 15 mins. from the parking lot.
5. The Loop. Coming back from either the lake (1h) or the bridge (15 mins.), recross Spur 4 Bridge. Now take the first turning on the right for the short (about 30 minutes) very pleasant loop. You head into the woods, cross a small bridge then at the second plunge in the woods. The trail seems to back track but then performs a U-turn, which soon brings you to the river and then turns left. Almost at once you come upon a stone bench – an ideal spot for lunch as you look up river. Continuing, the trail goes left and heads south, passing the small bridge and on up to rejoin Spur 4. Go right, past the trail up to Hydraulic Creek, to the beginning/end of Fisherman’s Trail. (If the Loop is your destination, it’s about 2 hours from the parking lot).
6. Homeward (Parking Lot) Bound. The walk along Fisherman’s is uneventful with the river mostly in view, at least as far as Rice Creek. This will take about 45 minutes. After Rice Creek the trail has not (yet) been improved; it’s about 45 more minutes to a wooden barrier on the other side of which is Homestead trail. Your elevation is about 120 m and you must slog up Homestead for about 20 minutes, gaining about 75 m, easy for the first half but steep for the rest. At its end, Homestead joins Twin Bridges trail; go right and in 5 minutes you are in the parking lot. This is about 2 hours from Spur 4 Bridge, including the Loop. 2h 15 mins. from Suicide Creek, 3 hours from Lost Lake.
For the entire circuit, Rice Lake to Rice Lake, out via Seymour Valley Trailway, back via Seymour River:
To Lost Lake: 6 hours. To Suicide Creek: 4.5 hours. To The Loop: 4 hours. All three: 6.5 hours.
Take these times as indicative, not definitive. Everyone has their own pace but these times are representative.
They do not include the 2 short stops I have suggested or 20 minutes for lunch (longer than this, even on a sunny winter’s day, is not recommended). So add another 30 minutes to each of these suggested times.
Note: This circuit can, of course, be done in reverse: out via the river, back along Seymour Valley Trailway.