Summer is over, the Labour Day long weekend has passed, and everyone is back to school or work. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the hiking season is over in Vancouver or Southwestern British Columbia.
The month of September generally has several sunny days along with several other advantages that make hiking enjoyable this time of year:
- The trails at higher elevations are free of snow.
- The temperatures are a little cooler than in July and August and much more pleasant.
- Trails are generally less crowded.
However, the main downside to hiking in September is daylight hours are shorter and getting less each day, so planning to be off the trail before darkness is very important. Keep in mind that the trail can become darker sooner than it might in the city as the sun can drop behind a mountain or the forest will shadow you from the evening light and make your hike out even more challenging. It’s worth it to throw a small flashlight into your bag just in case.
The Challenging Trails
Some of the most scenic views are along hiking trails that are very difficult and aren’t accessible until well into July as the snow lingers at the higher elevations well into the summer. The cooler temperatures make this a great time of year to do some of these trails, however, the shorter days mean that you must get an earlier start and, potentially, have less time for your adventure.
The wildflowers are no longer in bloom in September but the trails are far less crowded than in July and August. If you plan to hike to Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, they are free of snow but you will have to start your day very early on the trail is you plan to make it back before darkness.
This grueling hike is challenging but is made a bit easier with the cooler temperatures in September. Make sure to pack a light jacket as temperatures are considerably cooler in the bowl at that the lake, even on days when the temperature in Whistler Village is in the mid-20’s.
To complete this trail in September, you will almost certainly have to camp at either Alder Flats or on Panoramic Ridge. The trail takes about 12 hours round-trip and is too long with the reduced daylight hours in September. However, it’s much more pleasant to hike with camping gear when it’s cooler.
September might be one of the best times of year to do the Lions Binkert Trail from Lions Bay. It takes about 8-hours roundtrip and is certainly doable with an early morning start. Clear, sunny days in September make for nice photo opportunities up the loose rock and the cooler temperature makes the steep sections seem more bearable.
Starting from Lynn Headwaters Regional Park and end on top of Grouse Mountain, the trail is not too difficult until you hit the backcountry section and, in particular, the terribly steep climb up the boulder field. The trail is snow free and the cooler temperatures make the hike easier. Although, be sure to check the closing time of the Lynn Headwaters gate if you leave your car there in the parking lot.
Half-Day Hiking Trails
Sometimes it’s nice to get out, onto the trails on the weekend but also know that you have time for the many others things on your to do list. A half-day hike and being back into the city at a reasonable time is a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday in September.
The trail up Hollyburn Mountain generally has snow on it until well into July, leaving only a few months of the year when it is completely free of snow. It’s a great half-day hike with views of Howe Sound and the mountain ranges in-behind Cypress.
Located in behind Grouse Mountain, the intermediate hike to Goat Mountain is still accessible through all of September. It can be done after doing the Grouse Grind or BCMC Trail or as a separate trip after taking the Grouse Mountain Skyride.
From the Mount Seymour parking lot, Dog Mountain is a great hike to a scenic viewpoint of Vancouver. The challenge in this trail is the tree roots, which can be slippery after cool, moist nights, so watch your footing.
Eagle Bluffs can be accessed along the Baden Powell trail from the Cypress Mountain parking lot. Along the way, you’ll pass Cabin Lake and Black Mountain before reaching the viewpoint looking out into Howe Sound.
A great viewpoint of Howe Sound can be seen from St. Mark’s Summit. The trail follows the Howe Sound Crest trail and starts from the Cypress Mountain parking lot area.
From the Mount Seymour parking lot area, Goldie Lake is a short hiking trail which is a great loop for families. Plan a picnic and spend some time at the lake before heading back.
A leisurely stroll is also a nice way to spend part of a day near Vancouver as the trees begin their transformation into fall colours. There are hundreds of walkable trails in the Vancouver region and everyone has their favourites. Here are a few to consider:
- Stanley Park
- Pacific Spirt Regional Park
- Shoreline Trail
- Deer Lake
What are your favourite September trails?