- Difficulty Difficult
- Time 12 hours
- Round-Trip 24km
- Elevation Gain 1500 meters
- Season July - September
- Camping Yes
- From Vancouver 1 hour 20 minutes
- Public Transit No
- Dog Friendly Yes
The Golden Ears Trail is a popular hike in Golden Ears Provincial Park and offers some spectacular views for those who accomplish this challenging trail. It can be completed in a day but many people also enjoy the hike while camping. The trail is long and becomes increasingly steep as it progresses with much of the elevation gain occurring past the midway point. Make sure to leave early enough to have ample time during daylight hours if you plan to complete this hike in a day.
There are a few things to be aware of before attempting the Golden Ears Trail. First, Golden Ears Park is open from 7 am to 11 pm so if you intend to complete this hike in a day without camping or being locked behind the gate in the park then you must start early. Secondly, the West Canyon parking lot, where the hike begins, can fill up fast in the morning during peak season. Thirdly, you will need durable hiking footwear with good grip and good ankle support for this trail as it is very rocky throughout and slippery in several spots. Finally, the temperature at the top can be considerably cooler, even on hot summer days, so pack a light jacket or something to throw on to keep yourself warm.
The trail to Golden Ears begins in the West Canyon parking lot. There is an outhouse, garbage bin, recycling bin, and a tap designated for drinking water only. From here, enter the trail past the West Canyon/Golden Ears sign. The hike will begin along the West Canyon Trail before it becomes the Golden Ears Trail. You will pass a green silo on the right and a junction for Menzies Trail. As you continue you will pass another junction connecting to Menzies Trail on the left. You will also pass a junction for View Point Trail on the left but continue going straight, past these, along the West Canyon Trail.
Continuing along the West Canyon Trail the terrain is rocky and mostly in tree cover. Look for orange and pink markers to keep you on the trail. You will cross over a few bridges early in the hike. There is a fork in the trail to Lower Falls with an orange marker labeled "3.11" fixed to a narrow tree stump. Keep left along the trail to get to the Golden Ears Trail.
Continuing into the forest, the trail will become steeper and rockier as you walk over exposed tree roots. Eventually you will get to the Gold Creek Lookout. There is a viewpoint just before you head down a short but very steep section to a roped area and the Gold Creek Lookout sign. Continuing along the trail you will pass a very large boulder in the forest. The trail will also pass many small bridges that are missing some planks so be very careful while crossing them.
The trail eventually arrives at the Alder Flats campsite, which is a popular campsite for hikers that do the trek to Golden Ears in more than one day. After passing the campsite on the left, you will pass by an outhouse and eventually see a sign pointing to Golden Ears. The trail becomes noticeably steeper and rockier from here as it leads to the first stunning viewpoint of Alouette Mountain, Blanshard Needle, Edge Peak, and Golden Ears.
The trail continues into the forest and leads to a spot where there is a tree log in the trail with a section cut out of it to walk through and a fallen tree at an angle that you will pass under. You should also notice a few nicely cut out blocks of wood along the trail. Take note that you will shortly enter a clearing where you must note a junction in the trail that may not appear obvious.
Before entering the clearing the trail will pass between two trees that are both wrapped with two orange ribbons on each. The trail will open to a rocky clearing. There will be a path straight ahead that appears to be the continuation of the trail. Do not follow this trail. It is marked with pink ribbons labeled "search and rescue" and will lead through extremely dangerous terrain. Instead, look to the right and you should notice several orange markers leading to a wooden staircase slightly hidden in the trees at the top of the rocks. This is the way to continue along the Golden Ears Trail. Also, this clearing has a nice view of Alouette Mountain, Blanshard Needle, Edge Peak, and Golden Ears.
Ascending the staircases the trail becomes much steeper from this point forward. The staircases only assist you for a very short distance before you will need to frequently negotiate the terrain. Also, keep focused on following the markers as it can be easy to lose the trail in some areas. Most of the markers are orange but you will spot the occasional pink, yellow, and blue markers as well. The trail will be less rocky but have many exposed tree roots throughout. Along the way, you will need to climb up several steep rocks. They will tend to be slippery and you will have to be very cautious through these sections. The trail eventually comes to a viewpoint and will continue to a camping area. Constantly be on lookout for trail markers as it's easy to become disorientated, lose the trail, and become lost yourself. Following this path and continuing along the markers will lead you to the top of a big wooden ladder against a rock. Climb down the ladder and continue along the trail. Eventually you will come to a large rock field. Following the markers will lead to the emergency shelter before the permanent snowfield. On a clear day this challenging trail rewards hikers with fantastic views of Pitt Lake and the surrounding mountain ranges.
Continuing past the emergency shelter to Panorama Ridge is not advised as it involves crossing a permanent snowfield and requires skill and proper equipment due to the steep and icy terrain. Also, due to the alpine environment, clouds can sweep in and obscure your ability to see far which can cause you to easily lose the trail and stray off course.
Be mindful of leaving enough time for the return trip. Heading back presents its own set of risks as you must now carefully descend the terrain on the way back. Remain focused on finding the markers and exercising caution while hiking the terrain. Fatigue from the steep climbing earlier can lead to injuries and making mistakes, causing you to go off course on the return trip. When you return to the section with the wooden staircases be sure to go left at the rocky clearing to return through Alder Flats. Just before Alder Flats you will see a sign pointing to West Canyon Trail. Remember to keep a sharp eye out for trail markers on the way back. Eventually, you will return past Gold Creek Lookout and end up on the West Canyon Trail leading back to the West Canyon parking lot.