One of the things I really love about Vancouver is that it’s completely possible to live or visit here without having access to a vehicle. The city is well-known for being bike friendly, and the transit system is far-reaching and easy enough to navigate to give locals and visitors alike the ability to enjoy a huge variety of activities. And hiking is no exception; you can find public transit-accessible hikes all over the Greater Vancouver area, including in North Vancouver – which is home to one of my favourite transit-accessible routes, the Baden Powell trail (specifically, the section between Lynn Canyon and Deep Cove). This five-hour, 11 kilometre/7 mile section of the overall 48 kilometre/30 mile trail takes you through old growth forest (making it perfect for a hot summer day), and is book-ended by two popular destinations: Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and Quarry Rock in Deep Cove. For me, it’s the perfect way to spend a day in the forest, without having to travel far from the comforts of home. Here’s what you can expect, based on my experience:
Step one: get yourself from wherever you are in Vancouver to the SeaBus terminal at Waterfront Station (schedule here). After a scenic float across from downtown Vancouver (try to snag a spot at the back of the boat for prime downtown skyline photo ops), you’ll arrive at the Londsdale Quay in North Vancouver (or as many locals call it, the North Shore).
Depending on how eager you are to get hiking, the Quay is a great place to stop and fuel up with a coffee and a snack (it’s also home to a market, plenty of shops and summer events). Then it’s time to hop on the 229 bus to head to Lynn Canyon Park, where you’ll start your hike by crossing the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge (free!). Keep in mind: if you arrive around mid-day on a Saturday or Sunday (which is exactly what we did on this occasion, whoops), the park will be very busy. Aim for a weekday or early morning, and you might just have the bridge to yourself.
Once across, look for signs that say “Baden Powell” (or the orange triangle with “BP” inside) and you’re off! The first section of the trail is a combination of well-maintained stairs and boardwalks, and still may be a bit crowded on busier days, as it also grants access to the pools at the bottom of the canyon.
After this first section, the crowds will thin and you’ll have a short climb up, followed by an easy descent into the bottom of the canyon. If it’s been raining recently, it can get a little muddy down here, but in mid-summer it’s usually perfectly dry, cool, quiet and so very GREEN. Prehistoric-looking ferns and skunk cabbage line the boardwalks as your make your way along the path.
After a leisurely stroll through the trees along the valley floor, it’s time for your first big ascent. I’m always impressed by the trail maintenance on the Baden Powell – there’s no scrambling up hills on this trail.
After the climb up, you’ll emerge from the forest and cross a road (which can be bit of a shock to the system after being in the quiet forest for so long), but it’s not long before you’re back in the trees. Next is another climb down (fairly steep, but again well-maintained with stairs and railings). You’ll cross the Seymour River and continue on for a relatively flat few kilometres, before the biggest climb of the hike: up the side of Mount Seymour.
This is the part of the hike when you’ll be glad you lugged that giant water bottle in your bag for the last two hours – the slow and steady, conversation-killer, “I know there’s a payoff for this at the end” section of the trail.
Once you cross the road that climbs up Mount Seymour, you can rest assured you’re almost at the top. You’ll start seeing ladder bridges and the mountain bikers who ride them, as their trails cross the Baden Powell at several points (and in my case, you’ll pant a “hello” and offer a shaky wave and contemplate asking for a ride down). But once the trail flattens out, the climb is quickly forgotten; this is my favourite part of the hike, as spirits are up after conquering the climb, and you know Quarry Rock is not too far off. The stunning old-growth forest scenery doesn’t hurt either.
And then, after a short section along the side of a quiet road, the trees part and…
…you emerge into the sunlight to realize you’re high up above Quarry Rock and the vistas of Deep Cove.
Quarry Rock provides a stunning view over Deep Cove and the Indian Arm, and is also accessible via a short trail from Deep Cove (but that’s not nearly as fun as a four-hour hike, is it?). After taking in the views/suntanning/eating the last of your snacks, it’s this short section of trail (approximately 40 minutes) that you’ll finish off your hike with.
You’ll suddenly emerge from the forest and find yourself in bustling Deep Cove, where all types of comfort await – a dip in the sea (if you’ve come prepared), a cold beer, an ice cream cone, a burger or just a SEAT. If you’re adventurous (or in better shape than I), you can also end your afternoon by renting canoes or kayaks and exploring Indian Arm. Once you’ve restored/rewarded yourself adequately, you’ll catch the 212 + 210 or 211 bus(es) back to Vancouver, depending on where you’re headed (your best bet is to wait at the stop above the park and ask the first driver to arrive). And there you have it: a full day of North Shore awesomeness, car-free!
Hiking in North Vancouver, BC
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