20 BEST WINTER HIKES IN VANCOUVER

by | Vancouver

Living on the West Coast of Canada seems to have endless perks and the relatively mild winters is definitely one of the key bonuses. We are lucky to be able to hike throughout the entire year and we wanted to put a list together of the best winter hikes in Vancouver!

Winter hikes in BC are epic and the nice thing is that you have the choice of totally snow-free hikes or, if you want to get into the mountains and go snowshoeing in Vancouver, you have that option as well. We split our list in two so you can find hikes that are either snow-free or covered in snow.

This list of epic year-round hikes Vancouver is home to should set you up for a winter full of exploring. We think that hiking is one of the best things to do in Vancouver in winter and if you are reading this then hopefully you agree with us. While many of the hikes are here in the greater Vancouver area, we also wanted to include some of the best winter hikes near Vancouver in case you want to explore slightly further afield.

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Best Snow Free Hikes in Vancouver

Quarry Rock

  • Time needed: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Quarry Rock hike in Deep Cove is one of the most popular hikes here! And luckily, it is as easy to hike in the winter as it is in the summer. It is so popular as it can be accessed by public transit, it is quite an easy trail, and the view at the end is spectacular. All of this does make it one of the busier hikes in Vancouver, especially on weekends with good weather.

A short walk and a bit of a climb along the very well-maintained Deep Cove trail will lead you to the main viewpoint which is on top of Quarry Rock. From here you will get beautiful views back down to Deep Cove, along Indian Arm, and over to Belcarra on the opposite side of the water. This is one of our favourite easy winter hikes Vancouver has to offer, and we’re sure you will love it too.

Quarry Rock Hike in Deep Cove

Diez Vistas

  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Hard

The Diez Vistas hike at Buntzen Lake is another great choice for a winter excursion. Depending on recent weather conditions, you may find the odd bit of snow here and there along the trail, but for the most part, it will be snow-free and you can complete it in regular hiking boots. The first part of the trail takes you along the eastern side of Buntzen Lake which is a pleasant walk along the edge of the water.

As you round the far end of the lake and cross the bridge you will split off the Buntzen Lake loop and begin your climb up towards Diez Vistas. There are several amazing viewpoints along the way where the trees open up and you get to look right along Indian Arm and over to Deep Cove. If you have done the Quarry Rock hike it is really cool to see this view from the other side of the water.

The birds eye view of the boats sailing by below and the distant skyline of downtown Vancouver make this an awesome winter hike, especially if you are looking for something a little bit more challenging.

Diez Vistas

Buntzen Lake

  • Time needed: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Buntzen Lake trail is a 10 kilometre circuit that loops right around Buntzen Lake. While there are some moderate elevation changes along the loop, it is a relatively easy trail. The path follows right along the edge of the water for almost the entire trail and there are several beaches and viewing platforms where you can stop to get some more unobstructed views.

The highlight of this trail is at the northern end of the lake where there is a picnic area and a small dock where you can sit and enjoy some winter sun if you are lucky enough to visit on one of the few sunny winter days. This is a great choice if you are looking to escape the city but don’t want to tackle too much elevation gain.

Buntzen Lake Loop

Lower Falls Trail

  • Time needed: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Lower Falls Trail in Golden Ears Provincial Park is one of the best easy and short hikes near Vancouver. The round trip is less than 5 kilometres and there is almost no elevation gain. This is a popular trail for families with young kids as it follows a well-maintained path almost the whole way from the parking lot to the falls.

This trail winds through the forest before running parallel to Gold Creek until you reach the lower falls. The water in the creek is crystal clear and in the summer it is not uncommon to see people going for a swim in the icy cold waters. On a clear day, you will get some stunning views up to the surrounding mountain peaks.

The lower falls at the end of the trail are impressive, especially late in the winter and into the spring as the snow melts. There is a lower viewing platform where you can watch the water gushing over the edge of the falls and you’ll get blasted by the resulting spray. You can also climb round to the top of the falls and get a view from up above.

This is a great short trail to get you into beautiful surroundings without having to put in too much effort!

Lower Falls Trail, Golden Ears Provincial Park

Norvan Falls

  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The hike to Norvan Falls is a long but relatively flat trail through the forest all the way to the falls at the end. This trail is great if you are looking for something longer but without too much elevation gain as it is a 15 kilometre round trip with only 300 metres of total elevation gain. You will find the trailhead to Norvan Falls in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park on the North Shore of Vancouver.

The waterfall at the end of the trail is cool and the water cascades into a beautiful green pool at the base of the falls. The waterfall flows year-round although for a few of the coldest days each winter it can end up being almost totally frozen which is really awesome to witness.

Norvan Falls Hike, North Vancouver

Lighthouse Park

  • Time needed: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Another really easy hike in the greater Vancouver area is Lighthouse Park. This loop trail is around 6 kilometres, depending on the route you take, with the highlight being the viewpoint that looks over the lighthouse and back to downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park in the distance.

This trail runs mostly through the forest and ends up on the water, with beaches to explore and rocks to climb. There is very little elevation gain on these trails and it is another great option for families or if you are looking for something nice and easy.

Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver

Jug Island Trail

  • Time needed: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Jug Island Beach trail is another popular hike that is located in Belcarra Regional Park. While there is a couple of hundred metres of elevation gain there is nothing too strenuous and the secluded beach at the end of the trail is spectacular. This is quite a busy trail and expect it to be very muddy along the way.

Jug Island sits just a few metres offshore and you get a sweet view down the waterways of Indian Arm and up to the surrounding mountains. You’ll often see people who kayak or stand up paddleboard to the beach as well. The Jug Island hike is a great trail but if you can visit during the week you’ll enjoy the views with much fewer people around.

Jug Island Trail

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

  • Time needed: 1 – 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Like a couple of the other easy trails we have mentioned, it’s a bit of a stretch to call this a hike but we had to include it as it’s a great spot for getting out to explore in the winter. The dense forest is full of flat trails and you can spend hours wandering through this beautiful old-growth forest.

The endless trails can be quite muddy, but that’s to be expected during the rainy winters here in Vancouver. This can be a great place to come when it is raining as the trails run through the forest which do offer decent protection from the elements.

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Whyte Lake

  • Time needed: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Whyte Lake is a small, secluded lake tucked into the hills of West Vancouver. It would be easy to live your whole life in Vancouver without even realizing it is there. While the first section is steep, it levels out quickly and overall is an easy hike. The highlight is the view from the wooden dock that looks out over this lake hidden amongst the trees.

Tunnel Bluffs

  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Some of the most epic views that you can get during the winter are from the viewpoint at Tunnel Bluffs in Lions Bay. This hike does sometimes have some snow on it so you will want to check conditions before you go, but for the most part, it is snow-free in the winter.

This hike is one of the more popular hikes we have done. As it is so popular, but there is so little parking. The first time we attempted to come here we ended up having to leave as there was no way we were getting a parking spot. But when you do get the chance, you are in for a treat.

The trail to the top is a bit of a slog, especially for the first half as you climb up a moderately steep incline before it thankfully flattens out and the rest of the trail is quite easy. Once you reach the main viewpoint you’ll get incredible views over Howe Sound and all of the islands below. This has to be one of the best hikes close to Vancouver and it’s awesome to be able to do this year-round with no special gear needed.

Stawamus Chief

  • Time needed: 4 – 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Difficult

The Chief might just be the most famous of all the day hikes near Vancouver. The sheer rock faces are impressive from sea level, never mind the view you get from the top. The first section is almost entirely made up of stairs and is definitely the worst part of the hike and it is a steady climb all the way to the top.

There are three different peaks that you can hike to or you can just choose to hike to one or two of the peaks as the views are all quite similar. If you only hike to one peak you’ll need up to 4 hours, but to hike to all three you’ll need closer to 6 hours.

The views from the top, no matter which peak you choose, are spectacular as you have aerial views down over Squamish and Howe Sound as well as up the valley towards Whistler. It’s little wonder why this is one of the best winter hikes near Vancouver, BC. Similar to Tunnel Bluffs, there can be snow here so check conditions before you leave.

The Stawamus Chief in Squamish
Hiking Stawamus Chief trail in January

Murrin Loop Trail

  • Time needed: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Another amazing easy trail near Vancouver that still gives you an epic view is Murrin Loop. Walk past Browning Lake before making your way up through the forest to Quercus Viewpoint where you’ll get an awesome look right down Howe Sound. Because this is such a short and easy trail it’s a great place to watch the sunset.

If you do come to hike this trail, we recommend making the extra effort to tackle Jurassic Ridge as there is some fun, more technical sections, and almost nobody comes up this far so you often have this section of the trail to yourself.

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Want to know exactly what we pack for a day out hiking? Check out our quick list below or read our full guide for what to bring on a day hike here.

 

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Best Hikes With Snow in Vancouver

Bowen Lookout

  • Time needed: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Bowen Lookout tops our list of the best snow-covered, beautiful hikes in Vancouver as it has sensational views over Howe Sound and Bowen Island and it is quite an easy hike to get these incredible views. The trail for Bowen Lookout is at Cypress Mountain, next to the Eagle Express chair lift.

The trail winds through the forest for the first half of the trail before you climb steeply up a few switchbacks to reach the lookout. The trail opens up to a large viewing platform where you get amazing views down to Howe Sound. As this is such a short and easy hike, it is also a great place to catch the sunset.

As this is a well-trafficked trail and the snow is compact, you can usually complete this trail using microspikes and snowshoes are only necessary if it is snowing heavily.

Dog Mountain

  • Time needed: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Another easy but epic winter hike is Dog Mountain, especially for those who want to go snowshoeing. Vancouver is lucky to have three local ski hills, all within an hour’s drive from downtown, and Dog Mountain can be found at Mount Seymour.

The trail winds through the forest, climbing gradually for most of the way with a few very short steeper sections. If you come on a clear day, you’ll get amazing views back down to the city and out over the water. Even on a day with bad weather (and we get a bunch of those), this is still a fun hike as the trail through the forest is so pretty.

Similar to Bowen Lookout, this is a well-trafficked trail and can easily be completed using microspikes or snowshoes.

Dog Mountain Snowshoe

Pump Peak

  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

If you are looking to tackle a more challenging snowshoe trail at Mount Seymour then check out Pump Peak. With just under 400 metres of elevation gain, this is a good trail to work up a sweat that will be well rewarded with sensational views at the top. You’ll get similar but more unobstructed views to those at Dog Mountain plus you get more of a 360 degree view of all of the other surrounding mountains.

While it is a fairly tough hike it is still very doable in half a day and the different terrain keeps it interesting. Due to the steepness in many parts of this trail, we would recommend completing this in snowshoes or at the least with crampons.

The below photo is from a summer hike to Pump Peak as our winter visits to Seymour Mountain have always been on snowy days without a view.

First Peak at Seymour Mountain

Hollyburn Mountain

  • Time needed: 3.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Another of the many snowshoe trails up at Cypress Mountain is the trail up Hollyburn Mountain. This is a fairly steep and grueling snowshoe trail that will get the muscles in your legs burning. The first half of the trail is relatively easy but the second half of the hike more than makes up for it.

As you pass the end of the official nordic ski area at Cypress you will begin the steep ascent to the top, conquering many false summits along the way. The very last climb up to the peak of Hollyburn is the steepest section of the whole trail and is as close to vertical as you can get without needing ropes or some sort of assistance. On a clear day, you’ll get awesome views from the top.

Hollyburn Mountain Snowshoe

Black Mountain

  • Time needed: 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

One of the slightly lesser-known snowshoe trails in Vancouver is the trail up Black Mountain at Cypress. This trail runs right next to the ski run Maelle Ricker’s and can be accessed next to the Eagle Express chair lift which is also where the beginning of the trail to Bowen Lookout is located. It is a fairly steep ascent up Black Mountain and you’ll get to see the skiers and snowboarders ripping down the ski hill right next to you.

Like all of the hikes around Cypress Mountain, you’ll get awesome views from the top. If you have a ski pass you can do this the lazy way and take the Eagle Express chairlift to the top and cut out all the hard work.

Black Mountain Snowshoe

Snowshoe Grind at Grouse Mountain

  • Time needed: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Grouse Grind is one of the most famous hikes in Vancouver but it closes for an extended period in the winter. But there is a relatively new trail at the top of Grouse Mountain called the Snowshoe Grind. This is a short but steep trail and is like a mini, snow-covered version of the Grouse Grind.

This trail is located in the Munday Alpine Snowshoe Park so you will need a general admission ticket to the park to ride the Gondola to the top. You can buy your Grouse Mountain admission ticket here.

Elfin Lakes

  • Time needed: 7+ hours
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Another epic full-day snowshoe adventure is the hike to Elfin Lakes which is in Garibaldi Provincial Park. This trail is accessed just a few minute’s drive from Squamish. There are two parking lots here and if you plan to park in the top parking lot you are required to use chains throughout the winter.

The nice thing about this trail is that while it is long – 22 kilometres round trip – there are virtually no steep climbs on the trail. Most of the elevation is done in the first half of the trail as you slowly climb to the Red Heather Hut. From here you’ll start to get some jaw-dropping views across the valley to endless snow covered mountain peaks.

You will need to start early as this is a full-day trip or you can reserve a spot in the Elfin Lakes Hut and split this into a multi-day hike. Learn more about reservations at the Elfin Lakes Hut here.

Elfin Lakes Snowshoe

Garibaldi Lake

  • Time needed: 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Garibaldi Lake and Panorama Ridge are our favourite summer hikes on the West Coast and the awesome thing is that you can still visit in the winter. While it is possible to go all the way to Panorama Ridge, it is a huge trip in the winter so we recommend just visiting Garibaldi Lake. While the trail up through the forest isn’t the most exciting, the views at the lake are worth it.

While it may be a beautiful glacial blue in the summer, Garibaldi Lake completely freezes over in the winter. You’ll also get some stunning views up to the surrounding mountains which are completely covered in snow.

This is nearly a full day affair so make sure you come prepared with enough food and water as the temperatures at the top will be much colder than where you start at the parking lot – nearly 1000 metres lower down so make sure you have plenty of warm clothing for when you reach the lake.

Final Thoughts

While there are other choices for winter trails in and around the city, we feel that these are the best winter hikes in Vancouver and ones we would be happy to recommend to anyone. Choose from super easy to more challenging trails and you also have the option of snow-free or snow-covered trails.

One of the great things about living in Vancouver is that when it is raining lower down you can just drive up into the mountains to hike in the snow. What’s your favourite winter hike in and around Vancouver? Let us know in the comments!


Looking for more adventures around Vancouver? Check out more of our travel guides here:

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Wild About BC About Us

Hi, we’re Luke and Roxy, a couple of adventurers that are head over heels in love with British Columbia, Canada.

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