Bowen Lookout on Cypress Mountain has some of the most amazing views in the whole of Vancouver. Unlike some of the other hikes with similar views, such as St Mark’s Summit, this hike is super short and easy and can be completed in just over an hour. The combination of insane views, proximity to the city and ease of access makes this one of our favourite hikes in the city.
The viewpoint looks out over Howe Sound and is almost right above Bowen Island. Looking down on the different waterways, islands, and surrounding mountains is a spectacular feeling and we highly recommend a visit at sunset to see this place at its absolute best. This is a much shorter and easier version of the St Marks Summit hike that offers similar views.
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Bowen Lookout Trail Overview
How to Get to Cypress Provincial Park
To reach Cypress Mountain from downtown Vancouver, take the Trans-Canada Highway, Highway 1, out towards Whistler. The exit you need to take is Exit 8 onto the Cypress Bowl Road towards Cypress Mountain Ski Resort, which is well signposted.
The drive up to the base of the ski area is a fairly steep road via long switchbacks. There is a viewpoint about 1/3 of the way up this road called the Highview Lookout that is worth stopping at. It has uninterrupted views the whole way across the city, and it looks just as good at night time as well.
Once you reach the top of the mountain, there are several places to park your car. The main car park closes the gate at 7pm so if you plan on heading later in the evening, make sure you park in one of the many parking spots outside the gates. There is no fee for parking your car here. For those staying overnight on the Howe Sound Crest Trail, you have to park in lot 3B.
Bowen Lookout Trail
From the parking lot, head passed the main lodge at the base of the ski lifts and as you enter the ski area you will see a trail marker with several different options. As you make your way passed the lodge keep an eye out for bears further up on the ski runs. They are extremely common here and if you have a good eye, you have a great chance of spotting black bears in the distance. They are also common on the trail, so make sure you are bear aware and have a bear bell and/or bear spray.
There are a couple of different routes you can take to reach the lookout, but we recommend taking the route that passes by Yew Lake. The trail through the trees and along the lake is beautiful and only adds an extra few hundred metres, all of which are along flat gravel paths.
After around 5 minutes of walking along the gravel path, you will come to Yew Lake which sits in the valley between Mount Strachan and Black Mountain and is surrounded by dense forest. The trail meanders along the lake and through the meadow for several hundred metres before turning right and slightly upwards into the forest.
The entire trail is very well signposted and once you have passed Yew Lake you can follow signs for Bowen Lookout. After coming out of the forested area, you will come to a 3-way junction. Turn left to reach the lookout. After walking on this more open gravel path for a few minutes you will come to the base of the steep switchbacks which will take you higher up the mountain.
Overall, there is very little elevation gain on this hike but it all comes near the end of the hike as you climb steeply up the gravel switchback trail. Although it is a steep climb, it only takes about 10 minutes to complete and you will catch glimpses of Howe Sound through the trees as you ascend.
After a few hundred metres of following these switchbacks, there is another junction where you will turn left to reach the lookout which is less than 100 metres from the junction.
As you walk around the final corner of the trail the trees open out into a wide-open viewing platform that looks out across Howe Sound. As we mentioned before, these are genuinely some of the best views in Vancouver and it is so easy to get to.
This lookout is a large gravel area with a small wooden bench and some large concrete blocks making up the platform that you can sit and relax on. It can get busy on the weekends, but the platform is large enough to accommodate everybody.
Bowen Island is down to your left-hand side and if you look beyond that you can see all the way to Vancouver Island on a clear day. To the right, you can see Gambier Island and further into Howe Sound as well as the endless mountains in the background. It is ridiculously spectacular up here and a must-do hike for any local or tourist. It’s also one of the best winter hikes in Vancouver and can be completed at any time of the year, although you will want spikes or snowshoes in the winter months.
Another reason it’s so cool here is all of the wildlife. We spent 45 minutes here at sunset and saw loads of animals. They are common here as many people feed them (you’re not supposed to) and this means they are also used to being around people.
There were several blue jays, woodpeckers, and whiskey jacks flying around. We also had a super friendly chipmunk that ran around our feet for almost the entire time as well as a bunny to top things off. This area is also known for being home to pygmy owls.
The best time to visit is at sunset during a weekday. While you are unlikely to ever have this spot to yourself, fewer people venture up during the week. The sun sets straight in front of the lookout and watching the sky change colours as the sun dips below the mountains is an epic experience. As the trail is gravel the whole way, it also makes the return journey in fading light fairly easy.
Tip: Depending on the time of year, it can get quite buggy on the trail and lookout. Be sure to bring bug spray and bring a jacket to cover up in the evenings.
After enjoying some time at the lookout, taking in the scenery you can make your way back to the car park. At the bottom of the switchbacks, you will reach the junction where you can turn right back into the forest to go back via Yew Lake. If you want a faster route to the car park just follow the wide gravel road straight and you will eventually come out on one of the ski runs and you can make your way back down to the lodge from there.
Tip: If you go for sunset like we did, be sure to bring a headlamp and bear spray to be cautious.
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This is easily one of the best hikes in Vancouver because you get one of the most awesome payoffs without having to put in too much effort. Bowen Lookout really is a breathtaking spot and the fact it is accessible to do in the evening during the week makes it all the better. This is one of those places in Vancouver that will just make you fall in love with the west coast of Canada.
If you have the time we recommend continuing on to St Marks Summit for similar but more impressive views.
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