Bowen Island is such a magical little escape from the hustle and bustle of Vancouver and one of our favourite things to do on the Island is to complete the Mount Gardner Hike. From the summit of Mt Gardner you’ll get epic 360-degree views over Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound, and Vancouver Island. This is our favourite of the Bowen Island trails and one you should make sure is on your Vancouver hiking bucket list.
Even though Bowen Island is only a short ferry ride from the mainland it feels like you are in a completely different world. This is a popular spot with Vancouver locals but it never feels that busy and there is a much more chilled-out pace of life here. Plus you get to explore some amazing hikes.
If you are looking to escape the city for a short day trip then we highly recommend a visit here and if you are looking for a Bowen Island hike, Mount Gardner is definitely the way to go.
Mount Gardner Trail Overview
Difficulty – Moderate
Distance – 10 Kms (add 6 kilometres if you walk from the ferry)
Est time – 5.5 hours
Location – Bowen Island
Elevation – 700 metres
Highlights – Views of Downtown Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island
Distance from van – 1 hour 15 minutes
Public Transit – Yes
Dog friendly – Yes
Camping – No
Toilets – No
How to Get to the Mount Gardner Loop Trail
To reach Bowen Island you will need to take a ferry from Horseshoe Bay (check out Horseshoe Bay Lookout while you are here) or take a private boat over to the island. From downtown Vancouver, you can take the 250 or 257 bus, you can drive and park at the ferry terminal or you can drive onto the ferry so you have your car on the other side. You can check out the Bowen ferry schedule here.
While it is an extra walk from the ferry terminal, we recommend just walking onto the ferry as you can easily complete the hike without a car.
When you arrive on Bowen Island it is about a 3-kilometre walk to reach the trailhead but it is an easy and pretty walk. Walk straight up the main road and then turn right onto Miller Road. Go just passed Killarney Creek and then turn left into a small parking lot where you will see a trail through the forest. Follow signs to Killarney Lake. You’ll get a quick look at this picturesque lake before continuing on your way.
When you reach the Killarney Lake loop trail turn left and then go right as you cross over the creek. Next, you will turn left at the sign for Mt Gardner Road and then when you reach the road turn right. Walk a short distance along this road and then the hikers’ trail road on your left-hand side. You can also use the Mount Gardner trail map above to help guide you.
If you don’t want the extra walk then you can drive and park right at the base of this road. There are a few hundred metres of gravel road which you can park along the side before a gate blocks your access.
Mount Gardner Hike
The hike up to the peak of Mt Gardner is fairly steep and will definitely get your legs burning by the end of it. One thing that we love is that you can complete this hike year-round, so it is one of many great winter hikes in Vancouver that you can tackle.
The gravel road that you start your hike on climbs at a decent rate and the climb doesn’t really stop until you reach the top. At the first junction, you see, turn left and follow the signs for Skid Trail which will take you into the forest. This is a steep trail through the forest and it can be easy to come off the trail. Keep an eye out for the orange tree markers to keep you on the right track.
At the next junction go left following the signs for Skid Trail and South Mount Gardner. This is a slightly harder but faster route to the top. This part of the trail is full of every hiker’s favourite thing, switchbacks!
Shortly after these switchbacks, you will see the gravel road again and you can choose to continue through the forest or get back on the gravel road. We chose to jump back onto the gravel road for some easier-to-navigate terrain.
At the next junction on the gravel road go left and follow the orange markers. The gravel road eventually comes to an end and you come to a much smaller and muddier trail through the trees. Climb up through the trees for a few minutes and you will come out onto some rocks where you will get your first glimpses of the spectacular views over the surrounding waterways.
Continue along for a few minutes and you will reach the first viewpoint where the trees clear and you get a beautiful view straight over to the Sunshine Coast and over the water below.
Gather your breath and take in the views for a few minutes before continuing along the trail. The next section is actually a bit more mellow as you enter back into the forest. This section of the forest is sensational and it feels like something from a fairy tale as golden shafts of light filter through and illuminates the trees and forest floor which are covered in lush green moss.
You’ll make your way passed some little ponds and across several small creeks as you climb further up into the forest. After about 10 minutes you come to a junction and you will turn left to reach the summit. Keep climbing along this trail and eventually, you will arrive at the summit of Mount Gardner.
Mount Gardner Viewpoint
The first viewpoint you reach is a wooden platform that looks Northwest over Keats Island and to Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast. Continue on towards the weather station and you will get stunning views on a clear day over downtown Vancouver, the North Shore mountains and even Mt Baker in the distance. While all of the viewpoints on this hike are pretty special, this is the best of the lot.
We spent some time up here letting our legs recover, eating some snacks and soaking in some winter sun. This is quite a popular hike so while the trail may seem quiet on the way up, don’t be surprised to find it busy at the summit. This is especially true as you can complete the loop in either direction so you’ll have people coming in the opposite direction to you.
Once you have had your fill of beautiful views you can continue the trail down the opposite side where you arrived. It is a short and steep trail with orange markers along the way and it won’t be long before you rejoin the main trail you came up on.
Follow the same route all the way down and back into town where you can grab some lunch at the Bowen island Pub or grab some cocktails at Copper Spirit Distillery.
Bowen Island Camping
While we would love to tell you to bring your tents to the top of Mt Gardner for an epic overnight adventure, camping on Bowen Island is prohibited. Unfortunately, you will need to leave your overnight backpack at home and stay at one of the awesome places on Bowen Island.
There aren’t that many places to choose from, but if you want to stay for a couple of nights and explore more of the island then we recommend Artisan Suites on Bowen.
>> You can see prices and availability for Artisan Suites on Bowen here.
Bowen Island is one of our favourite day trips from the city and it makes for an awesome weekend getaway from Vancouver too. The highlight of any visit here is the views from the Mount Gardner hike and while it is fairly tough it is worth every step of the climb. Make sure to add this to your list of hikes to complete around Vancouver if you haven’t done it already!
Looking for more adventures around Vancouver? Check out more of our travel guides here: