Feature Region: Vancouver & Coast

The Vancouver and coast region of British Columbia includes:

  • Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody
  • Tsawwssen and Delta
  • Surry and Langley
  • Whistler
  • Squamish and Howe Sound
  • Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows
  • North and West Vancouver
  • Pemberton
  • Chilliwack, Mission, Abbotsford

As such a huge and highly populated area, there are plenty of trail walking and backpacking opportunities around. Many of the trails are rated as ‘easy’ but there are some more difficult ones available as well.

The easiest trail is Bridal Veil Falls in Fraser Valley East, at less than a kilometer long and approximately 20 minutes of hiking time. At the other end of the scale is the 30 kilometer, 11 hour Panorama Ridge hike in Whistler. No matter what direction you go, the stunning coastal scenery is sure to amaze. 

panorama ridge

View from the Panorama Ridge hike in Whistler. Photo courtesy of vancouvertrails.com

Vancouver Trails also has an event page that is constantly updated, providing outdoor events that backpackers in the area might be interested in.  Be sure to check out one of the most popular regions in British Columbia- just make sure you pack a rain jacket! 

Backpacking Safety

A common theme both for this blog and backpacking in general is safety. Obviously using your common sense is essential, and you probably know that you should be aware of things like first aid and animal safety. Here are some more detailed tips to keep you safe in the backcountry!

  • Don’t hike alone, and always let someone know where you are headed, and when you plan to return
  • If you’re hiking in a heavily bear-populated area, don’t plan on hiking early in the day or past dusk; make some noise, and cook your meals at least 100 meters away from your tent
  • Make sure you are aware of proper hiking fitness and nutrition
  • Take the time to learn some wilderness first aid, and pack a thorough first aid kit; even if you try your best, it is easy for someone to get hurt and you should know how to respond to different injuries until help can arrive
  • Know your area, and be able to recognize poisonous plants 
  • Be aware of weather conditions before you go; pack appropriate gear, and stay away from potentially dangerous areas (like high avalanche risk areas, etc)

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A properly packed first aid kit.

These tips are still somewhat basic, but there are lots of places online to help you be safe on your backpacking adventures. Be prepared, know your area well, and stay safe backpacking so you can keep on trekking on! 

British Columbia Provincial Parks System

As you may have heard, British Columbia provincial parks gained nearly 276,000 extra hectares last month through the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act.

In a press release, Environment Minister Terry Lake talked about the benefits of such legislation.

“Through this legislation we are helping to protect our environment, including spawning habitat for sockeye salmon and a unique mineral source used by mountain caribou and other wildlife, which is the result of an extensive land-use planning process we have undertaken with First Nations, stakeholders and the public,” he said.

In a backpacking sense, this means that even more of our province is protected from too much development. We can continue to enjoy the magnificent landscapes and wildlife that are such a key part of our hiking experience. 

It also means that the province could potentially build more provincial trails, and more of the province might have a backcountry camping fee through the parks system.   

British Columbia has the largest provincial/territorial parks system in Canada, and the third largest protected areas systems in North America (after the Canadian and US national parks systems). All together, 13,986,106 hectares to be exact.

It says Beautiful British Columbia on our license plates for a reason. Sometimes it is good to reflect on how lucky we are to live in such an amazing place, and look forward to preserving these landscapes for the future. 

Spring! (and hot springs!)

In honor of spring (that is hopefully here to stay), this post recognizes some of the beautiful hot springs in British Columbia! After a long hike, what could be better than soaking in a natural hot tub to reward your hard-working muscles? Here are a few spots that indulge both adventuring and relaxing.

For a unique experience, try out the Dewar hot springs near Kimberley, BC. This hot spring is truly natural in that you have to drive up a rough logging road, and then hike your way up to the springs; they have not been developed at all, but there is a campsite half a kilometer away. Make sure you do not try this hike unless you have detailed instructions.

Another natural hot springs is the Meager Creek hot springs, located near Pemberton. It is a difficult location to get to, involving 7 kilometers of hiking with both river and creek crossings. There is a small fee to access the springs, and camping is primitive. Unfortunately the Meager Creek area is also one of the most landslide prone areas in British Columbia, which causes safety issues and closes the springs for weeks at a time. Those who have made the trek have all positive reviews though, so if you have the opportunity and ability to visit, really consider doing so!

Harrison hot springs is a popular destination, with options several different camping options available (so you don’t have to fork out a small fortune to stay at the resort), and hikes ranging from the easy 30 minute Spirit Trail to the 7hr Bear Mountain hike. You can dip in the springs at both the resort and the public pool.

Ainsworth hot springs is near Nelson, BC and features a 150-foot horseshoe hot cave, as well as a pool and stream-fed polar dip. It is located near Kootenay Glacier Provincial Park as well as many smaller trails.

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The hot cave at Ainsworth Hot Springs. Photo courtesy of hotnaturally.com

We’ve only highlighted a few hot springs here. There are endless other hot spring options throughout British Columbia, ranging from wilderness to resorts and everything in between. The location of hot springs is often perfect for a backpacking getaway, and the two are a great combination for working yourself and then relaxing.

Feature Region: Cariboo Chilcotin Coast

The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast is one of British Columbia’s most remote regions, and one of the most unique backpacking destinations.

A popular and easy hike to see the region is the Williams Lake River Valley Trail, which is accessible right out of downtown Williams Lake. Historic Barkerville also offers some easy walking trails, like the Gold Rush Trail.

Tweedsmuir Provincial park, four to five hours west of Williams Lake, offers the beautiful and unique Rainbow Range, an intermediate four to six hour trail featuring red, yellow, orange and lavender volcanic mountains.  This park also features the Hunlen Falls/Turner Lake Chain, which has many options for multi day trail options including a 58 km return hike.

rainbow ridge

Part of the Rainbow Range. Photo courtesy of knowbc.com

 

The Spruce Lake protected area near Gold Bridge and Pemberton has extensive multi-use trails including Gun Creek trail (three days), High Trail (two days), Warner Pass Trail (four days), and Tyaughton Creek Trail (four days) and is another great option for intermediate hikers.

Experienced hikers can revel in many difficult hikes as well, including the four to six hour Yellowhawk Trail through alpine meadows, and the Ts’yl-os Provincial Park four to six day loop trek.

For the very advanced hikers, the Alexander Mackenzie/Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail is a three-week, 350 km outback adventure. There is a food supply drop at the halfway mark, which is essential, and the best time to hike the trail is August-September. To reach Sir Alexander Mackenzie Provincial Park (the historic location where he inscribed the words “Alex Mackenzie from Canada by land 22nd July 1793”) you must travel by boat, just as he did. This historic trail also has multiple day trips available out of Quesnel and Prince George if you are not up for the strenuous backpacking.

alexander mackenzie

Alexander Mackenzie’s inscription and monument. Photo courtesy of mvdirona.com

 

This area is quite remote and is home to plenty of wildlife like cougars and grizzly bears, so things like proper food storage and wildlife education should be a priority. If you are concerned, there are plenty of guided hikes in the area, with rangers accustomed to the area and knowledgeable of wildlife dangers.

If you need another reason to splurge on a guided tour, some of the areas are best accessed by floatplane, or a combination of horseback riding and hiking. Heli-hiking opportunities are also available.  Tyax Adventures offers multiple packages in different areas of the region, and although the cost can seem high, it is worth it in terms of your safety and the amazing sights that you would not be able to access by yourself (not to mention it is still cheaper than a week in hotels!).

No matter what your skill level or budget, the Cariboo Chilcotin area is a must-see for its rich history, culture, and beautiful landscapes.

Urban Backpacking vs. Outdoor Backpacking

As you can see, this blog has a focus on outdoor backpacking, as being outdoors seems like the best option for travelling most of British Columbia. However, we should not discount urban backpacking as a travel opportunity.

urban backpacking

photo courtesy of wikitravel.com

Wikitravel.com defines urban backpacking as ‘a form of travel focusing on flexibility and low cost, usually sleeping in hostels and other budget accommodation.’

I know when you think of urban you’re thinking of big cities around the world that you can explore. Granted, there is not much of this definition of urban available in British Columbia. You could try it exploring the greater Vancouver area. But I think that urban backpacking is an option you should consider when visiting any new area, big or small!

Urban backpacking allows you to expand your knowledge of the territory you are in. In a new area, it is a great way to stick with your budget, explore beyond typical tourist traps, and really get a deeper and more meaningful experience from your trip.

Urban backpacking can entail walking the streets and trails within city limits or exploring small hiking trails just outside of city limits. Even in smaller areas you will have fun realizing the true essence of the area, discovering hidden gems, and navigating walking trails.

Of course, it is important that you use common sense and safety when urban backpacking. Try to learn as much about the city as possible, have a travelling buddy, and carry some sort of GPS if you need to. The last thing you want to do is accidently wander into a ghetto by yourself looking vulnerable.

While you’re exploring beautiful British Columbia, don’t discount the amazing cities and towns we have scattered all over the province; take some time out of your mountain hiking to peruse some of the best places to live in the whole world!