So this time we only had two days in Vancouver, and the weather forecast was for torrential rain. We planned for the worst and hoped for the best, and put down a trip to Cypress Provincial Park as our “in case it’s sunny” option. We’d heard there were some incredible views of Bowen Island and the Salish Sea from a couple of the hikes there, so all we needed now were clear skies!
We’d had a late night watching a dueling pianos show the night before at the Best Western on Davie Street (definitely recommend), so we woke up well after sunrise to see the sunshine beaming through the windows. We took one look at each other and knew that Cypress Mountain was on.
Louise had done the research on this one, so I have to say I was pretty surprised when we rolled up to the parking lot of the Cypress Mountain ski resort. Although the snow was definitely starting to thaw and turn to slush, there was still more than enough to make the hike a challenge, especially as we were only wearing our normal hiking attire. I guess we were ‘shoeing’ this hike, rather than wearing the recommended snowshoes that everyone else seemed to be wearing. Oh well, nothing worth having was ever easy, so we decided to push boldly on in our hiking boots.
We popped into the Cypress Mountain lodge and picked up some banana bread and Nanaimo bars on our way past (which were actually pretty reasonably priced for a ski resort), and then kept walking past the lodge until we reached the back country trails.
N.B. to be allowed into the back country, you have to pick up a free back country pass from the “Brown Bag Room” near the parking lot. It’s in the building adjacent to the lot, and you can just walk in and grab one of their bright yellow passes. There was someone checking passes as we walked through, so it’s worth getting before you head up to the lodge.
Once you’re past the person checking the tickets, keep walking straight to the Eagle Express chair, and you should see the start of the back country trails right in front of you.
Once you’re on the trail, the path forks, and you can go left up Black Mountain, or right towards the Howe Sound Crest Trail, and the Bowen lookout point. We learnt this through bitter experience because we’d originally intended to go straight to the lookout, but inadvertently took the left fork up to Black Mountain first!
So this trail is when you take the left fork, and it basically runs up the edge of, and parallel to, the ski hill. It winds slowly upwards with a few switchbacks to reach an end elevation of 1200m. The hike is about 5km round trip. The path is clearly marked with orange posts, so it’s impossible to get lost!
The scenery is pretty beautiful, but for 90% of the hike, you’re walking between trees and don’t really get any breathtaking views, apart from getting to see the skiers hitting the kickers by the side of the trail!
The top of the trail leads to the Black mountain loop at the top, from which you can see the Salish sea on one side and Downtown Vancouver from the other.
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It was pretty windy up top, and the views came and went as we got engulfed in clouds.
Seeing a group of snowshoers go off the path, we decided to follow them in the hopes that they knew something we didn’t. It turned out that they didn’t, and the clouds really started to roll in at this point, so we decided to head back down to the bottom and hunt for the Bowen lookout that we’d originally intended to find!
Our non-grippy boots and the slush turned out to be a winning combination on the journey back down, and we spent virtually the entire way skiing and sliding with our boots. It was actually much quicker and easier than trying to walk, and way more fun.
Howe Sound Crest Trail and the Bowen lookout
Once we’d reached the bottom again, we still had lots of hours left in the day and decided that we’d go on another hike to the Bowen island lookout point. It works out to around 3km to the lookout point so we figured we could make it easily before sunset.
This hike is pretty well signposted, but be sure to look out for the half buried wooden posts that direct you along the way.
The trail starts parallel to the river, and then winds up through a beautiful moss covered forest, and up to a road. Hanger left and follow the path to a small bridge, cross the bridge and then work your way up through the switchbacks and a final long steep stretch.
Eventually you’ll reach some crossed poles and a sign saying “end of the marked trail”; turn left here and it’s only 240m more to the lookout!
The lookout gives you an absolutely stunning view of the bay, and is just high enough to give unimpeded panoramic views of the mountains.
If you’ve seen the spate of photos recently where people have birds landing on their hands, this is definitely one of those spots. There were a ton of Whiskyjacks here and they were incredibly tame. You just had to hold out your hand and they would fly over to see what you were offering. We didn’t even have to hold any food out. It’s pretty obvious that these birds get a lot of food from passing hikers, so it’s no wonder they’re so tame. Makes for some awesome photos though!
Definitely would recommend snowshoes or at least ice spikes for your boots on these hikes if you’re going to be attempting them in winter, and we would recommend doing the Bowen lookout hike over the Black Mountain hike if you’re looking for great views. Black Mountain doesn’t peak too high above the tree line, so you won’t get those unimpeded views. Definitely a cool winter hike, and something awesome that you can do if you’re not into skiing and snowboarding. I also highly recommend this place if you’re looking for a quick hike on a sunny Winter’s day!
Feel free to get in touch at [email protected] if you have any more questions!
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