Local hiking expert Stephen Hui shares his fave spots to spend a night in the great outdoors.
We like an easy, meandering climb as much as the next person, but sometimes it feels good to fully commit to a trail in that I’m-going-to-sleep-here kind of way. So we asked local hiking expert Stephen Hui to share the most spectacular overnight hikes from his new book, 105 Hikes in and Around Southwestern British Columbia. Read on for his take on five entry-level overnight trips—all with sparkling lake and river vistas—in provincial parks near Vancouver. Reminder: Check conditions, tell someone where you’ll be and never leave anything behind: “Pack it in, pack it out." Mount Garibaldi and Diamond Head from Paul Ridge.
1. Elfin Lakes
Round trip 22 km Difficulty Moderate Location Garibaldi Provincial Park (east of Squamish) The Elfin Lakes Trail follows Paul Ridge to the well-loved shelter and campground at its namesake ponds. At Red Heather Meadows, ground squirrels chatter and whisky jacks eye your snacks. Spectacular views of Mount Garibaldi and the Garibaldi Névé, and Pyramid Mountain and Mamquam Mountain reward your efforts. Gold Creek bridge on the East-West Canyon Connector.
2. Gold Creek
Round trip 14 km Difficulty Moderate Location Golden Ears Provincial Park (north of Maple Ridge) In 2015, B.C. Parks built a new bridge over Gold Creek, creating an appealing loop for hikers. Strike off on the East Canyon Trail, an old logging road flanked by salmonberry brambles, mossy conifers, and thick stumps. Visit Viewpoint Beach and Alder Flats, and stay the night at one of these scenic backcountry campsites. Moraine above Upper Joffre Lake.
3. Joffre Lakes
Round trip 9.5 km Difficulty Easy Location Joffre Lakes Provincial Park (east of Pemberton) While solitude is in short supply at postcard-perfect Joffre Lakes, alpine splendour is clearly not. At deep-blue Middle Joffre Lake, you may see a queue for photo ops on an Instagram-famous log. Visit Holloway Falls en route to the upper lake campground. Rainbow Bridge reflected in Lightning Lake.
4. Lightning Lakes
Round trip 20 km Difficulty Moderate Location Manning Provincial Park (southeast of Hope) Start by crossing the picturesque Rainbow Bridge over the reflective narrows of Lightning Lake. Then join the old trappers’ path that is the Lightning Lakes Chain Trail. Overnight at Strike Lake Camp and turn around at remote Thunder Lake. Potential wildlife sightings include black bears, mule deer, beavers, Townsend’s chipmunks, merganser ducks and western terrestrial garter snakes. Harlequin duck in the Skagit River.
5. Skagit River Trail
Round trip 22 km Difficulty Moderate Location Skagit Valley Provincial Park (east of Hope) Experience a section of the historic Whatcom Trail, a short-lived gold-rush route. Traverse the Skagit River Cottonwoods Ecological Reserve, home to beautiful old-growth groves of Douglas-fir and western red cedar. Camp at Harlequin Flats Camp before returning upstream the following day.