Vancouver: hikes with stunning views (medium difficulty)

What to do in Vancouver in summer? Hiking, of course! I try to get to the mountains as often as possible and every time I struggle with the choice of a trail. Where else should I climb for better views without getting tired to death? If you’re with me on the subject, a few ideas below.

In this article, I list the best trails of medium difficulty which also meet the following requirements:

  • are interesting to hike – with lookouts, river crossings, waterfalls, wildlife, meadows, etc.
  • at the end there’s gonna be a stunning view of the lake, the bay, the snowy rocky mountains, the ocean
  • the whole trip takes an average of 4-6 hours and in terms of physical activity is comparable to an intensive workout at the gym

The list will grow, so advice, recommendations, and feedback in the comments would be highly appreciated!

Alltrails maps are up to date. You can click on the name of the trail in the upper right corner and go to the site with fresh comments from local hikers, and save it for the future.

For a list of my favorite easy and more challenging trails, check out this link.

High Note Trail

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: 9.3 kilometers
  • Elevation gain: 340 meters
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Season: July-October
  • When we went: July 29
  • Distance from Vancouver: 2 hours by car (+ additional time on gondola)

The High Note Trail in Whistler is still at the top of my personal list of medium difficulty hikes in Vancouver area. Even in spite of the fact that it’s not free (you have to pay for the elevators).

To the starting point you must first take the gondola, walk a bit, then take the chairlift. Then the real fun begins: a giant stone inuksuk, a bridge hanging over an abyss, incredible panoramas, blooming alpine meadows, and ice lakes. The scenery is very picturesque and varied, it’s quite entertaining to walk.

I don’t recommend this hike during the heat. There are almost no trees on the slopes, no places to rest and cool off in the shade. Bring sunscreen, water, mosquito spray, and headgear.

High Note Trail (Whistler)
High Note Trail (Whistler)
High Note Trail (Whistler)
High Note Trail (Whistler)
High Note Trail (Whistler)
High Note Trail (Whistler)
High Note Trail (Whistler)

Garibaldi Lake

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: 18 kilometers
  • Elevation gain: 820 meters
  • Duration: 5-6 hours
  • Season: June-October
  • When we went: August 5
  • Distance rom Vancouver:1.5 hours by car

I find this trail to be the most boring in this top. Almost all of the trail passes through the woods without any lookouts. The elevation gain is quite significant, but it’s easy to walk. The trail is popular and well-trodden. It is worth taking trekking poles if you have problems with your knees. Be sure to wear trekking boots and be prepared that by the end they will be covered with a thick layer of dust (as well as your pants/legs if you wear shorts).

The final destination, Lake Garibaldi, is simply unbelievably beautiful! The turquoise water against the huge snowy mountains. Lots of chipmunks and birds that don’t mind eating out of your hands. You can also go for a swim if you want. Definitely a must visit!

Garibaldi lake trail hike
Garibaldi lake trail hike
Garibaldi lake trail hike
Garibaldi lake trail hike

Tunnel Bluffs from Harrison Trail

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: 16 kilometers
  • Elevation gain: 796 meters
  • Duration: 4-4.5 hours
  • Season: May-November
  • When we went: June 7
  • Distance from Vancouver: 30-40 minutes by car

There is a short trail from Tunnel Point to Tunnel Bluffs. But when we went there, the parking lot was closed and we had to experiment. We started our hike from the town of Lions Bay. We left the car at the fire station on Centre Rd and turned onto the Centennial Trail along the Sea-to-Sky Highway. After that, Harrison Trail, Brunswick Mountain, and finally the narrow trail to Tunnel Bluffs. A couple of times we had to cross waterfalls over fallen logs. The road is quite easy and less crowded than the original trail.

At the end there’s a scenic view from the cliffs to the islets and Howe Sound. Blue jays are flying around (Steller’s Jay is a symbol of BC). There is a quite photogenic cobblestone.

Tunnel Bluffs hike
Tunnel Bluffs hike
Tunnel Bluffs hike
Tunnel Bluffs hike
Tunnel Bluffs hike
Tunnel Bluffs hike
Tunnel Bluffs hike
Tunnel Bluffs hike
Tunnel Bluffs hike

Statlu Lake

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: 9 kilometers +
  • Elevation gain: 370 meters
  • Duration: 3.5-4 hours
  • Season: May-October
  • When we went: May 23
  • Distance from Vancouver: 3 hours by car (including about 1 hour on the gravel road along Harrison lake)

Part of the way to Statlu Lake (about an hour) you will have to drive on an upaved road. Some people hike here with an overnight in a camping further up the trail. There’s chaotic parking along the curb.

The trail is pretty wild: with a narrow bridge over the river, bear tracks, and a clearing full of felled trees. Get ready for a steep climb uphill and high bushes. The lake is gorgeous.

Be sure to take some protection from bears (horn, spray, bell, etc.). Wear hiking boots and clothes with sleeves/pants (to avoid scratching against the bushes).

statlu lake hike
statlu lake hike
statlu lake hike
statlu lake hike
statlu lake hike
statlu lake hike
statlu lake hike

St Mark’s summit

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: about 11 kilometers
  • Elevation gain: 600 meters
  • Duration: 4-4 .5 hours
  • Season: June-October
  • When we went: June 6
  • Distance from Vancouver: 30-40 minutes by car

It’s a very beautiful hike near the city. There’s a large free parking lot at Cypress Lodge.

If you go in early June, closer to the top you can even find some snow. The trail is quite pleasant, leading to a magnificent observation deck. The view is like something from a postcard! There are eagles flying around the rocks. Also here are the most sociable chipmunks – for some nuts they would almost jump into your hands. But it’s better not to feed wild animals anything!

On the way to (or from) the lodge, make a stop at the Cypress Mountain Vancouver outlook, there is a special parking lot.


READ MORE: 15 places in Vancouver that will make you want to stay


St Mark's summit (Cypress)
St Mark's summit (Cypress)
St Mark's summit (Cypress) hike
St Mark's summit (Cypress)
St Mark's summit (Cypress) hike
St Mark's summit (Cypress) hike
St Mark's summit (Cypress)
St Mark's summit (Cypress) hike

Mount Gardner Loop Trail (Bowen Island)

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: about 10 kilometers
  • Elevation gain: 685 meters
  • Duration: 4-5 hours
  • Season: year-round
  • When we went: March 31
  • Distance from Vancouver: 1-1 .5 hours by car (including ferry to Bowen Island)

Did you want a water trip? Why not? The ferries to Bowen Island are fast, frequent, and close by. The hike up the local mountain is quite fascinating. A couple of times we almost got lost in the woods, after having missed the markings. We walked almost alone, enjoying the silence of the forest.

At the top, you can take a break and enjoy a sunbath on a wooden helipad next to the antennas and communication towers. We loved the views of the bay, Sunshine Coast and the islets.


READ MORE: Three Sunny Days on the Sunshine Coast


bowen island hike
bowen island hike
bowen island hike
bowen island hike

Stawamus Chief First Peak

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: 4 kilometers
  • Elevation gain: 540 meters
  • Duration: 2.5-3 hours
  • Season: March-November
  • When we went: April 1
  • Distance rom Vancouver: about 1 hour by car

The hike on Stawamus Chief (or just “Chief”) in the town of Squamish is something like a local rite of passage. You can’t consider yourself a true Vancouverite if you haven’t been to at least one peak of this mountain (and there are three!).

The challenge is to crawl more than 500 meters up the stairs, cobblestones, roots and a rope between rocks to the summit. You’re likely to be exhausted by the end of it, but it’s truly worth it. The view from the top is unforgettable!

Be sure to bring water, check the weather and trail conditions on the official website, and wear hiking boots. Arrive early since the parking lot fills up quickly. In high season during the weekend expect the crowds on the trail.

P.S. The most beautiful panorama opens from the second peak. From the parking lot, walk a few minutes to Shannon falls.

Stawamus Chief First Peak
Stawamus Chief First Peak
Stawamus Chief First Peak hiking
Stawamus Chief First Peak hiking
Stawamus Chief First Peak
Shannon Falls, BC
Shannon Falls

High Falls Creek Trail

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: 8 kilometers
  • Elevation gain: 517 meters
  • Duration: 3 .5-4 hours
  • Season: May-November
  • When we went: May 18
  • Distance from Vancouver: 1.5-2 hours by car

It’s a great easy trail! The ascent is quite entertaining and there’s not many people. Two beautiful small waterfalls are located along the way. There is a nice panorama at the top.

On the way back we took the service road – it was flat, trodden and didn’t really look like a hike, but the views were just as good! There were lots of flowers and wild strawberries on the side of the road. Down by the Squamish River in the rain forest there is a campsite.

As we drove to the trail, we encountered a herd of deer.

High Falls Creek Trail
High Falls Creek Trail
High Falls Creek Trail
High Falls Creek Trail
High Falls Creek Trail
High Falls Creek Trail
High Falls Creek Trail
flowers
High Falls Creek Trail

Cheam Peak

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: about 8 kilometers
  • Elevation gain: 637 meters
  • Duration: 3 .5-4 hours
  • Season: July-October
  • When we went: July 28
  • Distance from Vancouver: 2.5-3 hours by car

Trail seems to be designed for the owners of off-road cars. The road to the beginning of the hike is horrible – pothole after pothole! Although I do have a few acquaintances who have quietly managed to crawl through in low-slung cars… But my job is to give you a fair warning!

The hike up to Cheam Peak is wonderful. It leads across the blooming slopes through scenic overlooks. Too bad we never made it to the top – a cloud came down so we couldn’t see anything around us. Well, it happens! And judging by the stories of experienced friends, it happens quite often on this particular mountain! But even without getting to the very top, it looked very cool!

You can swim in the small lake at the mountain foot.

Cheam Peak
Cheam Peak
Cheam Peak hike
Cheam Peak
Cheam Peak hike
Cheam Peak hike
Cheam Peak
Cheam Peak hike

Elfin Lakes

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: about 20 kilometers
  • Elevation gain: 600 meters
  • Duration: 6 – 6.5 hours
  • Season: June-October
  • When we went: September 27
  • Distance rom Vancouver:1.5 hours by car

It is a beautiful busy trail near Squamish. The trail is not hard, and many people even cycle here At the end of the hike there are camping sites, lookout points, and a shelter house for bad weather conditions. The lakes themselves are small, but very picturesque.

Here we met a black bear, ate blueberries, and didn’t pick a ton of mushrooms sitting in plain sight around us (you are not allowed to pick them in national and provincial parks).

Elfin Lake, Vancouver: hikes with stunning views (medium difficulty)
Elfin Lake
Elfin Lake, Vancouver: hikes with stunning views (medium difficulty)
Elfin Lake
Elfin Lake, Vancouver: hikes with stunning views (medium difficulty)
Elfin Lake

Joffre Lakes

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: 10 kilometers
  • Elevation gain: 400 meters
  • Duration: 4 – 5 hours
  • Season: June-September
  • When we went: July 17
  • Distance from Vancouver: 3 hours by car

The iconic trail is a few hours drive from Vancouver. The blue lakes of Joffre are so popular that it is now necessary to book a pass in advance on the bcparks website. Tickets get available for sale at 7 a.m. two days before the date of a trip. If exactly at 7 am the website displays a message “sold out” – don’t worry, refresh the page and after 3-4 seconds, the tickets will appear (I conducted this experiment two days in a row). Passes are checked by rangers at the entrance.

Hike is worth all the effort: three fabulous turquoise lakes (almost Banff!), a waterfall, mountains, chipmunks. In the middle of one of the lakes there’s a fallen tree – a famous Instagram spot. Bring a swimsuit or a change of clothes if you’re planning a photo shoot there (just in case…).

There’s a campsite by the third lake if you want to stay the night and walk around some more tomorrow. Reservations must also be made in advance on the website.

We walked the trail there and back in 3 hours with some stops. It will be harder if you are with children, but still possible. Plan more time for rest (like 5 hours per route). If possible, go early on a weekday morning. On the weekend there are a lot of people and traffic on the way up.

Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes

Elk Mountain

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Length: 8 kilometers
  • Elevation gain: about 800 meters
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Season: June-October
  • When we went: October 11
  • Distance from Vancouver: 1.5 hours by car

We had been planning to hike this trail all summer and didn’t get there until October. Even in the fall there were quite a lot of people, so it is better to arrive to the parking lot early. The trail runs through the woods. It’s well-trodden, so we almost ran on our way back down.

Closer to the top, the trees were covered with frost, and then it began to snow. It is worth taking several layers of clothing here.

The mountain offers a wonderful view of the Fraser Valley. On the other corner there should be more mountains, but a cloud covered that part of the summit. There’s many birds that are not afraid to get very close to people and ask for food.

Elk Mountain
Elk Mountain
Elk Mountain
Elk Mountain
Elk Mountain
Elk Mountain
Elk Mountain
Elk Mountain

Sunny weather to all and share your favorite trails in the comments!

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