Yeah, I’m a lister. My copies of Jack Bryceland’s 103 Hikes, Matt Gunn’s Scrambles, Stephen Hui’s 105 Hikes (& Destination Hikes), Bruce Fairley’s Guide to Hiking & Climbing, Kevin McLean’s Alpine Select, John Baldwin’s Exploring the Coast Mountain on Skis, plus many more are marked up and annotated with which routes I’ve climbed, which peaks I’ve summited, and which regions I’ve completed 100% of trips described.
My adventuring days per year have declined in recent years due to kids & work, but there are a few of these books where I’m nearing the 100% mark, and so on this rainy spring BC afternoon, I’ve decided to put together my opinionated ranking of (almost) all 103 hikes described in the 2007 edition of 103 Hikes in Southwestern BC.
If this post proves popular, perhaps I’ll be convinced to put together a ranking of Scrambles, 105 Hikes, Ski Tours, or maybe even a list of my favourite trips not covered in any guidebook to date!
The Top 10
If you live in southwestern BC, if you haven’t done one of these hikes, now is the time.
- Panorama Ridge
Approach via Helm Lake to avoid the crowds and the boring trudge up the barrier. The landscape from the campground onwards is stunning, the meadows below the ridge stunning, the ridge ascent enjoyable, and the view that appears as you crest the ridge to get a glimpse of Garibaldi Lake and the glaciers beyond is simply stunning.
- Needle Peak
This half day hike is bite-sized perfection. A short trek through the forest, great views as you ascend the ridge, and a fun short scramble to top it off. Great for a summer day, but can be a great trip in winter too when the summit block isn’t too icy. I’ve done it multiple times in both sets of conditions.
- Joffre Lakes
One of the shortest hikes in the book, there’s a reason hundreds of cars line the highway to visit the lakes on a nice summer day, and it isn’t just that Instagram log at the middle lake. Visit mid week and take your friends to the upper lake to knock their socks off with the easy access to the beautiful lake with the impressive views of the Matier & Stonecrop glaciers above. Please stay away from the snowfields and glaciers though as they are prone to avalanche and icefall.
- Frosty Mountain
Best done at the beginning of October to catch the golden larches, Frosty is a fantastic interior hike with a great trail, great views, and a classic BC parks summit post to top it off. Sure, it doesn’t go to the true summit, which is best done on skis in the spring, but when the trip is this good, that doesn’t matter.
- Elfin Lakes
I’ll be the first to admit that hiking to Elfin Lakes is a slog and not much fun all, but that’s why we invented skis and bikes and once you get to the lakes, the journey will be all but forgotten. Jump on your bike and grind up the road to the top of Paul Ridge and onwards to Elfin Lakes. At the lakes, have a bite, gawk at the views of the Mamquam massif, then either roll back down to your car or stash your bike and head up the saddle trail for a better look at Garibaldi itself.
- Mount Seymour
You might be surprised I rank Mount Seymour so high, but in my book it is another piece of SW BC perfection. You get to start high, the views are great, and there are endless possibilities for variation. Want something more interesting than the regular trail? Take a scrambling line up the face of pump peak or to the right of the main trail between pump peak and second peak, find your way down a gully on the way back, detour via DePencier bluffs or Mystery lake on the way down, or even duck around the summit to add on a tag of Runner Peak. This is the only summit on earth that I’ve ascended more times than I’ve orbited the sun.
- Golden Ears
The initial trek up the west canyon rail to Alder Flats is boring, but the new bridge over Gold Creek can make this a bit better if you instead bike up to the bridge on the east canyon trail. Beyond Alder Flats, the trip is one of the best there is, but give yourself plenty of time because it’s a pretty long day. Nice forest walking, a snowfield to cross, and great easy ridge scrambling. Once you make the summit, be a true completionist and make a quick jaunt over to the other ear.
- Cheam Peak
This is probably the only hike in SW BC where you can be walking through flowering meadows pretty much 100% of the time from car to summit. Amazing views from start to finish but easy enough to bring your extended family and carry your kids up on your back (I have!). The road isn’t in the best shape, so make sure you have a good 4×4 to make it to the trailhead. Highly recommended to take an extra hour or two to tag on an ascent of Lady Peak while you’re up there!
- Emma Lake
A bit quieter than the other trips in my top 10, Emma Lake is both charming and amazing. If you’re lucky to find it free, use the canoe to explore the lake and wander some of the granite slabs surrounding it. The Powell River Knuckleheads just finished a new “Emma direct” trail up to the lake.
- Seed Peak
Formerly a real pain to get to due to road conditions (waterbars & alder), logging in 2019 at the trailhead has rendered access easy. I went up in June 2020 and re-flagged a scarcely defined footbed, loved it, and then went back in September to find that popularity had exploded and the footbed now in good condition and easy to follow. This trip is top 10 for how quickly you access the alpine (20-30 minutes), and how easy it is to get somewhere that feels so remote while being so close.
The next 25-30 hikes, ones that I personally love, and any of them would blow the mind of any guest of yours visiting from out of town
- Leading Peak (Anvil Island)
Find a beautiful spring day, and head to Anvil Island while other hikes are still snowed in. Far and away the best of the Howe Sound island hikes, Leading Peak has great variety, and a nice platform on top to lounge about on to enjoy 360 degree views.
- Garibaldi Lake
I struggled a bit with ranking this so high when I already have Panorama Ridge, but the fact is that Panorama Ridge is a pretty intense day trip for most people, and the shores Garibaldi Lake are already one of the most stunning places in Canada. Take your friends, take your family, take your kids!
- Mount Harvey & Brunswick Mountain
I’m cheating here and combining two hikes as one, and that’s because while each of Harvey and Brunswick are good exercise in their own rights, crossing over the top of Mt. Harvey to take the Howe Sound Crest Trail across Magnesia Meadows to Mt. Brunswick elevates this trip to near the top of my list of best trips to in our corner of BC.
- Tenquille Lake
Don’t do the route described in 103 hikes, but save yourself time by approaching from the east (from roads rising near Birkenhead Lake) to quickly reach one of the most beautiful lakes in SW BC. Use the time saved to wander up to Mt. Barbour and Copper Mound above the lake!
- Mamquam Lake
Want to feel like you’re way the f*** out there? Go to Mamquam Lake. Better yet, combine it with biking up to Elfin Lakes and a side-trip up to the summit of Opal Cone on the way back. The landscape between Opal Cone and Rampart Ponds is out of this world, one of the most incredible trips that you can do in our part of the world. The only downside? The full round trip is loooonnnng. 44km even without the side trip up Opal Cone. I did it as an 8 hours solo round trip from the car but most parties will want a lot longer than that or to do it as a multi-day trip.
- Haylmore-Melvin Divide (Twin Lakes)
I love this area and have done 3 trips in the last decade to the Twin Lakes & peaks above. On a nice summer day, it reminds me a lot of Switzerland. Bring a bike to save your knees from the descent from the little hut back down to your car at the end of day.
- Black Tusk
I struggle where to put Black Tusk because the book expressly says to go to the viewpoint rather than the summit, and while the viewpoint is cool, the summit is cooler. If you’re up for a short bit of crumbly class 3 scrambling, grab your helmet, go early to beat the crowds and avoid getting beaned in the head by rocks knocked by whoever’s ahead of you, and carefully ascend to one of the most unique and iconic places you can find.
- Illal Meadows
Easy access? Check. Plentiful water? Check. Perfect camping pretty much anywhere? Check. Illal Meadows may be my favourite camping destination in the province. Wonderful meadows and no fewer than 3 fun destinations to ascend above them (Coquihalla Mountain, Illal Peak, Mount Jim Kelly).
- Stawamus Chief
Overcrowded, but legitimately great. Head direct to the 3rd peak, cross to the second while taking time at the viewpoints and imagine climbing the faces and buttresses below, and then back down to your car for a quick half day trip. For a repeat trip head up the skyline trail on the backside of the 3rd peak.
- Marriot Meadows
The Marriot basin is perfect for a day or weekend of exploring and scrambling the myriad ridges and bumps nearby. Easy access, the really cool Wendy Thompson Hut (book in advance to stay in it), great flowers, and can combine it with a trip to either Mt. Marriot (hard!) or a wander up Mt. Rohr (easy!).
One of my favourite places for mountain running. Hustle up past the crowds on the Elk trail and you’ll usually find the route beyond to Mt. Thurston to be quiet despite the great views across the valley to Mt. McGuire and Mt. Slesse.
- Russet Lake
The walk from Whistler summit out along the musical bumps to the top of Cowboy Ridge is world class, with amazing views to either side. Do it as a loop, using the gondola to save yourself some uphill and then take the singing pass trail down at the end of your day, or camp up above Russet Lake and add on an ascent of Fissile for a fantastic overnight trip.
- Yak Peak
One of the most direct routes in the Coquihalla, if you’re lucky you’ll find a few groups of climbers ascending Yak Check just above you and to the left as you ascend the steep trail to the right of the main face. It’s a short trip, so you might as well wander over the heather and bag Nak Peak while you’re up there!
- Tricouni Meadows
Tricouni Peak might be the best easy scramble in BC, but the meadows below are worthwhile on their own, with their lakes a perfect azure. This would be a top 10 route if only the book suggested going all the way up to the summit.
- Mount Steele
A charming introduction to Tetrahedron park, visit a couple small lakes and two huts on your way up to this great Sunshine Coast summit with great views of Tetrahedron peak itself.
- Three Brothers Mountain
A classic of SW BC, Three Brothers is a rare hike in that you start high… and stay high. There’s a fair bit of ground to cover, and the terrain isn’t very exciting, but time it right and you can spend hours in sub-alpine sublimity.
- July Mountain
Much quieter than the more southerly Coquihalla peaks, the route up July mountain spends only a brief period in the trees before passing a nice lake and ascending pleasant ridges up to the summit, where you can take in a view of the Coquihalla from a different perspective.
- Rainbow Lake
Rainbow lake is nice, but to keep things interesting, do this as a crossover from Madley Lake to Whistler, and consider ascending Rainbow mountain while you’re at it.
- Goat Mountain
Easier than Crown mountain in that it doesn’t require any scrambling or descending into Crown pass, Goat Mountain nonetheless is a really nice half day hike that lets one gaze north into the depths of Garibaldi Park and then take the Skyride back down to save your knees. Many years ago I used to take beginners joining the SFU Outdoors club here for their first “real” hike. There’s also a Goat Mountain near Mt. Baker / Glacier, Washington, which is a great hike in its own right. Feel free to ascend it as well to have climbed two peaks of the same name.
- Skyline Trail East
I love open ridge rambling, and that’s what this hike brings in spades. Hike from Strawberry flats up to the ridge above and ramble over to Snow Camp Mountain and Lone Goat Mountain for great views of Frosty and the twin spires of Mt. Hozomeen. In order to not have to re-trace your steps, have some friends hike in from Skyline Trail West and swap keys when you pass each other.
- Valentine Lake
2.5 hours access to a gorgeous camping lake? Only 1 hour of that in the trees and the remainder wandering through meadows and open trees? Bring it on! The scrambles above the lake (Saxifrage & Cassiope) are fairly demanding and beyond the comfort level of most hikers, but just wandering up into the heather and boulder meadows above the lake is beautiful and worthwhile.
- Helm Lake
I’m not sure if this even belongs on the list given that my recommended route to Panorama Ridge include this route as part of it, but if you don’t have the time or energy to go to Panorama Ridge, then Helm Lake is still a worthwhile destination. This is the direction that the Black Tusk is most imposing from, and the landscape around Helm Lake is a very interesting volcanic wasteland.
- Blowdown Pass
If you have a 4×4 that’ll get you to within a few km of Blowdown Pass, then this is a highly recommended destination. Enjoy Blowdown lake, hike up to the pass, then turn left to follow the easy ridge up to the summit of Gott Peak before descending through open meadows back to the road below.
- Tangled Summit
From anywhere in the Lower Mainland, the ridge rising east of Buntzen lake looks like any other treed ridge in our province, but looks can be deceiving. In the case of Tangled summit, after passing Lindsay lake the terrain opens up to become a very pleasant open ridge with fun rock slabs and great views all around. Recommended for the end of summer when the day are getting too short to go further afield.
- Conway Peak
So, you’ve climbed Cheam or Lady, the Conway Peak trail up from Wahleach lake lets you climb the southernmost peak in the Cheam range and check out the steep back faces of Welch and Foley peaks. The road at the bottom can be aldery if nobody’s cleared it out lately, but once it opens up as you ascend towards mile high camp, the route is top notch and you’re unlikely to find any crowds.
- Hope Mountain
The road can be a bit of a mess to reach the trailhead, but from it a quick two hour ascent gets you to the summit directly overlooking Hope. I led a work party to clear the trail of bush and deadfall back in 2014, but can’t attest to its current condition.
- Brandywine Meadows
Beautiful by themselves, this route would be ranked much higher if it described going all the way to the summit of Brandywine Mountain, which is where you should go if you choose to visit the meadows
- Mt. McGuire
The route described in 103 hikes is a no-go due to a bridge outage, but luckily there’s another route that’s just as good from the north east. Head steeply up the ridge, cross the bowl to the traditional trail, and ascend a fun easy ridge to the summit. Great views of the border peaks. Go in early summer when the bowl north of the summit is still snow filled to save your ankles from the talus.
- Guanaco Peak
Head steeply up the slopes between Guanaco, past a crazy natural stone staircase formation to the col between Vicuna and Guanaco. If you’re into exposed 4th class scrambling, turn left to go up Vicuna. If you want an easy rambling ridge ascent, turn right and summit Guanaco to get great views of Alpaca, the Anderson River group, and the backsides of the peaks above the Zopkios rest area. My dad made the first ascents of many of the mountains and routes in this area (including of Vicuna) back in the 70s, and so this area has a special place in my heart.
The Very Good
Hikes that are great fun, usually to an interesting destination, but just aren’t special enough to be the best.
- High Falls Creek
Go steep up beside the creek, see crazy steep falls, walk down road. Only takes a couple hours total, but worth it.
- Mount St. Benedict
One of the easier trips in the Mission area, Mt. St. Benedict has great views of the peaks north of Alouette and Stave lakes. Can be done as an easy snowshoe as well.
- Lightning Lakes
The hikes around Lightning Lake, Flash Lake, and Strike Lake are some of the best easy hiking around and they’re usually snow free quite early in the season. The trail ends just as it gets to Thunder Lake though and so you don’t get great views of it, especially compared to what you could see from the Skyline trail up above you. I once went around the end of Thunder Lake, crossed the log jam and followed the ridge up to the summit of Lone Mountain but I can’t really recommend adding that on. Instead, go back to the original Lightning Lake and rent a canoe for a bit of extra fun on your day.
- Mount Macfarlane
Really cool views of Mt. Slesse and the other peaks in the Chilliwack Valley. However… it’s a long ways up. I’ve done trip up to Pierce Lake twice and don’t know if I have it in me to do it again.
- Mt. Harvey or Mt. Brunswick (Individually)
They’re fine trips by themselves, but do yourself a favour and combine them (see trip #13)
- Mount Outram
The big peak guarding the entrance to Manning Park, Outram is a great day trip for a lot of elevation with nice meadows if you time it right.
- Stoyoma Mountain
By far the furthest from Vancouver in terms of driving time of the peaks in 103 hikes, do this on your way to or from the interior to do something else. You get to drive pretty much to treeline in the middle of nowhere, from which the summit of Stoyoma is just a quick hike away. The ridges continue a long ways in each direction if you’re so inclined.
- Punch Bowl
Punch Bowl is a beautiful little lake tucked into the northwest corner of Manning Park and worth a day trip. We camped just before the pass and tacked on an ascent of Snass Mountain to make the trip a bit more fun.
- Coliseum Mountain
Rather than follow what 103 hikes says and ascend from Lynn Valley / Norvan falls, ride your bike up towards the Seymour dam and follow the trail up to Coliseum on the east side. This trail is steep(!), but you rise quickly and Coliseum is where you get the best views of Cathedral mountain to the north.
- Mount Elsay
Mt. Seymour too short? Go to Mt. Elsay! Do it as a loop by dropping down to the west between the second and third peaks of Seymour, add in a jaunt up Runner Peak to make your day more interesting, and return from Mt. Elsay via the Elsay Lake trail.
- Slollicum Peak
A surprisingly pleasant ascent above Harrison Lake, this trail had a lot of work done on it in 2019 and also makes for a quality spring ascent when there is still too much snow for higher peaks.
- Mount Gardner (Bowen Island)
The second best Howe Sound island, Gardner makes for a great first hike of the season.
- Widgeon Lake
Adventure! Much of the trail to Widgeon Lake isn’t very exciting or in very good condition, but it has four things going for it. First, a really nice canoe ridge through Widgeon slough. Second, you get to stop at Widgeon Falls. Third, the bridge across Widgeon creek is a sight to behold. And fourth, the lake itself is way bigger than you’d expect given how close it is to the ciity.
- Zoa Peak
Incredibly popular as a ski tour or snowshoe, Zoa is a nice short hike as well, although its neighbours are better.
- Slesse Memorial
Highly recommended as a late season hike when the days are getting shorter or higher destinations are snowed in, the memorial itself is interesting, but the NE buttress of Mt. Slesse above it are awe inspiring.
- Black Mountain
Grind your way up from Horseshoe Bay via Eagle Bluffs (consider adding on West Knob on your way), or shortcut up from the Cypress Bowl ski area. Either way, Black Mountain has a great summit with lots of little lakes to relax by.
- Statlu Lake
Go for the views of Mt. Bardean & Mt. Ratney above the lake. The bridge near the trailhead is pretty insane too. I have no idea how they managed to get that log in place. Look online for current directions to reach the trailhead because logging in 2020 realigned the logging roads.
- Hector Ferguson Lake
You probably think I’m insane for ranking this so high, and maybe I am. 103 hikes notoriously misstates the roundtrip distance as 28km when it’s more like 36km, and the lake itself is nothing special, but I had a great day in part due to the sheer ridiculousness of the affair. A long bike ride to start, a hike through some crazy forest, a creek crossing, a boulder gulley, and then a little lake. This is a trip you do for the variety and to see how fast you can go, not for the destination. We did it in 8.5 hours, how about you?
- Vedder Mountain
Great as an early season hike, I’ve carried my kids up here. I wouldn’t bother in high season, but as a place to get a nice snow-free half day hike in the shoulder season, it’s one of the best options.
- Mount Strachan
Nothing against Mt. Strachan, but the other hikes in the area are simply better. Hollyburn is better for carrying little kids, Black Mountain has better lakes, Howe Sound Crest Trail has better views.
Do these once if they’re far, or do regularly if they’re close. They’re hikes, often interesting enough, but I’m not going to make any effort to repeat them. Often there’s another nearby hike that’s simply a better use of your time.
- Lions (Binkert) Trail
Yeah, the Lions are iconic, but this trail doesn’t go to the summit, nor is it very safe to go to the summit. Do Harvey & Brunswick instead.
- Mount Crickmer
Good views of Robie Reid, but too much road slogging unless you’re lucky enough to find the gate at the bottom open.
- Diez Vistas
I live near this, so I’ve done it lots. Good for exercise but don’t expect to see much of anything.
- Bear Mountain
Great as a late season hike when days are short and other destination are now covered and does have very god views of the Cheam range. Not worth it in other conditions.
- Cerise Creek
I feel bad ranking this so low, but I feel like other summer destinations in the Duffey are better. Make this worthwhile by continuing beyond it and up to the summit of Vantage peak.
- Dennett Lake
Good exercise close to town, and the viewpoint above Munro lake is really good.
- Skagit River Trail
Essentially just a walk in the park. There’s only one reason to do this trail, and that’s that in early June it has a couple huge groves of wild rhododendrons.
- First Brigade Trail (Tikwalus Heritage Loop)
The local first nation has done a great job at adding interpretive signs to explain the history of the region, and that elevates this otherwise mundane trail to be one of some interest.
- Poland Lake
A nice lake at the end of a long valley if you approach via how 103 hikes recommends. I liked it, but you have so many iconic hikes nearby that you’ll want to do first.
- Wells Peak
Hope Mountain’s baby brother, another short hike from the same parking area. More wild and can be done in the same day if you have the time.
- Hanes Valley
Good for a trail run or workout, or access to the Crater Slabs route up Crown Mountain.
- Tin Hat Mountain
Lovely summit, but the route is a bit annoying with a lot of up and down, and the fact is that other logging roads will get you a lot closer to the summit.
- Skyline Trail West
As mentioned above, best done with a second party doing the complete skyline trail in the other direction. Great views of Hozomeen but if you’re only going to do half, do the other half.
- Mt. Amadis
Very steep, but surprisingly interesting trail above Cultus Lake. A lot of effort for the view, but the ridge itself is more unique than you’d expect. Much of the ridge is near knife-edge, with significant exposure on the trail in places. There are handlines in the worst places, but definitely not for the un-fit or the faint of heart.
- Silverdaisy Mountain
A good safe snowshoe or early season hike on snow, there isn’t much special about Silverdaisy. Nonetheless, it’s one of the better trips to hike in April/May.
- Mount Hallowell
The old fire lookout on the summit is neat, but too much of the route is on road, first clear, then overgrown.
- Radium Lake
Radium lake is a long ways to go for a pretty unremarkable lake. That said, it’s possible to go above to Macdonald Peak (a bit tricky) and Mt. Webb (super easy) to turn this into a grade A day.
- Sumas Mountain
Chadsey lake is reasonably nice, but in the end you’re taking a very long trail to a summit that you can drive almost to the top of.
- Mount Thynne
Beautiful area, but a road all the way up. I didn’t know where to park, so I ended up driving right to the summit.
- Flora Lake Loop
A big day. Not bad at all, and Flora Peak is nice, but still… if you have the time to do this, first tackle the long days higher on this list.
- Sigurd Creek
Crooked falls are really nice, but this hike doesn’t really go anywhere as described in 103 hikes. Instead of the route described, either go just to the falls for a short outing, or buckle up for 1800m of elevation gain and head up to Sigurd Peak itself, the trail to which recently had work done and is in very good condition.
- Blue Mountain
Road, road, road, road. Decent early or late season trip, but you’re essentially on a dirt biker access road the entire time.
- Dilly-Dally Peak
Use a bike to get to the trailhead to save yourself 5km of walking each way. I actually liked this trip, but I can’t recommend it above Tangled Summit, although if you do go to Tangled Summit and have the energy to spare, you may as well continue on over Dilly-Dally Peak
- Greendrop Lake
A nice lake in a nice valley. Very popular, although friends have had their cars smashed up at the trailhead.
- Mount Artaban (Gambier Island)
This is a really short trip, so do it in the offseason as a traverse and add in an ascent of Burt’s Bluff
- Alouette Mountain
Why go to Alouette mountain? I don’t know. It’s a real slog. Evans peak is a 10x better trip for a typical hiker, and even if you are thinking of doing it on your ways to Blanshard Needle, use Fly gulley instead.
- Mount Killam (Gambier Island)
Reasonably nice trail, and a good viewpoint 80% of the way up, but… there’s no view from the summit.
- Mount Lincoln
Ticks, ticks, ticks. Do you like ticks? If so, go to Mt. Lincoln. If not, go somewhere else.
- Campbell Lake
Only a viewpoint half way up of Harrison Lake makes this trip half way worthwhile.
- Lindsay Lake
There’s nothing wrong with Lindsay Lake being in the book, but it’s there as filler. There is absolutely no reason to turn around at Lindsay Lake when the beautiful Tangled Summit is just ahead of you and also described in the book.
- Lower Grouse Mountain
Good for some exercise, pointless as a destination
- Burke Summit
There are simply better hikes in the area, such as to the Coquitlam Lake Viewpoint. I did camp on top once though in order to get access to the peaks beyond.
- Ghostpass Lake
This lake is nothing special. Save your feet from some wear and hike in from behind, from the head of Sowawqua Creek if you really want to get there.