Hiking in Metro Vancouver: A look at lesser-known, kid-friendly treks
School's almost out, the weather is better and it's a great time to be outdoors – but with everyone looking for their next summer adventure, the more popular trails are bound to be busy.
If you're thinking of heading uphill, but want to avoid the crowds, areas like Quarry Rock might be out. The North Vancouver hike is so popular that officials have imposed a limit to prevent overcrowding on the path.
Similar measures are in place at Lynn Canyon, and traffic at Joffre Lakes is such a problem that vehicles parked on the highway will be towed, BC Parks warned last summer.
So where else can you go for a workout with a view? CTV News asked fitness expert Mandy Gill for her top picks for lesser-known hikes for all ages and abilities.
Kid-friendly hiking trails
Gill told CTV Morning Live Monday that one of her favourite locations is Crystal Falls in Coquitlam.
She says the parking is accessible, and the trails through the moss-covered forested area are doable for kids five to 12.
"There's a gorgeous creek right off to the left-hand side," she told CTV.
"Very little elevation."
Anyone heading out on the hike should ensure they're wearing proper shoes because it can be muddy.
About halfway into the two-hour trek, hikers will pass Crystal Falls.
"I can't even put it into context how beautiful it is," Gill said. She recommends stopping for lunch and taking in the view before heading back to the car.
In Maple Ridge, Gill suggests checking out Gold Creek Falls, located within Golden Ears Provincial Park.
"Beautiful surrounding areas of the mountains. Again, you've got the creek, the falls," she said.
The hike takes about two hours and is great for kids.
"You can actually get up to where the falls are and you can see little rainbows, which is always really fun for kids," she said.
It's not as muddy and there's very little elevation.
Hikers bringing along a four-legged friend should try Jug Island in Belcarra, Gill said.
"It is such a beautiful hike."
Gill warned the island is not fully accessible, as the path includes wooden staircases, but is OK for beginner and intermediate hikers.
"A good amount of elevation, so be prepared. I wouldn't recommend runners for this, I would recommend making sure that you've got hiking shoes. Make sure you're supporting your ankles," Gill said.
It takes 2 ½ to three hours, and offers views across Indian Arm. There's a beach that offers views of Jug Island and is a good place to stop, "throw a ball for the dog" and take a lunch break.
Elk Mountain in Chilliwack is also on Gill's list.
"You get up to the top and it's just stunning," she said.
The peak offers sweeping views of the Fraser Valley, Mount Baker and Cultus Lake.
"You're going to start to go up a quite forested area. Now, we're talking about eight to 10 kilometres on this hike. Do expect about 3 ½ to four hours," she said.
More advanced hikes
Gill's first suggestion for the more experienced hiker is to hop on a ferry and head to Bowen Island.
The 10-kilometre hike on Mount Gardner takes about four to five hours.
Hiking boots are a must, she said, but the view at the top is worth the trek.
Finally, Gill recommended the Lions for advanced hikers looking for a challenge with a view.
"We're talking seven to nine hours," she said.
Gill believes many people shy away from the hike in West Vancouver because they're understandably nervous.
"It is an advanced hike. You do have to be prepared. Very rocky sections," she said.
Anyone up for the challenge is advised to plan for the length of time the hike takes, and give someone staying home a plan of their route and time frame.
They should not attempt the hike if it's not to their skill level.
But for those who are able to do it, she recommends packing crampons.
"I did it last July. I was in deep snow up to my knees. So make sure you've got these crampons on the bottom of your hiking boots that are going to be able to make sure that you're not sliding everywhere. I was like a penguin at points," she said with a laugh.
Reminder from rescue crews
Members of North Shore Rescue warn the public that weather changes rapidly in the mountains, and it's better to be prepared.
Among other items, they suggest appropriate footware (not running shoes), layered non-cotton clothing, a toque and light source.
Other suggestions include a signaling device such as a whistle, a fire starter, a pocket knife, thermal tarp, water, food and a first aid kit.
Hikers should bring along a fully charged cellphone, ideally kept off and in a ziplock bag to ensure it can be used in an emergency.
More information is available on NSR's website.