When it comes to mountain sports near Vancouver, a few areas tend to dominate the conversation. If ski touring or other backcountry pursuits are what you’re after, you’ve probably explored the North Shore mountains, chained up on forest roads of the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, discussed conditions along “the Duffey” at length, and tracked routes that ascend into the Cascades directly from the Coquihalla.
But there's another area that's beginning to make its way into the conversation. With spectacular views, and a network of huts and logging roads, the Sunshine Coast - a quick ferry ride from Vancouver - deserves to be on a backcountry adventurer’s winter trip list. From snow-free areas perfect for winter hikes or trail runs, to groomed cross-country ski areas, to multi-day hut-to-hut snowshoeing trails, the Sunshine Coast is a winter playground.
Here are a few of our top picks to get you started.
Cross-country ski and snowshoe trails for all skill levels lead snow-seeking adventurers through old-growth forest and into stunning sub-alpine along this 1,532-acre plateau. Views of the Coast Mountains, Georgia Strait and Vancouver Island reward those who venture to the ridge’s 1,200 metre high point. The amenities at Dakota Ridge are minimalist — a warming hut and an outhouse — so make sure to pack in everything you’ll need for the day.
How to get to Dakota Ridge: From Sechelt, Dakota Ridge is a 14 kilometre drive along a snow-covered, gravel road. Four wheel drive and chains are recommended, but if you don’t have those, Alpha Adventures offers a shuttle service from the Wilson Creek Plaza. Bookings must be made in advance.
- 20 kms of track-set cross-country ski trails for classic and skate skiing
- 7 kms of snowshoe trails
- Lessons, rentals and guided tours available
Read more: sunshinecoastcanada.com/dakota-ridge
Sunshine Coast Trail
Walt Hill Hut. Emma Levez Larocque | (c) Sunshine Coast Tourism
Spanning 180 kilometres from Saltery Bay to Desolation Sound, the Sunshine Coast Trail can be done as one long trek, or broken up into shorter legs.
In winter, the lower elevation sections of the trail are typically snow-free, and can provide great conditions for trail running and winter hiking. At higher elevations, closer to the trail's mid-span, snow coverage is typical. For great views and rugged backcountry snowshoeing, trek to Tin Hat Hut or Walt Hill Hut, both of which are winterized and free for daytime and overnight use. If you’ve got a long weekend to spare, link the two huts for a two- or three-day trip, stopping in at Elk Lake Hut along the way.
How to access the Sunshine Coast Trail: There are several access points along the Sunshine Coast Trail. How you get there will depend on which section(s) of the trail you plan on using. Find trail resources here: sunshinecoastcanada.com/sunshine-coast-trail
- Snowshoeing in higher elevations
- Trail running in lower elevations
- Winter camping
Kelly Funk | (c) Sunshine Coast Tourism
An unofficial 5-by-3 kilometre area comprised of mostly north-facing slopes, the Knuckleheads offer backcountry users of all stripes a mid-winter snowpack of 3-5 metres, gentle slopes, and two free-to-use, fully winterized cabins.
Located in a working forest, the somewhat unconventional sub-alpine terrain features logging roads and clear-cut areas that are well-suited to snowshoeing and skiing. Come for the fresh powder, stay for the wood-pellet stoves.
How to get to Knuckleheads: The Knuckleheads Recreation Area is accessed from Powell River via active logging roads. Four wheel drive and chains are recommended. A radio tuned to the appropriate channel is required for weekday travel.
- Backcountry skiing
- Cross-country skiing
- Winter camping
- Note: the area is designated for both motorized and non-motorized use
Read more: Click here
Tetrahedron Provincial Park
The 6000 hectares that make up Tetrahedron Provincial Park encompass mountains, wetlands and lakes, as well as the Sechelt watershed. Deer, cougars and black bears inhabit the area, and the terrain ranges from old-growth forest to exposed alpine, with the higher elevations reaching 1800 metres. The park has four rustic cabins that are first-come, first-serve if you are staying overnight (there is a small fee to help fund the maintenance of the huts.)
The park also contains avalanche terrain, so snowshoers and skiers in Tetrahedron should have avalanche education and safety gear. Check the avalanche bulletin before venturing out.
How to get to Tetrahedron Provincial Park: Leaving from Sechelt, and passing through Porpoise Bay, visitors can access Tetrahedron Provincial Park via the Sechelt-Grey FSR. Four wheel drive, chains and a shovel (to dig out a parking spot) are recommended.
- Backcountry skiing
- Note: no mechanical use is allowed in the park. This includes mountain bikes and snowmobiles.
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