Covered with an abundance of sparkling lakes, snow-capped mountains and bordered by the Pacific, it’s hard not to find an opportunity for outdoor adventure in British Columbia. Whether your passion is getting out on the water, wandering through the forest or gaining speed on two-wheels, here are seven British Columbia adventures that will help you make the most of your summer.
Time Yourself on the Grouse Grind, North Vancouver
If healthy competition is what gets your adrenaline going, head to Grouse Mountain. Known to locals as “Mother Nature’s stairmaster," the Grind is one of Vancouver’s most used trails. And—you guessed it—avid hikers like to challenge themselves by timing how long it takes to climb 2,830 steps up the 2.9-kilometre trail. (For the record, the official best time is 23 minutes, 48 seconds, with an average time of 1.5 hours.)
For sure, the Grind is a serious workout, but the trail runs through a beautiful, thick-tree canopy rain forest, and the ultimate reward is the view from 1,127 metres at the summit (and the post-Grind beer and burger on the restaurant patio). Descending the Grind is not permitted, due to erosion and congestion, but you can take the easy way back down on the Skyride for $15.
Get Gnarly Mountain Biking at Mountain Station, Nelson
Credit Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism - Ollie Jones
Nelson’s trails are showcased in mountain biking films for a reason. All around the region, there are networks of trails built by mountain-biking-obsessed locals, ranging from hard-core technical stunts, ladders and big drops to cross-country single track.
Mountain Station, within pedal-distance from downtown Baker Street, has a series of mostly short trails that you can link together for a longer run. Start on the green, smooth-flowing bi-directional Badger trail and work your way up to the double black diamond Space Junk, with its gnarly steeps and roots. Intermediate bikers should cycle the Smiling Buddha, where a moderate-grade decline and rolling woodwork will put a grin on your face that you can’t wipe off.
Kayak Forever on Desolation Sound, Sunshine Coast
Instead of a road-trip, how about a water-trip? The Sunshine Coast’s Desolation Sound has more than 60 kilometres of shoreline and some of the warmest waters north of Mexico.
The easiest place to put-in is at Lund Harbour, just north of Powell River. Leave your vehicle in the long-term parking lot at the marina and head off to explore the protected bays, towering cliffs, inlets and islands. With glimpses of the Coastal Mountain Range in the distance, there’s no such thing as a bad view.
The marine park has 11 campsites, mostly located on islands. Inlet crossings are mostly sheltered, with only a few short open sections, which makes paddling from one campsite to the next relatively easy. Even though Desolation Sound is more protected than the open sea, be sure to check the weather conditions before heading out, as the wind can come up.
Take a Fairytale Hike on the Goldilocks Trail, Island Lake
Courtesy of Island Lake Lodge
Just outside Fernie at Island Lake, you will find 7,000 acres of pristine Rocky Mountain wilderness. Trails range from 30-minute hikes to overnight backpacking trips, but for a hike that’s not too short and not too long, try the brand new Goldilocks Trail.
Park at Island Lake Lodge and look for the Spine Back trailhead sign on the west end of the lake. As you start out, the trail runs parallel to the Spine Back Ridge then winds up through sub-alpine meadows to a bench on the crest of the ridge. Another half-kilometre takes you up to the Goldilocks trailhead on a second bench. From here, the trail snakes you through the valley between Baby Bear and Papa Bear peaks and up to dramatic viewpoints before looping back to the top of Spine Back trail. The 9.5-kilometre return trip takes about five hours.
Back at the lodge, reward yourself with a cocktail on the patio, where you can reflect upon all the ways this hike is "just right."
SUP at Clayoquot Sound, Tofino
Courtesy of Tofino Tourism, credit Jeremy Koreski
Take your stand-up paddle board and your wetsuit and head west. Stop at Canada’s far-west destination, Tofino. Tofino might be best known for its world-class surfing waves, but Clayoquot Sound also offers easy access to calm waters for SUP-ing.
At MacKenzie Beach, just a five-minute drive from town, the outlying rocks protect the bay from wind making it easy to get up on your board most days. Tofino Inlet is also protected from the ocean swell, where you can explore marine life and the rainforest as you skim over the shallow waters.
Canoe in the Wilderness at McGillivray Lake, Sun Peaks Resort
If a wilderness canoe paddle is your jam, McGillivray Lake, close to Sun Peaks Resort, is worth a visit. First, stop at the Sun Peaks day lodge to pay for your canoe rental, then continue for six kilometres along the forestry service road to this high altitude (1,400 metres) pristine, back country lake.
Put-in off the shore and spend the day exploring little islands and the two-kilometre shoreline. The best part? This lake is low traffic—you might see a few people fishing, but mainly n’er a soul will spoil your views of the nearby forest and mountain range.
Cycle Through History at Myra Canyon, Kelowna
Credit Tourism Kelowna, Scott Baken Productions
For the ultimate scenic ride, head to Myra Canyon, just outside of Kelowna. Here you will find the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, a mostly flat, 24-kilometre round trip trail that has you cycling through steeply-walled canyons, across 18 historical trestle bridges and through two mysterious tunnels.
This railway was built between 1897-1898 as part of B.C.’s gold and mining rush. A trail host can fill you in on the history and local information. No excuses if you don’t have your bike with you—there’s a mobile bicycle rental shop set up at the Myra Canyon parking lot.
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