With everyone headed to the Sunshine Coast and sharing pictures of Squamish, it’s easy to get swept up in the trails that everyone is hiking in B.C. This season, why not head to a few spots that are a little off the map, but still offer the amazing views and rugged landscape the province is known for (just with fewer people!). These trails prove that the most beautiful hikes in B.C. are the ones no one is talking about.
One of the most popular, go-to north Vancouver hikes, Bowen Lookout packs in a punch and is accessible year-round —there might not be snow, but plan for rain (of course), wind, and cooler temperatures than other parts of the city. This hike is located at Cypress Mountain, where you can also ski; it’s a popular practice area for beginners. Though this hike is on the shorter side, it can be steep, and there are some switchbacks, so don’t underestimate the length.
If you completed Bowen Lookout and have more time or want a challenge, St. Mark’s Summit is actually on the same route (Bowen is often a side route on the way to St. Mark’s). This lookout is a popular hike year-round—it gives incredible views of Howe Sound below. The photos make it look like hikers are perched on the edge of a cliff, but don’t let that be a deterrent; you don’t need to teeter close to the edge to appreciate the view. (But either way, as always, be cautious.)
Named for its 10 different vistas, this trail in Port Moody, a short drive from Vancouver, makes a good winter day trip. It’s just as gorgeous as any other time of year and quite popular no matter the weather. It gets a limited amount of snow, making it even more viable for novice hikers. There’s a decently steep climb to even the first vista, but if you’re up for it, continue on to take in the rest of the gorgeous viewpoints.
Located along the famous Sea-to-Sky Highway, Tunnel Bluffs gives another excellent vantage point of the Howe Sound below. The beginning of the hike is a steep climb but levels out to an old logging road that brings you to the viewpoint. It begins at the Brunswick Trail, so you can also tack that hike on if you’re looking for a longer day. While this is also a hike and an area that doesn’t usually have a ton of snow, weather on and around the Sea-to-Sky Highway can change quickly, so arrive prepared.
Located in beautiful Murrin Provincial Park, this trail offers panoramic views of the area. Clocking in at about two kilometres, it’s easy enough for hikers of all levels to complete in an afternoon. The trail does loop in with the more difficult Jurassic Ridge Trail if you’re interested in—but Jurassic Ridge Trail should be approached with extreme caution, especially in winter. Be sure to check trail conditions beforehand.
With its more mild, temperate winters, Kelowna and the Okanagan region make for excellent year-round hiking, with snow and even rain falling far less than in other areas of the province. This conservancy has an extensive network of hiking and walking trails and offers a variety depending on your ability or how much time you have. Be mindful that park hours shorten in the winter, and facilities are not as regularly staffed or maintained, so plan beforehand with food and bathroom trips.
This unique hiking experience ties in a historical landmark with stunning views of the Okanagan region, taking you along an old railway path with intact tracks and trestles. Parts of this hike belong to the larger Trans Canada Trail, so you can check a small section of that off your list. Good hiking boots and warm enough clothing are sufficient—but you can also bike on this trail if the weather allows.
Just beyond the crowds at Banff National Park is the quieter, smaller Yoho National Park, the first entrance into B.C. from Alberta —and well worth a visit, regardless of the province you’re staying in. Emerald Lake is one of its stunning gems, and the quiet beauty is breathtaking in the winter. You can drive almost right up to the lake and walk the whole way around it on an easy, level path that gives views of the lake and mountains up close. You don’t need to stay at the nearby Emerald Lake Lodge to take part, though it’s worth a visit and trip all in itself.
Vancouver Island certainly can’t be overlooked when looking for winter hiking, as the little to no snowfall in some areas (though lots of rain!) make it a great option, especially when you want coastal views. The Wild Pacific Trail in beautiful Ucluelet (not far from Tofino) gives an unparalleled look at the rugged coastline, where the rainforest meets the shore. There’s no better way to see this beautiful part of the Island, but prepare for rain and ensure your footwear is solid, as parts of this trail can get slippery.
The charming town of Sooke is only an hour by car from Victoria, and the Coast Trail makes for an easy day hike out of the city. At 10 kilometres long, it’s a great mid-level trail with rugged, expansive nature—you’ll feel like you’re far from home. There are small beaches you can stop at to relax, and East Sooke Park is a prime spot for a day of picnicking.