An interesting and highly rewarding summer/autumn hike located less than an hour's drive from Vancouver is along the Halvor Lunden Trail to Eagle Peak ( a.k.a. Mt. Beautiful) -- a challenging ascent giving way to an easier ridge-walk that could be turned into a backpacker's overnighter. The 590 ft. trailhead begins at the Buntzen Lake recreational area (managed by B.C. Hydro, the public power utility). It meanders at the start then rises quickly and over some sections, steeply to gain a ridge at the 3,400 ft. level. Following the ridge northward to " El Paso Junction " (signed), hikers are given the option of following two separate trails to the peak (one passing alongside a number of small ponds; the other offering viewpoints of Buntzen Lake below).
At Lindsay Lake (about 3 hrs. along) the two trails re-join; the single route continuing along to Eagle Peak (4,200 ft.) which is reached within 5 hours. Its 360 degree panorama is worth at least a half-hour's stay. There are a few undesignated spots nearby for campers to pitch tents. The return to El Paso Junction can be taken over the ridge trail not followed on the way up. The round trip for this day hike is approx. 9 hrs. which means a start before noon is necessary in order to get back to the vehicle by dusk.
By far the most popular hike around Vancouver is North Vancouver's " Grouse Grind " which is open from mid-May to late October. Of all the trails on the North Shore, the " Grind " has the steepest rise; although it covers a relatively short distance. The trailhead begins at the 950 ft. level adjacent to the parking lot of Grouse Mountain's Skyride gondola. It climbs parallel to the gondola amidst the forest for another 2,850 ft. ending at the Skyride terminus. On reaching the terminus, sweaty necks and faces can be washed at the public washrooms before one heads to the snack bar or restaurant to enjoy a beverage and the overpriced fare (better to pack a sack lunch).
This route is not recommended for beginners or pre-teens. Hikers should be fairly fit (some sections require a bit of scrambling). On any summer Saturday there may be in excess of 300 souls on the trail, many of them huffing and puffing. But the swarm of friendly people provides an excellent opportunity for finding new hiking partners. One nice aspect of the Grind is the option of descending via the gondola for a very reasonable $5 per person (about 2 pounds, fifty pence), thereby avoiding further stress on knees and ankles.
The Grind is the fair weather haunt of the toned and youthful although some very fit seniors are there to show their stuff. Most of the regulars who hike the Grind do so a minimum of 50 times a season in order to achieve their optimum level of fitness and to lower their best previous ascent times. The record climb is just under 30 minutes (someone evidently ran up). The vast majority of those tackling the Grind for the first time require at least 75 min. to reach the top. A warning : the middle age, out-of-shape male should never succumb to any temptation to maintain the same pace as the lovely gal who has just overtaken him. He may suffer an unexpected heart attack (as some do every year in the foolish belief that they can match steps with the world-beaters.)
A final caution : Never leave the trail to explore the cliffs and gullies on the east side of the Grind. A few people have slipped on the wet, mossy rocks and suffered serious injury or death from their falls.
There are a smaller number of low-level walks around Vancouver that would suit children and the elderly plus a few trails that skirt the ocean shores. The best shore hikes though, are located on Vancouver Island not far from Victoria, the provincial capital and last bastion of the British Empire. These hiking trails vary in length from mile-long loops-trails to treks -- the longest being the world-famous 70 km. West Coast Trail that tests seasoned backpackers. It takes up to seven days to complete the slog and there are no facilities whatsoever along the trail. You carry what you need (although there are plenty of fresh water sources). A similar wilderness hike but one less demanding is the 40 km. round trip backpacking trek into Cape Scott Park at the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. Most of the trail wanders through low-lying forest and grassy areas, but it opens up over the final few kilometres to reveal spectacular ocean vistas.
1 a ridge connecting two higher elevations