By Joshua Hergesheimer
We take our outdoor pursuits pretty seriously on the West Coast, and if you have an active family, helping your kids discover the great outdoors is an important experience. From simple strolls along well-marked trails, to strenuous mountain treks best left to serious peak-baggers, the Sea to Sky region offers a wide variety of hiking trails for all ability levels.
Thankfully, you don’t need to leave the kids behind when hiking in the Sea to Sky region. The trails below are are great for families, and easily accessible from Highway 99.
Cypress Provincial Park
For Vancouverites, Cypress Provincial Park is *literally* our backyard. Ok, more like our front yard, but you get the idea. The westernmost of the three North Shore mountains, Cypress Provincial Park is best known for winter activities — skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and tobogganing — and gained international attention when it played host to alpine events for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Parents: Cypress Provincial Park offers a range of trails, so you’re sure to find a hike that suits your family’s style. Better still, the trails start straight from the parking lot, so you can get started without too much fuss. Your energetic pre-teens can tackle the trail to the peak chairlift, while younger, tumble-prone tots can romp around on the grassy hills near the ski lifts.
Note: Cypress Provincial Park can get crowded on weekends and holidays.
Porteau Cove Provincial Park
Head north on Highway 99 through Lions Bay until you reach Porteau Cove. This Provincial Park offers overnight camping, a day-use area with picnic benches, a pier, a boat launch and a scuba diving area. It’s a worthwhile spot for families hoping for a leg-stretch alongside their parental pit-stop.
At the southern end of the walk-in portion of the campsite, you’ll find a tidal lagoon, a rocky beach and short-but-sweet trail to a viewpoint that takes in the beauty of the area. Risk-averse parents will appreciate the guardrails and fences that keep the wee ones on the right track.
Sea to Sky Gondola / Stawamus Chief Provincial Park
You’ll never forget your first glimpse of “the Chief.” Towering 700 metres above the town of Squamish, this massive plug of granite attracts rock climbers from around the world.
Ok, decision time. Are you a hiking “purist” who will always D.I.Y. your wilderness experience? Or are you cool with technology carrying you effortlessly up a sheer cliff face, depositing you at the trailhead of several stunning hikes, and quite possibly the world’s most scenic bar patio?
If you’ve chosen cardio and calories, and your kids can handle 700 metres of altitude gain without attitude, congrats! Grab your daypack and hit the trail leading up the back of Stawamus Chief. You’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of Howe Sound, and an only-slightly-smug feeling of superiority.
On the flip side, if you’d rather save your children’s stamina (and maybe your sanity) then go for the gondola. You’ll rise 886 metres in mere minutes, and you’ll find plenty of family-friendly hikes near the lodge. Hold hands across the suspension bridge, let the little ones lead you along the Wonderland Lake loop, or convince your kid to trek up to the Diamond Head viewpoint.
Alice Lake Provincial Park
The area between Squamish and Whistler is blessed with spectacular scenery and a wide range of hiking options. The most popular is the trip to Garabaldi Lake, but the 9 kilometre trek to the high alpine is hard work, and would be a challenge for some families unless your kid is a mountain goat.
Parents looking for a family-friendly hike should head to Alice Lake Provincial Park. Just 10 kilometres from Squamish, Alice Lake is a great place for families, with plenty of campsites, two picnic areas at the lakeshore, and a network of trails leading into the surrounding mountains. Families with small children will enjoy the beach area and the scenic lake loop-trail.
Outdoor Safety Preparedness
While these trails were selected for families and are non-strenuous, we can’t overemphasize how important it is to BE PREPARED in British Columbia’s wild places. The backcountry, including provincial parks, are wilderness areas. Whether you are tackling a short trail or venturing deep into the backcountry, always carry emergency gear: a water bottle, a flashlight, a rain jacket and some warm clothes.
Most importantly, always tell someone where you are going (and let them know when you make it back successfully of course!) Check out more adventure safety tips here.
Joshua Hergesheimer is an explorer, adventure motorcyclist, and a father of twin girls. He’s from Vancouver, B.C. and loves exploring the Sea-to-Sky region with his family, especially the backroads near Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton.