The Quarry Rock hike in Deep Cove, North Vancouver, is super popular with both locals and tourists. It’s a 3.8km round trip walk, takes between 1-2 hours, has an elevation gain of 100m, and offers fantastic views from the top.
Starting at Deep Cove, follow the signs for the Baden Powell Trail. Once you enter the forest be prepared to begin the stair master as much of the elevation gain seems to occur in the first part of this hike. After several sets of stairs, the trail becomes a bit more natural with a maze of tree roots to navigate (watch your footing!) and several ups and downs through the forest.
Stay on the trail until you reach a fork. Go right and you’ll have reached Quarry Rock. Climb up and enjoy the view! It’s cool to be able to look down on Deep Cove and see just how high you’ve climbed.
Before heading back, walk a few minutes further along the Baden Powell Trail towards the power pylon. Once you reach it, climb the rock and you’ll get another awesome view further down Indian Arm.
I found the challenge of this hike to be catching my breath going up – take lots of short stops if you need to. If you are a beginner hiker, not particularly fit, or an older person starting out, this will be a fairly good uphill hike for you but be prepared for the conditions. The trail is open year round but can get very snowy and cold in winter. Even in summer, be prepared. I found the pounding on my knees going back down to be noticeable – a stick would help. Having said that, there were young and old hiking at many different speeds and there were also a few runners so this trail is pretty good for anybody. It’s very dog-friendly as well.
Deep Cove is extremely popular and even on a weekday outside of the school holidays, we found it difficult to get parking so I’d recommend going early in the day or taking transit. The trail was super busy as well, so it’s not a hike to do if you are looking for some quiet time. I’m not a fan of crowds or busy trails but the views at the top made it totally worthwhile.
Have you hiked to Quarry Rock? Gone further along the trail? Let us know what you thought.
What is Via Ferrata? Via Ferrata is Italian for “iron road” and essentially it is a vertical route equipped with anchored rungs and steel cables to aid climbers. This allows inexperienced or new climbers (that’s us!) to explore alpine regions and steep scenic areas that would usually be inaccessible.
We were lucky enough to experience the Via Ferrata with Mountain Skills Academy at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish.
We didn’t really know what to expect when we booked our Via Ferrata experience, and truth be told, I was a little nervous. I’m pretty open to new adventures and I like hiking, but climbing kind of freaks me out. It’s not the climb, it’s gravity and the thought of falling.
Here’s the great thing about Via Ferrata – this style of climbing uses a system of lanyards attached to steel cables which effectively limits the danger of a fall. Whenever you reach an anchored pole, you unhook one carabiner and clip it back onto the cable on the other side of the pole before unhooking the second carabiner. This double clip system means you should always be connected to the cable at all times.
What was it like? Here is a video of our experience – footage shot on a GoPro attached to my helmet.
A synopsis of the climb: We met our guide, Lora, at the top of the gondola where we were fitted with climbing harnesses, helmets and lanyards. Then it was a short hike down the track to the beginning of the Via Ferrata. Lora explained how the system worked and answered our questions and then it was time to climb.
The route started off gently enough and was more of a hike than a climb as we gently traversed around the side of the mountain. This was a good opportunity to get comfortable with the lanyard and carabiner system.
Things got much more vertical once we reached the first ladder.
There were just the two of us on our tour which meant we were able to go at our own pace. There was plenty of time to enjoy a few unusual rest stops along the way.
And take in the views.
Once we had conquered the vertical parts, the terrain leveled out quite a bit. Our legs were happy about that! We hiked across a footbridge and around the mountain towards the Summit Lodge. We came up under the suspension bridge and had made it – finishing our climb back at the top.
Yes, we did get very hot and our hands were very dirty from the cables, but the sense of achievement was awesome!
After getting cleaned up, we enjoyed a well-deserved beer on the patio and took in the amazing view before taking the gondola back down.
Mountain Skills Academy have many tours available, including 2 Via Ferrata adventures in BC; this one near Squamish and a 4-hour climb in Whistler. If you are curious but have any reservations about fitness level or ability, we’d recommend trying the Squamish one first. The climb takes about 1.5 hours and for a novice, it’s challenging but not too difficult. The experience is exhilarating and the views are spectacular.
Via Ferrata is a unique and fun adventure. We are really glad we did it and hope to do the Whistler Via Ferrata someday as well.
With a modern day population of just a couple of hundred, it is easy to overlook small, sleepy Yale. But the town has a vibrant history. In 1858 the discovery of gold nearby resulted in rapid population growth as 30,000 miners and business people flowed into the area. Yale boomed and quickly became the biggest town north of San Francisco and west of Chicago.
The Yale Historical Site is home to some restored buildings from the 1800’s. Creighton House was built in the 1870’s and now functions as a Museum, exhibiting a vast array of historical artifacts and photographs.
St. John the Divine Anglican Church was built in 1863 in hopes of taming wild miners, and is the third oldest church in BC.
Historical events helped shape not only the town of Yale, but also the Province and the Nation. In 1871, after discussions at the Yale Convention the previous year, British Columbia became the sixth Province in the new Confederation of Canada, ending any chance of succession to the US.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was built in the 1880’s with construction headquarters in Yale. On-site, there is a monument to the Chinese Railway Workers – many of whom were killed during the railroad’s construction.
Outside the museum you will see “Tent City” in which you can glimpse what life may have been like for the miners and railway workers.
You can also try out gold panning for yourself.
The historical site itself is quite small, but contains a wealth of interesting artifacts and information. We really enjoyed our stop here and would recommend it in conjunction with a visit to Hell’s Gate Airtram. Yale is about a 2-hour drive from Vancouver and 20-30 minutes before Hell’s Gate so the two pair very well together. The Yale Historical Site helped set the scene for our trip to Hell’s Gate where we viewed the mighty Fraser Canyon from the perspective of history.
With the fantastic weather we were treated with this Victoria Day long weekend, we thought we’d venture out on a day trip and explore somewhere new. We chose Hells Gate.
Hell’s Gate is located in the southern Fraser Canyon, 2.5 hours drive from Vancouver – ideal for day-tripping. The name originates with the great explorer Simon Fraser who in 1808 wrote in his journal that “surely this is the gate of hell”, referring to the canyon’s towering cliff faces and the tumultuous water below.
Hell’s Gate Airtram is a scenic attraction (don’t forget your cameras) and one that is steeped in Gold Rush and early explorer history. The Airtram travels across and down into the gorge giving you a bird’s eye view of the mighty Fraser River, the railway and the suspension bridge.
Hell’s Gate Airtram is one of the steepest fully suspended trams in North America, descending 152m down to the observation deck.
At the bottom, there is a large observation area with plenty of seating, a gift shop, the aptly named Simon’s Cafe, and a fudge and ice-cream shop where you can reward yourself for your bravery! There is also a suspension bridge where you can get a closer view of the roaring water.
When we visited it was a very hot day so we enjoyed ice-cream outside, watching the tiny birds flitting around the feeders.
Afterward, we walked across the suspension bridge and up to the railway track. Having just visited the Yale Historical Site and reading the history of the railroad and gold rush, we found ourselves marveling at the strength and determination of the early explorers and railway builders.
Facts for the statistically minded: The gorge at Hell’s Gate narrows abruptly to 35m (110ft), causing the fast-flowing water to thunder through the passage. At high water level, over 750,000,000 litres (200,000,000 gallons) of water per minute flow through the gorge. That’s twice the volume of Niagara Falls!
Looking down you get a real sense of the power of the water.
For History Buffs: In 1913, while CN was blasting for the passage of the railway, a major rock slide into the river caused a dramatic drop in salmon run numbers. In 1944 Fishways were built at the side of the river to allow salmon to move upstream against a slower current. There is an exhibit at Hell’s Gate detailing the development of the Fishways and the salmon recovery.
We loved our visit to Hell’s Gate Airtram. It was a great day trip but would also be a nice rest stop for a few hours if you were traveling further.
The scenery was picturesque.
Tips: There are two free parking lots; one on each side of the road. If traveling from Hope you can park in the lot on the righthand side of the road and cross the highway via an overpass. If you have mobility concerns, there is a turnaround a bit further along the highway so you can come back and park in the second lot closest to the entrance to avoid the stairs. The facilities are pet-friendly so bring your dog.
Hell’s Gate is open from April 12-October 9 (2017 dates). Canyon Appreciation Day, with admission by donation, is on May 28 this year. If you are looking for a uniquely BC experience, check it out.
Looking for a relaxing getaway not too far from Vancouver? Try Salt Spring Island – we did, and it was wonderful!
Salt Spring Island is one of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. It is accessible by ferry, but we traveled by Sea Plane for a different perspective. The flight with SaltSpring Air was great and we had fantastic weather so got to see some amazing scenery.
The flight only took about 35 mins from Downtown Vancouver and landed at picturesque Ganges Harbour, just a short walk from our hotel.
We had informed the hotel of our arrival time so they sent someone down to the dock to meet us. We had arrived several hours in advance of our check in so we opted to send our bags on ahead and explore a bit on our own.
After fueling up we set off on a walk to the other side of the island. It was lovely and quiet, but a bit further than we expected so we were pretty knackered by the time we returned and checked in at the beautiful Hastings House.
Our Hillside Suite, overlooking the Harbour, was gorgeous and well-equipped. Also incredibly private and quiet!
We were also very hungry which was good because we were booked in at the Fine Dining Room for dinner. The dining room is set in the historic Manor House, and the Fine Dining is a must experience while visiting Salt Spring Island. It’s famous for Salt Spring Island lamb, but being non-meat eaters we opted for seafood options.
After a scrumptious dinner and impeccable service we returned to our room to find a couple of bunnies on the bed – a nice touch for Easter.
The next morning we woke and enjoyed some coffee on the patio, surrounded by birds and trees before heading to the dining room for breakfast.
We decided to explore the grounds a bit so checked out the view of the harbour and the property’s gardens.
While strolling in the garden we saw little “bugs” whizzing through the air making a buzzing sound. These “bugs” turned out to be hummingbirds and we discovered that feeders had been hung throughout the garden. We grabbed our cameras and found a spot to watch and record them. It was amazing. We had planned on going shopping, but both Susannah and I found the tiny birds absolutely mesmerizing. We watched for about 1.5 hours and enjoyed it so much that we returned the next day for more viewing!
Hummingbirds are super fast and can fly in any direction which makes them hard to photograph. I recommend a very fast shutter speed if you want to stop them in midair. Here are a few shots.
Here’s a short video to show you just how speedy they are.
That evening we wandered Downtown and enjoyed another amazing dinner, this time at Auntie Pesto’s which is located in the Ganges Village right by the water. The meal was outstanding and again we sampled local produce and fresh seafood. So good!
Our last morning came too quickly. We had a few hours before our flight so we decided to stroll through the fields and along the sculpture trail at the edge of the grounds. It’s a short walk but has some cool sculptures as does the Hastings House property itself.
There are a ton of things to do on Salt Spring Island – lots of artisans and workshops, health and wellness retreats (Hastings House has a spa on site), and adventure activities. We went with no definitive plan and although interested in many activities and sights, we basically stayed in the Ganges Harbour area. The Hastings House Country Hotel property is vast and quiet and we found our getaway there to be just what we were looking for. We had such a slow paced, relaxing time – I think it is fair to say that neither of us wanted to go home.
Once again we were treated to a lovely SaltSpring Air scenic flight home. It was awesome to be so close and arrive home so stress-free.
I’d definitely recommend Salt Spring Island for a few days away. Check out this website for everything you need to know about Salt Spring and plan your own Island getaway.
One of my favourite places to visit in Vancouver is the VanDusen Botanical Garden. The garden is open year round and there is something to see in any season. Different areas are designed to flourish at different times of the year giving the garden a fresh look each time you visit.
Spring is my personal favourite. I love the fresh green of new growth, the colourful spring flowers, and the soft light.
Also, if I’m lucky, I get to see ducklings and goslings – super cute!
After entering the Garden we always beeline towards the far edges of the grounds then work our way back. It’s a large Park and there’s a lot to see with different vegetation starring in each season. The Garden has good maps and info on what to look for and what is peaking at any time. Check out their bloom calendar.
There are sculptures dotted around the grounds and a hedge maze with a Monkey Puzzle Tree at it’s centre – good fun for young and old.
HINT: VanDusen has a lovely café but on a sunny day I recommend packing a lunch and bringing a picnic blanket. There’s ample space to stretch out and relax. Special events such as the Sakura Days Japan Fair in April or the Festival of Lights in December are super crowded, but most regular days if you walk away from the entrance to the right or the left you’ll soon get away from the crowds.
VanDusen Garden is located on Oak Street at West 37th Avenue. They have a good sized free parking lot, but if there is an event on I’d recommend driving past the entrance and making the next right-hand turn as you’ll usually find street parking there.
The Garden is not pet-friendly so leave your four-legged friends at home.
VanDusen is a great place for photography. I love capturing the beautiful colours in different light. For photography, you can get nice photos on any camera – the photos shown here range from DSLR to point and shoot. One suggestion I’ll make is to vary your angles and viewpoints – go high, go low, zoom in, go very wide – changing your point of view can add an interesting element to the images.
Keep your eyes open – you never know what you’ll see.
Have you been to VanDusen Garden? What is your favourite part?
This 2.6km hike in the Capilano Canyon is great if you want a nice walk, nothing too tricky and/or something that is dog-friendly. The trail begins at the Capilano dam and is a circuit so can be done either clockwise or anti-clockwise. Bear in mind, both ways you’ll head downhill first which will mean some uphill on the way back. The elevation gain is only 100m and the trail is good so it’s not too challenging. There are also a few cross trails if you want something even shorter.
The Cleveland Dam, at the head of the Capilano River in North Vancouver, supplies much of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland’s drinking water. When the dam’s gates are open it’s super exciting to stand on the bridge above and see and hear the torrent of water rushing down the spillway into the river.
To do the hike anti-clockwise, cross the bridge and look for the Upper Shinglebolt Trail. Follow it until you reach a fork in the trail and then turn left. From that point, follow the trail a short way to the Pipe bridge and head across. This part of the trail follows the river so you’ll be treated to some great views no matter what the weather.
On the East side of the river, look for the Coho Loop Trail to the left. Follow it until you reach the salmon hatchery interpretive centre. There are some really cool displays at the center where you can see and learn about the life cycle of salmon. Check out the fish ladders where, depending on the season, you may even see salmon jumping as they head upstream to spawn.
After you leave the hatchery, look for the Palisades Trail to the left. Follow it back up until you hit the service road and then continue up the road until you find yourself back at the dam.
The round trip takes between 1 and 2 hours depending on your speed and how long you spend at the hatchery. I could watch fish jump for hours so I would allow extra time for that. There is a parking lot by the reservoir and the park can also be reached by transit. I highly recommended the Cleveland Dam-hatchery loop as a good starter hike or a regular walk. It’s locally popular so can be quite busy but the people you meet are friendly.
The St Mark’s Summit hike is an 11km round trip, with 460m elevation and some challenging terrain. The views along the way are amazing but nothing can prepare you for the vistas over Howe Sound from the Summit itself.
The trail to the Summit can be accessed from the Cypress Mountain Downhill parking lot. Head North towards the chairlift and look for signs for the Howe Sound Crest Trail. St Mark’s Summit is 5.5km along the Howe Sound Crest Trail which runs 30km from Cypress Mountain to Porteau Cove.
The Trail begins as gravel but after some time will become a myriad of tree routes and steep switchbacks. Watch your feet carefully. As a novice hiker I found this trail quite challenging and took many short stops to rest. Happily, there are many places where it’s worth stopping to admire the view.
When you reach the first trail map board look for an opening in the forest to your right. You’ll see a magnificent view of the Lions.
There are several peek-a-boo views of the Sound along the way.
When you reach St Mark’s Summit you’ll see a marker pole on the trail itself. Turn to your left and scramble up the rocks. From the numerous viewpoints at the edge of the ridge you’ll get incredible vistas of Howe Sound. What makes the scenery even more spectacular are the sheer drop-offs, as the cliffs seem almost vertical, really emphasizing their height.
Along with the views, you’re likely to see some wildlife. There was a family of ravens checking us out as we rested at the top.
Along with a couple of curious chipmunks.
After about an hour at the top, we began to make our way back. About 2/3 of the way down we came across a tree trunk where previous hikers had marked their passing by stacking small rocks. We each added a rock to the pile to acknowledge the trail before continuing on our way.
By the time we arrived back at the carpark it was dusk and the temperature had dropped significantly. Although it was a really hot day and we wore T-shirts hiking, we were prepared for the weather to change. Given the mixed terrain and the mountain’s elevation, I’d recommend being fully prepared when tackling this hike. Take plenty of water, warm clothes, a first aid kit and bug spray.
This hike could take anywhere from 4-6 hours depending on fitness, speed and how long you stay at the top. Don’t rush it, it’s worth hanging out at the Summit awhile where you will literally feel on top of the world. I did this hike on my birthday in September and couldn’t think of a better place to be.
In a couple of earlier posts I talked about our scenic trip from Smithers to Prince Rupert on Via Rail and our incredible Bear Watching Trip in Prince Rupert. Apart from these obvious highlights how was our stay in Northern BC?
Our flights Vancouver to Smithers and then Prince Rupert to Vancouver were on Hawkair. We really enjoyed the flights and the customer service was excellent, particularly in Prince Rupert where the staff was very friendly.
Fun fact: Prince Rupert airport is located on Digby Island which is only accessible by ferry. Hawkair provided a shuttle bus from their Prince Rupert office which included the ferry so we had no problem getting there but we highly recommend you factor travel time into your itinerary.
Travel hack: like many small airlines Hawkair charges you for every checked bag, small or large. Susannah and I each packed a small suitcase but as we were charged by the bag it would have been more economical to pack together in one larger suitcase. Overall, Hawkair was awesome and I’d totally fly with them again.
While in Prince Rupert we stayed for two nights at the Eagle Bluff B&B which is a great looking, very popular, quirky little B&B, centrally located and right on the water. We did have the top floor Lighthouse room booked but there was a booking mix-up and we were put in a much lower value room with two single beds for the first night. The room itself was a bit cramped. For a solo business traveler or two close friends it would be ok, but it is a bit pricey for what you get. You know what they say though…..location, location, location…..this B&B certainly has a fabulous spot.
Susannah’s sister Liz, who joined us from Smithers, stayed at the Crest Hotel which was within walking distance. Rather than spending the evening in our room, we went to Liz’s hotel and shared a bottle of wine and some delicious appies at Charley’s Lounge, the in-house bar.
The next morning we were up early and had a delicious home cooked breakfast before heading off on our incredible bear watching trip. When we returned we were able to move into the Lighthouse room for our second night. Was the upgrade worth it? Yes. Here’s a timelapse of the sunset view which we enjoyed over a glass of wine.
The next morning’s breakfast was again abundant and fresh. From conversations at the breakfast table, it seems that this B&B gets a lot of regular customers. The host seemed to know our two breakfast companions quite well.
Overall I’d say that The Eagle Bluff B&B has a great location and the views are awesome. Be sure to get the Lighthouse room though as it is the bee’s knees of B&B rooms and, in my opinion, worthy of the price tag.
Other things that were cool about Prince Rupert:
Smile’s Cafe had really really good fish and chips. I’d recommend it but be patient, the service is a little slow. The food was absolutely worth the wait.
Cowpuccino’s Coffee House serves really good coffee. We didn’t eat there but the food looked pretty good also and the service was friendly.
Prince Rupert seemed to have a cow theme going on.
I have to say, I really enjoyed our time up North. If you are looking for an escape from the city and a little adventure, Prince Rupert should be on your list. I know would definitely visit again.
Thanks to Hawkair, Prince Rupert Adventure Tours, and Liz and Bill for making this trip possible.
Ok I won’t lie. When we decided to go up North I knew that the bear watching excursion was going to be the highlight of my trip. Coming from New Zealand where there are NO BEARS (actually there are NO predatory animals PERIOD), even the thought of encountering a bear scares the bejeezes out of me. Yet as a photographer I am in awe of them and definitely wanted to see them in their natural environment.
On our trip to Prince Rupert, we were fortunate enough to be hosted by Prince Rupert Adventure Tours for our bear watching excursion. As our awesome B&B was right on the water’s edge, we were able to walk down to the dock after breakfast to check in and board. The vessel is able to accommodate 100 passengers and despite being fully booked, including a large boisterous school group, I have to say that it did not seem too crowded and everyone was able to get a good viewing spot. Everyone was very accommodating and looked out for each other despite language and age barriers so that was pretty cool.
The Grizzly Bear Tour motors through the Chatham Sound for about 1.5 hours in order to reach the Khutzeymateen Valley, which is not reachable by land. On the way we saw some fantastic scenery and plenty of wildlife to look for. We saw lots of seabirds and a cluster of seals sunning themselves on some rocks.
Once in the Khutzeymateen area the Captain and crew use binoculars to look out for bears. Patience and complete silence is the key to good viewing as the Captain will pilot the vessel up as close as he/she can without disturbing the animals. The schoolkids turned their volume right down and everyone was very respectful. There were about 3-4 kids who stayed out on deck the entire time, pointing out wildlife and speaking in whispers. Can anyone say “Future Marine Scientists”?
I loved that this was an eco tour and that the impact on the bears was minimal. There was one occasion on our trip where we saw a young bear and approached but the Captain chose to pull away and move on as the bear seemed agitated, perhaps sensing our presence. As much as I wanted some bear shots, I am happy that the correct ethical decision was made for the animal. We remained a reasonable distance from the shore at all times – all of the shots here are taken with a telephoto lens.
We saw several bears and were able to observe them for some time. They were much skinnier than I had imagined they would be. As it was Spring they would have only recently woken from hibernation. Once awake they move down to the coastline to feast on the lush green grasses that grow near the water’s edge, giving them the vitamins and nutrients they need to kick-start their metabolisms.
Check out the claws on this one! Very glad I was on a boat and well off-shore.
To be able to view an animal in nature without negatively impacting on it’s environment is simply awesome! The excursion was, as expected, an amazing highlight of our trip and an adventure that I would totally recommend. It was also a very long day (6 hours) and many of us were dozing inside on the way back to Prince Rupert, myself included. Once we neared the port the Captain and crew had another treat for us. They threw animal fat high into the air at each side of the boat and within minutes we were surrounded by about 30 eagles diving and grabbing the food with their talons. They were fantastic to watch and an exciting end to a great day.