Winter in Vancouver can either be a winter wonderland if you are fully equipped to ski/board the winter blahs away or it can be a dreary black hole where you find yourself googling “what is the sun”. There is a solution to this winter dichotomy — cheap, fun and easy winter adventures are aplenty in your own backyard you just need to know where to go.
Winter activities can be intimidating but once you have a few of the essentials you will be all set for some outdoor fun.
The backcountry trail at Mount Seymour is the perfect place to give snowshoeing and winter hiking a try. It’s close to the city, there are various trails and all of them are well groomed and marked.
The best time to do the backcountry trail at Seymour is at sunrise- yes, you heard that right, sunrise.
Everyone still with me? It’s not as atrocious as it sounds, one of the positives about winter is that sun doesn’t rise (it sometimes feels like it never does in Vancouver) until 8:00 AM, so a sunrise hike is actually less horrific as it sounds.
One very important detail to note is that the road up to Seymour does not open until 7:00 AM. Cheeky tip — if you do for whatever reason get to Seymour before 7:00 AM, instead of lingering by the gate and weirding out the attendant, grab a quick doughnut and coffee at Honey’s Doughnuts in Deep Cove. They are literal cherubs and open the café at 6:00 AM (only real angels wake up at 6:00 AM to feed you doughnuts).
Now that you have caffeine and doughnuts you are ready to conquer the trail.
As the sun waits for no one, you likely will not get to the backcountry peak for sunrise unless you sprint up there like a cheetah on speed.
The good news is that you will get to hike while the sun rises and kisses your sun deficient cheeks.
The hike up to the backcountry area is approximately 1.5 hours from the parking lot. The trail is clear and marked all the way up. There are a few vertical sections with a steep incline but the views at the top make all the huffing and puffing well worth it.
We use snowshoes for this trip but we recommend using Yaktrax instead (unless it snowed a lot the night before your trip).
The snow was not deep enough to warrant snowshoes and we felt like lumbering sasquatches with our bulky snowshoes. Yaktrax provides better traction and is better on steeper inclines than snowshoes.
After a final ascent, you will reach the backcountry area in all its splendour. This is a popular place for people to camp and backcountry ski. It is the best viewpoint at Seymour without having to trek to the first peak. Now it is time to kick off the snowshoes and relax for a minute, have a coffee, a snack or a beer (you hiked at sunrise goddamn it, do what you need to do).
The best part about hiking in the winter? Sliding down the mountain on your bum- that’s right, just sit on your snowshoes and cool runnings your way down that mountain. So, hiking at sunrise to the top of a snowy mountain- that really doesn’t sound all that bad now does it?
Here is what you need to know before you head up to Seymour:
Road Conditions/ Avalanche Hazard Ratings: Before heading up to any of the North shore mountains check the avalanche level rating to ensure that it is safe. Check that the roads are clear and that there haven’t been any closures or accidents prior to your departure.
About Seymour Backcountry: Snowshoers, backcountry skiers, snowboarders and hikers use the backcountry trails throughout the season. Passes or permits are not required to use the BC Parks Backcountry access.
Difficulty: Beginner snowshoe (to get to the backcountry area, intermediate for the first peak)
Equipment: Snowshoes, Yaktrax/ Ice cleats/ Backcountry skis, headlamp
Drive from Downtown Vancouver: 40 min
Distance: 7 KM (roundtrip)
Trail Conditions: Snow is packed down from use, well-marked/ groomed
Hiking Time: 3 hours on skis, 4 hours on snowshoes
Trail Traffic: Medium
Cellular Service: Good
Clothing: Protective rain jacket and pants,
dress warmly but be ready to shed layers as you will get quite warm