by Ariel Taylor | Spring has officially arrived on the coast and with the warming weather and blooming city streets it’s hard to want to stay inside. The coastal mountains are also starting to wake. However, melting snow and muddy trails can make this a tumultuous time of year to go exploring. In the months before summer truly arrives, stick to lower ground and closer to home. A great place to amp up for another outdoor season is North Vancouver’s Lynn Headwaters Park. Conveniently it’s just a bridge crossing away.
Lynn Headwaters Regional Park is what the North Shore is all about. Located approximately 30 minutes from downtown, this park really does offer something for everybody. Whether you’re into a mellow creek-side stroll, a serious cardio climb, or a full day wandering among the trees, it will not disappoint. Added bonuses: dogs are welcome, parking is free and for those of you without wheels, it’s easy to access via public transit. Seriously.
Take Hwy 1 to the Lynn Valley exit and follow the road north past the turnoff for Lynn Canyon Park. The road will eventually veer to the left, but continue along the narrower right fork until you hit the parking lot. If you’re riding the bus, get yourself to the downtown SeaBus terminal and take it to North Vancouver. Once on the other side, head to the bus loop (located just outside the main gates) and hop on the 229 bus for Lynn Valley. Try to grab a seat, since you’ll be on it until pretty much the last stop.
From the park entrance there are lots of possibilities depending on what you’re in the market for. Lynn Loop is probably the most frequented trail as it offers a quick 1.5 hour tour of the park – about 5km total. The trail is relatively flat and runs along the side of Lynn River. Though often crowded, particularly on weekends, the towering Cedar and Hemlocks help to shape its wilderness facade. Expect wet conditions for the next few weeks as spring runoff and seasonal rainfall can often spill the river’s banks.
For those with a little more time, the Headwaters Trail takes you to beautiful Norvan Falls (pictured at top). Located approximately 7km from the parking lot and accessible year-round, this is a great option for just about any afternoon. The relatively flat path parallels the river until it meets Norvan Creek. This time of year the creek is in full force so exercise caution, particularly if children or pets are around. Make sure not to cross the bridge to the far bank, but instead head right along the shoreline path until you reach the falls – don’t worry, the thunderous sound of crashing water will tell you that you’re on the right track.
If you’re looking to take in some vistas but don’t have a whole day to spend finding them, Lynn Peak is a great option. This 9km round trip trail will get your heart pumping without taking up your whole day. By the time you’ve reached the top you’ll have gained about 700m of elevation. The trail can be rocky in places so think about appropriate footwear. At the summit you’ll be rewarded with views of Seymour Mountain and the downtown skyline. On a clear day you can see as far south as Washington State. Conditions on the trail this time of year are variable but worth checking out. Have a backup plan in case you get turned around.
Give the weather a few more weeks and soon these next spots will be once again accessible to those of us wanting an extra escape. Hanes Valley, Lynn Lake, and Coliseum Mountain are each reserved for experienced hikers and those prepared to spend anywhere from 8 to 12 hours on the trail. I’ll note that Hanes Valley is an A–B hike (meaning you will not end up where you began) and should thus be planned for accordingly. You’ll exit via the Grouse Mountain gondola where public transit is available to take you back into the city. This is a super fun full-day excursion with lots of beautiful photo ops and even a cold beer (or two) once you make it to the Grouse Mountain lodge. The last push is definitely the hardest so make sure you save a little something for that home stretch.
Lastly, Lynn Lake and Coliseum Mountain are both steep climbs, but with the right group of friends they can be inspiring experiences. The Lake trail is poorly marked at times so it’s even more important to stick together and keep an eye out for trail markers. Coliseum is better marked overall, but a series of narrow passages can lead to some steep drop offs if you wander off trail. The higher elevation of both these routes mean snow sticks around longer so expect wet conditions even into early June. Both routes are around 24km round trip so make sure to leave first thing in the morning to avoid getting caught in the dark.
Be careful, be prepared, and have fun!
Ariel Taylor is a writer and professional student living and working in the West End. Though never short on opinions, she approaches most things in life with an open mind and a grain of salt. She suffers from acute wanderlust (hence her Get Your Ass Outside column) and as a result can be packed for most adventures in 10 minutes or less.