Vancouver Hiking for Newbies: A Beginner’s Guide to Local Trails
Local hiking expert Lois Tomlinson gives us her tips to enjoy Vancouver’s hottest trails for the first time.
Living in a city plagued by eight straight months of rain can really take a toll on one’s psyche. That’s why when the rain stops and our umbrellas go into a much-needed hibernation, we want to make the most of it. Our favourite sunny day activity? Hiking the gorgeous Vancouver trails. For those who have never taken the hiking plunge, not to worry—we sat down with local hiking expert and owner of Natural Trekking hiking tours Lois Tomlinson to understand the dos and don’ts of hiking for newbies (sorry, beginners) in Vancouver.
DO: Consider hiking with a guide.
“It’s something I’ve seen since I’ve started,” Tomlinson remarks. “People find a hike online that looks interesting and just decide to go without any prior research or experience.” If you’re a new hiker or just new to the Vancouver area, consider hiking with a guide your first few times. Not only can they keep you on the right path and teach you the proper techniques, it can lead to some pretty uncanny stories.
DON’T: Go hiking alone.
“Hiking alone is extremely dangerous,” notes Tomlinson. With no one to help if something goes wrong, going alone is one of the biggest no-no’s for beginner (and experienced) hikers. “Even if it’s something stupid like rolling your ankle, if you’re hiking alone it could be life-threatening.”
DO: Know where you’re going.
If you’re new to hiking, it’s important to have a detailed idea of where the trail starts and finishes as well as any important landmarks along the way. “There are so many website out there that are great tools for hikers,” says Tomlinson, “providing necessities like maps and GPS coordinates of each trail.” Our favourite? VancouverTrails.com. With Google Map trail guides and a variety of information, it’s the perfect guide for pre-trip planning and mid-trip course-correcting.
DON’T: Assume you know how to work your GPS.
“Just because you bring a GPS doesn’t mean it will be helpful,” notes Tomlinson. “You have to make sure you know how to use your specific model before you get on the trail.”
DO: Check the difficulty of the hike.
Although there is no official difficulty rating system for hikes, most sites use easy, intermediate, and difficult to determine the difficulty of a trail. “It’s important to be realistic,” says Tomlinson. “Some people will find a hike marked easy extremely challenging while others will find it a breeze.” Pro tip: if you’re a beginner, try to avoid high elevation hikes (>200 metres) and trails with a lot of roots and rocks for a more leisurely climb.
DON’T: Be unrealistic about your time.
“Most hiking websites are made by experienced experts and the time in which they complete a hike can be a lot different than a beginner’s,” Tomlinson notes. Her advice? Give yourself 1.5 or 2x the amount of time is says on the guide and make sure to leave enough time to get off the trail before dusk.
DO: Carry the 10 essentials.
- Flashlight, spare batteries or head lamps
- Firemaking kit: waterproof matches/lighter, firestarter/candle
- Signalling device: a whistle or mirror is best to signal searchers if you become lost
- Extra food and water: 1 litre/person
- Extra clothing: rain, wind, water protection and toque (in case of hypothermia)
- Navigation/communication aids: maps, compass, GPS, cell phone, hand-held radio (and remember to know how to use them!)
- First aid kit
- Emergency shelter: orange tarp or large orange garbage bags work great
- Pocket knife
- Sun protection (glasses, sunscreen, hat)
Where to hike in Vancouver
If you’re looking for an easy beginner’s hike that doesn’t require a ton of fitness, check out the Cleveland Dam trail at Capilano River Regional Park. “It’s one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets,” notes Tomlinson. A flat and groomed trail, with the option of cutting it short if you get tired, it’s the perfect starter hike for Vancouverites.
[su_gmap address=”Capilano River Regional Park”]
For those a bit more daring, try going around the circumference of Lighthouse Park. There’s a bit more elevation and rocks, but the view is spectacular.
[su_gmap address=”Lighthouse Park”]