If you have decided to visit Vancouver with a hope that you can experience the great outdoors, you have come to the right place. The City of Vancouver is surrounded by a chain of mountains that make up the western edge of the Coast Mountain Range, and there are many incredible ways to explore this wilderness. Hiking into the mountains is one of the most popular things for both locals and tourists to do during the dry summer months in Vancouver and there are many great places waiting to be explored. One of the most popular hikes to undertake – which include an unforgeable view of the Howe Sound as a reward – is the 10-km return trip to St. Mark’s Summit.
The hike to St. Mark’s Summit is one of the most popular hikes for a reason; this trail leads to one of the most beautiful viewpoints on the North Shore. It is the perfect place to look down at Bowen Island, the Sunshine Coast, Tantalus Mountains and the surrounding Howe Sound. St. Mark’s Summit is located along the first 5-km of the Howe Sound Crest Trail (which travels 29-km from Cypress Mountain to Porteau Cove) and is rated as a moderate difficulty hike, which means you just need to make sure you pack along some extra will-power and lots of water for this trek.
St. Mark’s Summit is only 1370-meters above sea level, and while there are some more difficult portions of the trail, is really just requires time and effort to get there. The elevation gain from the starting point at the Cypress Mountain Parking lot is only 460 meters. There are two routes you can take to St Mark’s, either via the lower trail which visits Yew Lake and the Bowen Island Lookout before connecting back to the more direct main trail. We did this hike last weekend for the first time and were amazed at how incredible a place this was.
The return trip takes anywhere from 4-6 hours for most hikers, and once you reach St Mark’s Summit, the views of the Howe Sound are hard to beat. If you visit during a weekend, the trail will be filled with many other hikers, and you will have to fight a few crowds at the top for the best views. From the top, there are great views to the west of the Howe Sound and to the east of the wild mountains. Inside the park are two of Vancouver’s most memorable mountains – known as the Lions – which are visible from most parts of the city, and also where the “Lions Gate” Bridge gets its name.
This epic wilderness is a part of Cypress Provincial Park, which protects a 30 square kilometer protected nature reserve which was established in 1942. The park is best known for Cypress Mountain Resort, a popular ski and snowboard destination that was one of the venues for the 2010 Winter Olympics that were held in Vancouver and Whistler. When the snow melts, the backcountry is opened up for day hikers, trail runners and overnight campers.
North and West Vancouver are lucky to have their boundaries next to the incredible mountains, which form the backdrop for many pictures of the Vancouver skyline. There are many incredible outdoor adventures to be found inside Cypress Provincial Park and it is the perfect place to explore the Coast Mountains that mark this northern border of greater Vancouver. St. Mark’s summit is one of the most unforgettable views you can experience in the city, and a hike that we will definitely attempt again in the future.