Urban Hiking in Vancouver: Black Mountain

Bowen Lookout Cypress Mountain

Everyone knows that Vancouver is surrounded by stunning, snow-capped mountains.  What many people don’t realize is how close the city truly is to those rugged peaks.

Within a 30-minute drive from downtown, you can access fantastic trails running through pristine alpine terrain.  I call it urban hiking – since you can be back in the city in time for dinner.  During the summer, one of my hands-down favourite hikes – offering big rewards with a minimum of time and effort – is the quick ascent of Black Mountain, one of the peaks of Cypress Mountain.

Cypress Mountain is located in West Vancouver, approximately a 30-40 minute drive from downtown (as far as I know, there’s no regular bus service during the summer).  The drive has the added benefit of being spectacularly scenic.  As you ascend Cypress Bowl Road, you’ll reach a lookout with panoramic views of the city of Vancouver – a great spot for a quick picnic.

Downtown Vancouver from the Cypress Lookout

Once you reach the top of Cypress, head to the downhill ski area, where you’ll find ample free parking.  Head to the chairlifts and follow signs to the trailhead to Black Mountain.  Now prepare to work up a little sweat.

The ascent here is relatively short but rather steep.  The trail is broad and well-maintained (Don’t worry – There’s no climbing or scrambling required).  You ascend along a series of switchbacks, higher and higher, and get increasingly gorgeous views of the surrounding Coast Mountains.  After about 40 minutes, you finally level off and reach the summit.

And here’s where things get fun.  Not far from the top of the mountain, the trail turns and edges along the shore of Cabin Lake.  Fed by melting snow and freshwater springs, the water here is crystal clear and refreshingly – numbingly – brisk.  On a hot summer day, you’ll find lots of hikers stopped here for a quick swim and maybe a lounge on the rocks.  There’s no lifeguard of any kind up here, so swim at your own risk.

Cabin Lake, Cypress Provincial Park, West Vancouver, BC

After taking a dip, if you feel ambitious, you can continue another 45 minutes along the trail to Eagle Bluffs, a viewpoint that overlooks Eagle Harbour and the city of Vancouver (plus Vancouver Island and the distant profile of Mt. Baker on clear days).  Alternately, you can turn back around and zoom back down the mountain.

The hike, plus a brief dip in the lake, takes no more than two hours.  Factor in the drive to Cypress Mountain (30 minutes, each way), and the whole experience takes about three hours.  Considering the stunning scenery and alpine lake, Black Mountain is definitely one of the top urban hikes around Vancouver.   For a detailed map and description, check out this page on Vancouver Trails.

Do you have a favourite “urban hike”?  Please let us know by leaving a comment below.

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