Vancouver Hidden Gem: Quarry Rock Hiking, Minus the Crowds

Seymour_Maplewood-74Ask local hikers for their favourite short hike – the quick jaunt to a scenic viewpoint that rewards every time – and one name comes up a lot: the Quarry Rock Trail.  Located just outside Deep Cove, Quarry Rock (also known as Deep Cove Lookout) towers high above the Indian Arm inlet and is accessed by a 3.8-kilometre roundtrip trail from town.

But with popularity comes problems.  Finding parking along the trailhead at Panorama Drive can be a nightmare. Plus, on busy weekends, the trail can feel like a traffic jam, with big groups of hikers and international tour groups tromping up and down.

But there is a solution: a way to enjoy the great views at Quarry Rock while avoiding the hassles of the Quarry Rock Trail.

Quarry Rock, it turns out, is just a hop, skip and a jump from Mt. Seymour. And, as I discovered this weekend, there are gorgeous – and recently renovated – trails leading from Mt. Seymour Road directly to Quarry Rock – with none of the parking woes and overcrowding that plagues the Quarry Rock Trail.

Seymour_Maplewood-10The route I took starts at the first parking area you encounter as you drive up Mt. Seymour Road, which ultimately leads to the Mt. Seymour ski area.  On the right side of the road, there’s a small parking lot next to the trailhead with an information board outlining the various trail options.  One of them is a 4-kilometre hike to Deep Cove Lookout, a.k.a. Quarry Rock.

There’s a nice picnic area to the right, but the trail itself – which is actually a short piece of the famous Baden Powell Trail – heads down to the left.  I was quickly surrounded by damp Pacific coastal rainforest – tall Douglas firs and Western red cedars, dripping with water on a damp day.  The well marked route descends gradually, switching back again and again over a rushing mountain creek.  Trees here are covered with thick, green moss, giving the forest a primeval feel. Best of all, there’s almost no one around.

Seymour_Maplewood-18After about 20-30 minutes, I was spit out onto a paved road, Indian River Drive.  Careful to watch for passing cars, I crossed to the other side, where a new stretch of the trail completed in September 2014 begins.  I made my way down a series of beautiful wooden staircases and over a new, solidly-built steel bridge over a churning stream.  Eventually, the route plunges into dense thickets of undergrowth. On a rainy day, the trail had turned into a bit of a river, but it made for an interesting descent.

Seymour_Maplewood-24I emerged 10 minutes later at a gravel road next to some enormous power lines.  When I heard other voices and started seeing other hikers, I knew I must be close to Quarry Rock. I followed the power lines to a lonely overlook with clear views to Indian Arm far below. Apart from one other hiker taking a selfie, I had the scene entirely to myself.

Seymour_Maplewood-26About 100 metres further on, I finally reached Quarry Rock.  On a fall Saturday, it was predictably packed.  A few dozen people milled around on the massive outcropping, snapping photos, eating lunch and admiring the panoramic views of Deep Cove and the Burrard Inlet. I soaked up the scenery, which is gorgeous despite the crowds, until a group of teens decided to start setting off some Halloween fireworks. That was my cue to leave.  I turned back up the trail and headed back, grateful for the new, blissfully quiet route to Quarry Rock.

Seymour_Maplewood-77The hike from Mt. Seymour Road to Quarry Rock along the Baden Powell Trail is listed at 4 kilometres one-way, but feels much, much shorter (perhaps because the new section of trail has cut off some distance). It takes about 2 hours to complete, roundtrip, with generous time for enjoying the views.  The trail is easy-moderate difficulty and well marked.

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