Back Country Adventure to St. Mark’s Summit

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View from St. Mark’s Summit Photo: Rob Weiss

The majestic North Shore mountains provide a picturesque backdrop for Vancouver, arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Towering over the city and ocean below, these mountains beckon to those who wish to get outside and explore. Heeding the call of Mother Nature, we decided to grab our backpacks, hiking poles, ten essentials for back country travel and set our compass headings on Cypress Provincial Park. The area offers numerous opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts – a veritable smorgasbord for day trippers, “instagrammers” and mountaineers alike!

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Trail to St. Mark’s Summit Photo: Rob Weiss

For visitors interested in an authentic back country experience close to the city, you need to look no further than St. Mark’s Summit along the Howe Sound Crest Trail. This 11 km round trip excursion offers the best of the North Shore including steep mountain cliffs, rugged terrain and incredible views of Howe Sound, the Tantalus Mountain range and the spectacular Gulf Islands.

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View of Howe Sound Photo: Rob Weiss

We began our adventure to the summit from the parking area near the Crazy Raven Bar and Grill on Cypress Mountain. The lodge is an ideal spot to grab a coffee and treat after your day trip and is also a popular après ski destination during the winter months! Thrilled to have the trail to ourselves, we enjoyed the peace and quiet of the forest as we began the gentle ascent from the parking area. The air was fresh and chilly. Following the route through the forest, we joined a logging road and continued our climb. Reentering the dense trees, we continued to climb – yes, we were gaining altitude quickly and soon our hearts were thumping! This was no longer a gentle ascent.

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Ladder of exposed tree roots Photo: Rob Weiss

Navigating the switch backs we continued to gain altitude. Although our fitness levels were being tested it was the mosquitoes that dictated our pace. Quickly, we discovered that if we maintained a decent walking speed the insects didn’t bother us. However, the second we stopped moving, the critters instantly found us and proclaimed us as lunch! Continuing to ascend we noticed the underbrush beginning to thin. Our legs enjoyed the soft packed trail and we marveled at the natural staircases made of tree roots. Challenging in sections, we carefully navigated exposed roots, rocks and slippery sections.

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Photo: Rob Weiss

Passing through an upper alpine meadow, known as Strachan Meadows, we finally arrived at St. Marks summit. Magically, the fog lifted and we could see for miles! To say the view from the summit was breathtaking would be an understatement. Peering over the ridge, 1400 metres to the ocean below, we were left exhilarated and speechless. Does it get better than that?

Getting There:

Cypress Provincial Park is home to St. Mark’s Summit. From Vancouver, cross the Lions Gate Bridge to the Upper Levels Highway via Taylor Way in West Vancouver. Follow the signs to Cypress Provincial Park.

Be Prepared:

The trail’s proximity to the City makes it an ideal choice for a day hike. Don’t be fooled. You are venturing into the back country and should be prepared. Check out the Adventure Smart website for excellent trip planning tools and a list of the ten essentials you need for safe back country travel.

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