June’s Vancouver Hike of the Month: Bowen Lookout

Bowen Lookout near Vancouver

The view from Bowen Lookout at sunset. Photo: Taryn Eyton/ HappiestOutdoors.ca

This year Vancouver’s North Shore mountains have a heavy snowpack, which means we will have to wait a bit longer to hike some of the trails to the higher peaks. But why not warm-up for the summer hiking season with a hike to Bowen Lookout at Cypress Provincial Park? It’s a short hike to a beautiful viewpoint. In early June there will be just a few snow patches that should disappear by the end of the month.

Until further notice, in line with the public health order, non-essential travel into, within, and out of BC is not recommended. BC residents, let’s do our part by continuing to stay small and support local with your immediate household, in accordance with the latest guidelines.

Safety First: AdventureSmart recommends bringing a backpack with essential safety and first aid gear on every hike. Check the forecast and pack extra clothing for the weather. Leave a trip plan so someone knows where you are going and when you will be back. Hiking is a little different during the pandemic. Read our tips for getting outdoors during COVID-19.

Trail Stats: Easy, 4.5km round-trip, 110m elevation gain, 1.5 hours, no dogs

Getting There: Take the Cypress Bowl Road exit from the Trans Canada Highway in West Vancouver. Follow the road up the mountain to its end at the Cypress Mountain Ski Lodge.

The Trail: The route to Bowen Lookout involves a few trail junctions, but if you pay attention to the signposts and bring the park map, it’s easy to follow.

Start your hike by following the path past the ski lodge and the chairlift onto the southern branch of the Yew Lake Trail. This flat trail is wheelchair-friendly and travels through an ecologically fragile area of sub-alpine ponds and wetlands. Be sure to watch for wildflowers! Pause at the interpretive signs along the way to learn about the unique plants in this area.

Marsh at Yew Lake in Cypress Provincial Park

A marshy section of Yew Lake. Photo: Yina Lee/All Trails

Follow the trail alongside Cypress Creek and the shores of marshy Yew Lake, ignoring the Black Mountain Trail heading uphill to the left. At the next intersection, the Yew Lake Loop continues to the right, but your route to Bowen Lookout goes left. The path heads into thick old-growth forest, then slightly uphill to a gravel road. Turn left on the road and hike for a few minutes to the intersection with the Howe Sound Crest Trail.

From here, you’ll climb steeply uphill on a series of long switchbacks. Once the trail starts to level out, watch for a trail heading off to the left. The very challenging Howe Sound Crest Trail goes right and traverses rugged mountain tops all the way to Porteau Cove.

Your path is the short downhill spur trail to the left that leads to Bowen Lookout. From the viewpoint, you’ll enjoy great views of Bowen Island, Gambier Island, Howe Sound, and the Sunshine Coast. It’s also a great spot to watch the sunset – just be sure to bring a headlamp for the walk down!

The view from Bowen Lookout

Bowen Lookout view. Photo: Kyle Pearce on Flickr. Used under CC BY-SA 2.0

After you’ve finished enjoying the view, retrace your steps back to the Yew Lake Trail. For variety, try taking the other side of the loop back to the ski lodge and your car.

Note: Dogs are not allowed on the Yew Lake Loop trail. If you want to hike with your dog (which must be on a leash), you can follow the gravel Pumphouse Road from the ski area to the junction with the Howe Sound Crest Trail. You’ll miss the beautiful Yew Lake area, but will still be able to complete the hike. See the park map for details.

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