February 2023 Vancouver Hike of the Month: Maplewood Flats

Ocean view at Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver

Photo: Rohit D’Silva/Unsplash

Maplewood Flats is a unique oceanside bird sanctuary in the heart of North Vancouver. The network of easy trails is a great place for a hike to spot many species of overwintering birds.

Trail Info: Easy; 3.5 km loop; no elevation gain; 1 hour; dogs not allowed in most of the trail system.

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. Check out our tips for safe winter hiking in Vancouver for more advice.

Getting There By Car: From Vancouver, take the Iron Workers’ Memorial Bridge to North Vancouver. Take exit 23B onto Dollarton Highway and follow it for 1.7 km. Turn right onto the access road for the Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia. There is parking along the access road. On weekends, you may park in the employee parking area.

Getting There By Bus: There is a bus stop just past the entrance on Dollarton Highway. You can get there on bus 212 or 215 from Phibbs Exchange in North Vancouver.

The Trail: The trail network at Maplewood Flats is small, but there is lots to see. Use the self-guided tour map to find your way around.

The hike starts at the Wild Bird Trust info hut at the south end of the parking lot. On weekends, the hut is staffed by helpful volunteers and the washrooms are open. Look to your right across the channel to see a unique art installation. Called From Shangri la to Shangri La, artist Ken Lum created scale models of old squatters’ shacks that were located near here in the 1960s and 70s.

After you have enjoyed the art, turn left and follow the path east toward the ocean. After a curve, take two different side trails to the left for a view of the intertidal mud flats. This zone provides habitat for many sea birds, which feed on crabs, shrimp, and clams. Wooden pilings offshore have nest boxes for swallows.

Back on the main trail, the trail curls to the west at Osprey Point and crosses a bridge over Barge Channel. Watch for herons fishing in the shallow waters. Due to sensitive wildlife, dogs are not allowed on the far side of the bridge.

Bridge at Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver

Photo: Bosancich123/Wikimedia Commons used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Once across the bridge, turn left and follow the path as it parallels the shoreline. Keep left at the fork, then turn left onto a spur trail immediately after to enjoy an oceanside viewpoint. Continue along the main trail as it passes a marsh on the right. Watch and listen for Spotted Towhees, Black-capped Chickadees and Kinglets flitting through the undergrowth here.

Spotted Towhee at Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver

Spotted Towhee. Photo: Linda Marsh/Unsplash

Past the marsh, follow another side trail to the left to Otter Point and another viewpoint. Return to the main trail and make your next left onto a short loop trail with views of the salt marsh where salt and fresh water mix. It’s a good place to watch for waterfowl amongst the grasses and reeds.

Continue north on the main trail to West Pond, the largest pond in Maplewood Flats. The viewing platform provides a vantage point to watch the ducks including interesting-looking species such as the Hooded Merganser.

Hooded merganser

Hooded Merganser. Photo: Paul Crook/Unsplash

From the pond, follow the trail north through the cottonwood and alder forest. Keep an eye out for owls in this area. The trail curls around to the south and passes Dragonfly Pond before arriving at East Pond and a junction. Turn left to follow the trail past the pond. A spur trail on your left climbs a gentle hill to the Maplewood Lookout.

Trail through the forest at Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver

Trail through the forest. Photo: Rohit D’Silva/Unsplash

Back on the main trail, follow it across the bridge, then turn left to head back to the parking area and bus stop.

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