Hiking Crooked Falls and Sigurd Creek

It’s that awkward time of year when there’s still a lot of snow in the mountains, but we’ve finally reached the time when lower elevation hikes are becoming accessible again! I always play it really safe in the Spring because there are a lot of hazards that accompany the snow melting, but Brandon, Seth, and I went out the last week of May to do some exploring outside of Squamish.

Last Fall Brandon and I hiked High Falls Creek, which was my first time exploring in this area. We did some driving around to see what else was out there and added the Crooked Falls hike to our list – May seemed like the perfect time! Crooked Falls is located on the Sigurd Trail, which is accessible by 2WD and is just across the Squamish River when you pass the rec site.

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It was really busy when we arrived around 10am, but a lot of the traffic appeared to be people camping and fishing on the river. We didn’t actually pass that many people on the way up to Crooked Falls. The hike starts out on an old forestry road that heads up into the woods. It meanders around the side of the mountain before seemingly heading straight up it. It’s only 3km to Crooked Falls and 500m of elevation gain, so it’s definitely steep!

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We took Sadie with us on this trip, which was a bit of a challenge because she’s not friendly with other dogs. She did well passing other people, but the trail is pretty narrow and everyone lets their dogs off leash, so we had to pull her into the woods whenever we would encounter another dog to try and avoid a reaction. Overall, it only happened a few times and she mostly was able to handle herself, but she did have one bad reaction to a dog that ran up in her face because it was off-leash. It’s a pet peeve for me – I have no problem with off-leash dogs (we do let Sadie off leash when there’s no one around and it’s permitted), I just wish people would ask consent before letting their dog approach you.

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Anyways, back to the trail. Like I said, for the most part we didn’t encounter many people. After 3km there’s a branch off the left side of the trail that heads in towards Crooked Falls. Spring is a great time to visit because the falls are giant with all the run-off. There’s two small viewpoints and you do get a lot of spray off the water (as you can see in the photo), so I wore my rain coat while taking photos. We had a our lunch in the woods where we could stay dry, but still see the falls, before heading back to the main trail. Several other hiking groups came into the falls after us, so it did look like it was getting busier.

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It was only shortly after noon, so we decided to continue up the trail to Sigurd Creek. My guidebook indicated that hiking another 1.5km would take you to a lookout off the Sigurd Trail. While the falls are reasonably popular, we spent 3 hours on the Sigurd Trail and only saw 1 other person the whole time. It’s not the most well maintained trail and it’s steep and muddy, so I don’t really blame people.

Shortly after you leave the junction from Crooked Falls, there’s a steep 100m side trail that goes up into the woods to a viewpoint. We decided to save it for the way back, but it wasn’t the best viewpoint. It’s a bit crowded in by trees, but you can see the river down below. We continued on the trail until we came to a second junction. To the left is the Sigurd Trail to Ossa and Pelion Mountain, to the right is the Rose Trail to Sigurd Peak. My guide book pre-dated the Rose Trail, so I was a little bit confused where to go at first, but Brandon figured out that what we wanted was to follow Sigurd Creek on the Sigurd Trail and we continued that way.

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Unfortunately our distance tracking was a bit off because the guide book doesn’t include the Crooked Falls side trail, so after 1.5km of hiking we hadn’t reached anything that looked like a viewpoint. We did however stumble upon a second waterfall cascading down from Sigurd Creek. It was lovely and this time we had it all to ourselves, so we had a quick break and Seth refilled his water bladder. Sadie had chilled out a lot and was having the time of her time exploring around the woods.

We decided to push on a little further, but after the waterfall the trail becomes extremely steep and it was slow going. It’s another 400m in elevation gain between Crooked Falls and the viewpoint (on top of the 500m you’ve already done), so it’s definitely no walk in the park. The viewpoint indicated in my guidebook wasn’t shown on my GPS, but I made a guess about where it would be based on the topography. From the trail it really didn’t look like we were close, so Seth was ready to turn around because we were all tired from the uphill. But I persuaded him to push for another 10 minutes to the point on my GPS, because we were really close and I was convinced it was the viewpoint.

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Fortunately I was right and a few minutes later we finally crested the mountain and could see a small knoll branching off the trail with a bare top. We climbed up to it and then collapsed while enjoying the view. We stayed up there about half an hour, snacking and guessing what mountains we were looking out at. We could see up the snowy side of Pelion Mountain and out to Cloudburst Mountain. Behind that we could see Black Tusk from a new angle and could see most of Mount Garibaldi peaking around the corner.

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It was hot at the summit, so we gulped down lots of water and Brandon shared macarons for a summit snack. Sadie had her summit snack at the waterfall, so we gave her half of her emergency meal to give her a boost after so much climbing. She wasn’t showing any signs of being tired though and was still bounding along the trails when we started to make our way back down again.

Once we got close to the junction again, we heard a lot of people at the falls, so I guess it does still get pretty busy during the day. There were still a few groups of people making their way up, but it was 4pm, so most people were on the way down. Because of the topography, you’re on the back of the mountain, so we lost the sun around 4pm and it was surprisingly dark along the trail, even though the sun doesn’t set until like 9:30pm. Sadie was finally starting to look a little tired and nothing seemed to bother her on the way down.

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All together we ended up hiking about 12km. My book has Sigurd Creek round trip listed as a 9km hike, so it is a bit off. Like I said, I don’t think it accounts for the 300m branch to Crooked Falls, but even so, it’s definitely closer to 10 or 11km round trip and has a whopping 900m of elevation gain in total. So be prepared if you attempt this trail. We had a great time, but we ended up being on the trail for 7 hours and had been anticipating it would be more like 5 hours. Overall this is a great area and I’ve had a lot of fun exploring there over the last year.

Kayaking Keats Island

Following up on my post about kayaking the Sooke Basin, the other day kayaking trip I want to write about is the time Seth and I rented kayaks from Gibsons and paddled over to Keats Island. We were over on the Sunshine Coast for my beautiful friend’s wedding and we decided to stick around for a day afterwards to explore in Gibsons and go for a little paddle. I’ve been over to the Sunshine Coast a few times, but I’ve only spent limited time in Gibsons, so we had a blast exploring around the town centre.

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We had a yummy breakfast at Molly’s Reach, which some of you might know from the popular TV show, Beachcombers, which ran through most of the 70’s and 80’s. My parents were incredibly enthusiastic about it the one time I took them to the Sunshine Coast, so it was remarkably my second time eating in the diner. We spent some time strolling along main street window shopping, before heading over to Alpha Adventures to rent 2 kayaks for a couple hours.

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We’d been partying it up at the wedding the previous evening, so we weren’t looking to do anything too strenuous. It was a bit windy, but nothing too worrisome. Alpha Adventures have some really nice kayaks and it didn’t take us too long to get going. We decided to head straight across the channel and paddle along the edge of Keats Island to the Shelter Islets. Little islands are always a great place for wildlife watching and we were hoping to see some seals.

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I feel a little bit like I’m cheating to call this post “Kayaking Keats Island”, because we only paddled a very small portion of the island, but we did see several seals hanging around the islets and we decided to stop on the beach in Plumper Cove Marine Park for a snack break. it was pretty sheltered paddling along the shore of Keats, but it did feel like the wind was starting to pick up, so we decided to head off again and cross the channel to get it out of the way.

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It wasn’t too bad paddling back across the channel because the wind was hitting us sideways, but it was a bit of work paddling along the Gibson’s coast to get back to the Marina. In my opinion this stretch is better seen from Gibson’s town, so in retrospect, I likely would have preferred to go the same way back along Keats Island. Oh well, we got a nice arm workout on the way back and were thrilled to end the trip with a visit to the Tapworks Brewing Company for a flight! Tapworks is located right along the main road and has an upstairs balcony, so it’s a great place to hang out and we really enjoyed it!

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5 Overnight Hikes for Beginners

Backpacking can be very intimidating when you first get started. Hiking with an overnight pack is a lot different than day hiking, so you don’t want to start with too challenging of a hike. Figuring out what gear and food to bring is enough work without also having to stress about a difficult trail or having access to facilities at the campsite. So keeping in mind that you want to focus on shorter distance, less elevation, and easy access to facilities, here are some of my hiking recommendations for beginners.

Cheakamus Lake

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In my opinion, this is the ultimate trail for beginners! It’s located in Garibaldi Park and is a short distance hike with very minimal elevation gain. It has outhouses and bear cache facilities, and you can book your site online in advance so that you don’t have to worry about fighting other hikers for a camping spot.

There are two campsites to choose from – the first one (Cheakamus Lake) is located right at the head of the lake and requires the least amount of hiking, approximately 4km. The campsites are located next to the water and have a decent amount of privacy. The second site (Singing Creek) is another 3.5km and is located at the midpoint of the lake. This site lends itself better to group camping as it’s a series of campsites right next to each other in the woods. That said, there is a really nice beach to hang out and cook from. If you’d like to visit both, you could always camp at the first campsite and then do a day hike out to visit the second! Both sites have an outhouse and bear cache. Reserve here for $10 per person, per night (listed under Garibaldi Park).

Buckhorn Campsite on the Heather Trail

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The Heather Trail is a 21km one-way trail in Manning Park. While I definitely don’t recommend doing the whole trail for beginners, the first campsite (Buckhorn) is only 4km in, which makes it the perfect spot for beginners! The Heather Trail is most popular in late July/early August for the colourful wildflowers that pop up all along the trail. What makes it so great for beginners is that you do most of the elevation gain on the drive up. You park at the top of Blackwall Road and from there is a steady incline down to Buckhorn Campsite. The views are beautiful right from the start of the trail.

Buckhorn has an outhouse, bear cache, tent pads, and even picnic tables! You do need a backcountry permit to stay overnight, but sites are first come, first serve, so you don’t need to pre-reserve. You can purchase here for a Manning Park backcountry permit for $5 per person, per night (you will need to create an account to see the system – entry and exit points are Blackwall Peak) . If you have the time, stay for two nights and make a day trip out to 3 Brothers Mountain for unreal views of the alpine meadows and surrounding mountains. Even if you can’t make it all the way to 3 Brothers, explore a little further beyond buckhorn to experience the alpine meadows. Be aware, in the early season this hike will still have snow until end of June.

Viewpoint Beach

Viewpoint Beach is very similar in difficulty to Cheakamus Lake. It’s a 4.5km hike in Golden Ears Park with minimal elevation gain. Similar to Buckhorn, the campsites are first come, first serve, and you can get a permit online for Golden Ears before you go for $5 per person, per night (entry and exit points are West Canyon). There aren’t any really obvious places to camp, but most people pitch their tents along the tree line on either side of the river since the beach itself is pretty rocky. Plan in advance which side you want to camp on – if you want to camp on the far side, make sure to cross the river at the bridge before you reach the campsite. Both are nice but there tend to be less people on the far side of the trail.

There is an outhouse at this site, but when I visited last year, there wasn’t a bear cache, so we did have to make our own, which you may prefer not to do as a beginner. BC Parks has been spending a lot of time re-vitalizing this trail, so I suspect they will probably install a bear cache soon, but either way, check before you go. If you’re not comfortable hanging your food, you can purchase a bear proof container at most outdoor stores. These don’t need to be hung, but can be a little pricey.

Lindeman Lake

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Lindeman Lake is located in Chilliwack Provincial Park. At 3.5km round trip, it’s the shortest hike on the list, but it has 300m in elevation gain in under 200m, so be prepared for a climb. If it’s your very first time carrying a pack, I’d recommend a flatter trail, but if you’re trying to increase your stamina, this is a great practice trail for beginners because it’s steep but short. Same as the previous sites, there’s no reservations for this campsite, but purchase a Chilliwack Lake permit online before you visit for $5 per person, per night.

There are a limited number of tent pads, but there’s lot of ground space to set up your tent. There’s a bear cache right next to the water and a pit toilet up in the woods. As a heads up, the toilet doesn’t have walls, but the trees provide natural privacy and it’s personally never been a problem for me. After setting up camp, I recommend hiking the 1km to the back of the lake for even more amazing views, or if you have time to stay 2 nights, make a day trip up to Greendrop Lake on the second day.

Elfin Lakes

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Elfin Lakes is a popular campsite located in Garibaldi Provincial Park. It is the longest trail on the list and definitely the most strenuous. However, I include it because even though it’s a bit longer, 11km one way to the campsite, it is a very forgiving trail and has lots of facilities along the way. The most challenging part of the trail is the first 5km, which is a steady incline up an old forestry road. The road ends at Red Heather hut, which is only meant for emergency overnight use, but has an outhouse and is a great place to stop for lunch.

From there, the trail meanders up and down through some truly beautiful scenery as you wind your way along the ridge to the Elfin Lakes hut. There are two options for camping – both require reservations – but you can either camp on the tent pads, or sleep on one of the bunks in the hut. The hut is the main reason I include it as a beginner trail because if you’re just starting out and want to try with a bit of a lighter pack, you can leave your tent at home and sleep in the hut instead. But if you’re willing to carry your tent up, the panoramic views from the tent pads are truly unreal! Elfin has a big outhouse facility with 3-4 toilets and there is a ranger living in the ranger’s hut. Campsites sell out fast, so book early. Purchase here for Garibaldi Park for $10 per person, per night. Don’t even think about coming up without a permit because the ranger will send you packing. Be aware, this trail usually has snow on it until end of June or even early July.