8 Great Hikes for Swimming

I love to swim! I’ll hike any trail, but I find hikes with somewhere to swim to be some of the most rewarding trails, especially on a hot summer’s day! A lot of the lakes in BC are fed by glaciers or snow-melt, which makes for a really cold swim, but over the years I’ve become a big fan of those quick, cold dips and will swim in almost any lake from May to October. That said, I’ve tried to focus my list on some of the warmer swimming spots, but we do live in Canada, so to be honest, they’re still all quite cold.

Just a few things to remember before you swim in any body of water. Practice Leave No Trace principles, which means don’t swim in lakes that are also used for drinking water and don’t alter the site in any way or move rocks to create pools. Remove sunscreen, fly spray, moisturizer, etc, before entering the water.

Without further ado, here’s some of my favourite swimming hikes!

Brohm Lake

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Brohm Lake is an awesome place to visit in the summer because there’s access to a ton of hiking trails and you can opt to go around the lake, up to the Tantalus viewpoint, or hike through the interpretive forest, finishing each hike with a dip in the lake. The only downside to this hike is that the lake is located right next to the highway and is popular for picnicking – so if you want to make sure you get parking on a hot day, arrive early!

Buntzen Lake

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Located in Anmore, Buntzen lake is a popular attraction for hikers, boaters, and picnickers. This is another location you need to get to early, but it’s a much bigger lake, so there’s more room to spread out. My preference is to hike down to the far side of the lake where there’s a smaller picnic area and wharf with a lot less people. You can either take the lakeview trail, which has minimal elevation, or the Diez Vistas trail, which climbs up over the lake and has beautiful views of Indian Arm. This is definitely a colder lake, but refreshing after a day of hiking!

Deeks Lake and Brunswick Lake

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Both lakes are located on the north end of the Howe Sound Crest Trail and are best done as an overnight trip. You can do them in a single day, but it does make for a lot of walking. Deeks is the first lake and a great place to swim, but if you’re willing to walk a few kilometres farther, Brunswick Lake is really the shining gem of the trail. Both are cold, but when the sun hits the water on Brunswick Lake, it turns the most brilliant shade of blue and looks like a tropical paradise!

Elfin Lakes

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I feel like most people don’t think about Elfin Lakes for swimming because they’re so small and completely fed by snow melt, but the last time I visited in the summer was a scorching day and I couldn’t get enough of lazing around in the water. Of the two lakes, swimming is only permitted in one – the other is solely for drinking water and swimming is not allowed. I recommend later in the season for this hike because the lake will heat up a lot by the end of the summer.

Alice Lake

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When I think of Alice Lake, I tend to think of it more as a frontcountry campground rather than a good place for hiking, but if you’re looking for a shorter hike that can end in a swim, this is a great one! It’s only a few kilometers to walk around the lake, but if you’re looking for something longer you can also extend it to do the four lakes trail loop. Similar to Brohm and Buntzen, get here early to secure a parking spot as you will be sharing the lake with picnickers.

Lightning Lakes

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This is another one that might surprise a few people because Lightning Lakes isn’t one of the warmest lakes, but on a nice day, I really love this lake. Definitely make sure it’s going to be sunny before driving out to Manning Park because it can be really cold and windy on an overcast day, but this is a great place for boating, swimming, and hiking on a hot day. Hike around 1st lake or 2nd lake (or both) and then finish with a dip in the water!

Cheakamus Lake

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I’ve only swam in Cheakamus Lake in May, so it was quite cold, but I imagine it probably warms up later in the summer. I decided to include it because it’s a great lake for either day hikes or overnight trips. There are two campsites, one at the foot of the lake and another halfway up, and both have beaches from which you can swim. It’s a big body of water, so it’s always going to be cold, but a great place to hang out and dip in and out of the water.

Lindeman Lake

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Lindeman Lake is another one I’ve only swam in May, but I really love this lake. It’s a short, but steep, hike in Chilliwack Provincial Park and you can swim at both the foot and head of the lake. It’s tempting to swim right when you arrive at the lake, but I prefer to hike up to the back of the lake and jump of the rocks into the water from there. It’s definitely another cold one, but has the most gorgeous views!

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.

Lindeman Lake Backpacking Trip II

I love that the weather is starting to change again, but since it’ll still be a little while before the mountains are free of snow, I decided to re-visit some of my past adventures. I first backpacked up to Lindeman Lake for the May Long weekend in 2017 and it ended up becoming a tradition that my friends and I would do an easy start-of-season camping trip over the long weekend.

We decided to return to Lindeman Lake again in 2018, this time with a larger group. Lindeman Lake is located at the end of Chilliwack Lake Road in Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park. It’s a great early season hike because it’s short and not too high in elevation, so the snow melts quicker.

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We met at the trailhead on Saturday morning and hiked in to the lake as a group of 7. It’s a short hike, just 3.5km round trip, but it’s a steep one. The hike up takes ~1 hour with a day pack and ~1.5 hours with a backpack. It does get busy at the lake, even in May, and the tent pads disappear pretty quickly, but it’s not too difficult to find somewhere to pitch your tent and we ended up setting up in the exact same location as the previous year.

Our Lindeman Lake trip is all about taking it easy. Because it’s such a short hike we lugged up all kinds of leisure gear, including my hammock and Tiiu’s inflatable couch! It was Tiiu’s first time backpacking and somehow she still managed to have the smallest pack, even though it contained both the couch and a full bottle of wine! It was also Steve’s first time backpacking – his pack was about twice the size of Tiiu’s, but we were all jealous because he’d pretty much brought an entire pantry with him! He’s since become known as our trip bartender thanks to the assortment of drink mixes he always brings.

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On the first day, we hiked up to the end of the lake, which in my opinion has the best view, and then spent the rest of the afternoon playing frisbee and lounging around. I love hanging out at Lindeman and I always have a great time swinging in my hammock, watching the stars, and swapping stories with my friends. But one of the things that drives me crazy is how many people opt to have campfires at the lake despite the blatant ‘no fire’ signs. Fire restrictions aren’t always about fire bans or the risk of forest fires. Lindeman Lake receives a lot of traffic and so many people scouring the woods for debris is very destructive to the natural habitat. So please respect the fire restrictions and find some other way to enjoy your evening!

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Our plan for Sunday was to hike up towards Flora Peak. We’d done Greendrop Lake the year before and we wanted to try something new. We knew there’d be snow up there, but just wanted to see how far we could get. Before we left, I had a good laugh at Steve who had hiked in an actual can of frozen orange juice concentrate so that he could have juice for breakfast.

Lindeman Lake is the first stop on a 20km loop around the park that continues on to Greendrop Lake, Flora Lake, Flora Peak, and then back down again. We didn’t want to do the whole circuit, so we hiked back down the way we’d come until we reached the branch for Flora Peak. It’s an even steeper trail up to Flora, but it was snow free for the first couple of hours. We made a slow pace up to a wooded viewpoint where we stopped for some snacks. Steve and Meg decided to turn back from there, but the rest of us continued on.

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Eventually we hit snow and Tiiu decided to head back as well. Only myself, Brandon, and Carolyn continued on because we had all brought microspikes with us. It’s too bad we didn’t take Tiiu across the first snow crossing though because after that we popped out on the ridgeline and found the most amazing view looking down to Chilliwack Lake! We continued on along the ridge and eventually stopped for lunch on a rock overlooking the valley just before the trail branched off again for the peak.

The snow up to the peak was looking sketchy, so we decided not to continue beyond the ridge. Spring can be one of the most dangerous times for hiking because the snow is melting and it’s easy to fall through snow bridges or down into snow wells. We put our safety first and I definitely think it was the right choice. Plus, unspoken between me and Carolyn was the understanding that we both wanted to get back to campsite with enough daylight to go for a swim. We’d gone swimming the previous year and though it was no where near as warm this year, it felt like a milestone we just had to do.

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We hiked back down to the bottom of the trail and then, for probably the first and only time ever, left Brandon in the dust as we hiked back up to the campsite. Since it was so chilly, we wanted to work up a good sweat so that the lake would be more appealing. We blew through the campsite to the astonished faces of our friends when we told them we were continuing up to the end of the lake to go for a swim. They’d been hanging out in the shade for several hours already and were all freezing. So when we asked them if they wanted to join us, they all looked at us in disbelief, wrapped up in their puffy jackets and toques.

“So no swim then?” Carolyn confirmed while I grabbed my swimsuit. Then we took off again towards the end of the lake, leaving Steve with his mouth hanging open and Brandon somewhere back on the trail (he was fine!) We could have swam at the campsite, which is located at the head of the lake, but it’s only about 20 minutes to the back and in my opinion, the boulder field is the best place to go because it gets the most sunlight and it’s easier to fully submerge yourself by jumping off the rocks. We all but ran there to stay warm, stripped on the rocks, and then leaped in the lake for all of 5 seconds, before scrambling back to the shore to pull ourselves out. There was no one to take pictures of us this year, but the memory will always be etched into mind!

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We were joined by some rowdier neighbours on the second night and despite how annoying they were, we had a good laugh eavesdropping on them. They’d brought an inordinate amount of gear with them and seemed to be having a competition for who had brought the heaviest pack. One guy claimed his pack weighed 80 pounds, but I’m not sure how you could accomplish such a feat without putting actual rocks in your pack. They had a lot of booze though, so I could be mistaken…

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After Carolyn and I got back to the campsite we enjoyed another leisurely night. Brandon spotted an otter swimming around in the lake near the log debris that we had a fun time watching while Carolyn, Steve, and Meg played a very serious game of crib. Steve and I were spared a wet end to the night when my hammock collapsed with both of us in it. I’d set it up over the water, but fortunately, the hammock gave us about a split second warning before it collapsed and we were able to tumble forward out of it onto the shore rather than back into the lake.

It was an uneventful hike out and we spent it mostly brainstorming where we should go for the next May Long weekend. Lindeman was good to us, but we’d now done all the trails and decided it was time to move on. We had to skip our 2020 trip last year, but stay tuned to hear about our trip to Cheakamus Lake in 2019! But I’ll end this post with a few more photos of our Lindeman Lake shenanigans!

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