Hiking Tricouni Meadows

This might be my favourite hike of the year to date! I’ve been doing more exploring around the Squamish River area in the past few years and have had Tricouni Meadows on my radar for a while. I was keen to visit it as an overnight, but have almost exclusively done overnight trips this year and needed a break, so we opted to do it as a day hike instead. I was a little bit disappointed to have limited time to explore the area, but excited to get a taste because it is incredibly scenic!

The most important thing to be aware of with Tricouni Meadows is access. There’s a lot of mixed information about the forestry road on the internet, so definitely come prepared with the right vehicle if you want to drive the whole way to the trailhead. Conditions can vary year by year as well, so take this information with a grain of salt and check more recent sources if you’re doing this hike beyond 2022.

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Tricouni Meadows is located off Branch 200, off Squamish Valley Road. Squamish Valley Road is easily accessible and you drive past the bridge, the High Falls Creek Trailhead, and the hydroelectric facility, taking the right fork onto Branch 200. This is where things get variable. I’m no expert on vehicles, but Brandon is very knowledgeable and his assessment was that the road is in relatively good condition at this point. You don’t really need 4WD, but you may want a bit of extra clearance and good tires. SUV’s can likely handle it, but even the early part of the road isn’t in very good condition for cars. There was a station wagon stopped less a 1km in when we drove it that ended up turning around.

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The first 2 switchbacks are quite steep, but the condition of the road doesn’t require 4WD. Once you get up the switchbacks, the road really isn’t that bad for the first 7km. But if you want to get past the creek at km 7, you definitely need the proper set-up. There is a huge wash-out with a very steep and narrow dip in the road. Since it’s only 3km to the trailhead from here, most people had opted to park along the road and walk the rest of it. There were a lot of big trucks like the Ford F-150, that while they had high clearance, are very long and couldn’t do the washout without grounding out on the back.

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Brandon drives a Toyota 4-Runner – he sized up the washout for a few minutes and decided he could do it. Brandon loves off-roading and I did think he could probably do it, but I’m much more cautious and was nervous about this approach. He gave it a go, to much nervous yelling and swearing on my part, but was able to get down and out of it. He did ground out right on the back of his rear bumper, but there were no large rocks and so he didn’t get any damage. I think the shrubs actually did more damage to the vehicle as the road is very narrow and they were constantly scraping along the doors.

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In any case, the road still isn’t too bad after the washout until the last kilometre or so. It becomes very rocky after that and 4WD is definitely needed for the last portion of the road. But Brandon was thrilled when we finally made it to the parking lot to find we were only the 3rd car that had made it up there… and they were all 4-Runners! We’re pretty early in the day and when we exited the trail there were a lot more vehicles: 5 4-Runners, 2 Tacomas, and 2 Jeeps. So my recommendation would be to just park at the wash-out unless you are experienced. Honestly, driving up is barely any faster from this point, but it does conserve your energy.

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So with that out of the way, let’s talk about the actual hike, because it’s a really good one! There are two trails heading up along either side of high falls creek to Tricouni Meadows. They share one trailhead, but branch from each other almost immediately. The trail on the right (east side) is the original trail, which follows directly along the creek. This trail is known for being extremely muddy, which is why I suspect the second trail was developed. The second trail branches left (west side) and crosses the creek to ascend up to the meadows through the boulder field. It’s a slightly longer trail, but will take more than slightly more time because you go through the boulder field almost the entire hike.

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We opted to take the boulder field trail up and didn’t regret it. It’s a bit more technical, but it also has beautiful views of the mountains. There were still some wildflowers in bloom and we took our time since it was quite hot. The downside is, there’s very little shade and it is steep towards the end, so just take your time. It took us between 90-120 minutes to get up to the first lake.

I definitely recommend bringing 2 hiking poles for this hike because there are a lot of stream crossings. I managed not to get my feet wet by staying nimble, and Brandon kept his feet dry despite walking through the water because his boots are extremely waterproof, but Lien did get wet feet on some of the crossings. The first crossing when you start the hike is a bit tricky depending on water level, and then we crossed back over when we got to Pendant Lake, though this was an easier crossing.

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There are several lakes dispersed throughout the meadows. You can hike Pendant Lake, Spearpoint Lake, and Reflection Lake on your way up to Tricouni Peak, or Pendant Lake and Tricouni Lake on your way to Seagram Lake (requires wayfinding). We didn’t have much of a plan when we went up and stopped immediately at Pendant Lake to go for a swim and have lunch. Pendant Lake was probably my favourite of the 3, it has a beautiful little island in the middle and is shaped like a heart from above. The water was quite cold, but that didn’t stop me and Lien from taking a dip. Pendant also had a ton of wildflowers growing along the shore of the lake, which made it incredibly scenic!

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From there you hike up about 50m in elevation to get to Spearpoint Lake. This is the smallest lake, but has several flat areas to pitch a tent (something that’s mostly missing from Pendant Lake). We decided to save our swim in Spearpoint for later and continue up to Reflection Lake. Brandon floated around the idea of going all the way to the peak, but I didn’t really think we had time, so we decided to just start with Reflection Lake.

It’s another 100m in elevation gain to Reflection Lake, but the trail is infinitely more challenging. There’s not really a marked trail at this point and you pretty much just scramble up over the boulder field. There’s a beautiful waterfall, but it is very steep and not obvious where the trail is. Before the waterfall, you need to cross to the right side of the river and follow the landslide up to a cairn. This was by far the sketchiest part of the trail as it’s very steep and there’s a lot of run-out. I almost gave up and turned around, but decided to push on.

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Once you get up over the waterfall, there’s another boulder field, but it’s much easier to navigate and we soon made it to the lake. There are several creek crossings in between though, which is why I say to make sure to bring poles. There weren’t many campers when we arrived, but a lot showed up after us. Some set up at Spearpoint Lake and a lot were continuing up to Reflection Lake. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of flat spots anywhere really, so I recommend coming early and being prepared to get creative. Personally, I wouldn’t hike my big pack up to Reflection Lake.

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We abandoned the idea of going to the peak and instead chilled at the lake while watching other hikers start up over the scree. Despite the scramble up to the lake, I would say the view from Reflection Lake is worth it. You can see all the way to the peak from there – it’s very exposed alpine scree and boulder field. I’m not super keen on going all the way to the peak now that I’ve seen it, because there is limited trail and it’s mostly a technical scramble, but I could probably be convinced (likely by Brandon) to return and attempt it on an overnight trip (camping at one of the lower lakes). Instead, we had some more snacks and went for a swim in Reflection Lake, which is definitely the coldest of the three.

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There were a lot of mosquitoes when we visited, so be prepared for that. Brandon invested in a thermacell after we got eaten alive at Assiniboine last year and I have to say that it is worth every penny! We never go anywhere without it now and it made hanging out at the lake much more enjoyable. Brandon has the rechargeable one, which I think is the most effective, but I have the backpacking version (which uses isobutane) and also really like it – honestly you can’t go wrong with either!

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Of course, hiking back down was more nerve-wracking than the hike up, though more straightforward in terms of route finding. We stopped at Spearpoint Lake this time to go for our last swim of the day. Me and Lien swam in all 3 lakes, but Brandon just dipped in at Spearpoint. They’re all cold, but Spearpoint is the smallest and therefore slightly less cold than the other two. At this point there were A LOT of people exploring the area and the campsites, which were totally empty when we arrived, were completely filled up. We weren’t particularly early (starting the hike just before 11am), but it makes a big difference in getting a good site, so I recommend going earlier rather than later. There are no facilities though, so come prepared to dig catholes and I strongly recommend a bear can or bear bag as there are no good trees to make a cache.

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I’m definitely keen to return and spend a few days in the area, there’s a lot to explore! I’d like to visit Tricouni Lake and Seagram Lake, but it was too much for 1 day hike. It was around 5pm when we left Pendant Lake and we decided to take the muddy branch back to the car in hopes of saving some time.

The trail starts off pretty well and it’s definitely faster than descending through the boulder field. There are several mud pits along the way, but they were relatively dry and easy enough to walk over, so I didn’t get too muddy. Overall, the first 2 thirds weren’t too bad, but the last third was definitely a sloppy mess. I was ankle and calf deep in a few places, so I can only imagine how muddy it would be in the wet season (it was mid August when we went). I would only attempt the muddy trail in the height of dry season – otherwise stick to the boulder field. That said, it’s definitely faster and it only took us an hour to get back to the car.

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All in all, I loved this hike! It’s not the easiest to visit because of access and it has smaller crowds than a lot of popular hikes, but there were definitely more people there than I was expecting, so I think it’s growing in popularity. In addition to the mud, there are a lot of stream crossings, so I’ll probably stick to this one during the dry season, but I can’t wait to go back again!

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Hiking The Chief

There are lots of popular hikes in Southwest BC, but I would argue that The Chief in Squamish is one of the most iconic. I had experience hiking before I moved to BC, but my practical knowledge was very limited and has grown enormously since I moved here. The only trail I was aware of before moving across the country was the West Coast Trail and I thought it was similar to the East Coast Trail in that it extended down the entire West Coast and could be day hiked in sections like in Newfoundland. I was obviously very wrong and quickly learned that it is actually a remote hike that requires substantial backpacking skills over 7+ days.

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Similarly, somehow I heard about The Chief soon after moving here and decided it was a great trail on which to start my west coast hiking adventures. So one sunny day in early June 2014 when my Dad was visiting, we drove out to Squamish to tackle the beast. Looking back on the experience now, it’s a bit comical. We left Vancouver late in the morning and were amazed that we couldn’t find anywhere to park (not a problem in Newfoundland). We ended up finding a place at Shannon Falls (this was before the Sea-to-Sky gondola) and decided to hike up to the First Peak from there. It’s easy to judge people that head blindly into the backcountry with no experience, but that was also how I first started adventuring when I moved here, so I can relate. There’s a very different culture on the East Coast, and while I think East Coaster’s could be a little more prepared, the level of risk associated with hiking in the mountains is a great deal higher on the West Coast.

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So I don’t think tackling The Chief as my very first hike was a great idea, but fortunately we didn’t get into any trouble on this hike, or any future hikes, while I was building up my safety and adventure smart knowledge. I remember the hike being very strenuous and it taking us a long time to hike up all the stairs to the top. I remember the rope and chain sections, but I don’t remember ever feeling unsafe on the trail. I bring this up because I recently re-visited this trail in May (8 years after my first visit) to hike to the Second Peak and it brought back a lot of memories that caused me to reflect on this trail and my journey since that very first hike.

The Chief is a hard trail. As my knowledge has grown and I’ve had experiences that required better trip preparedness and wilderness first aid, I’ve become both more safety conscious and risk adverse. It’s easy to walk blindly into situations that we are unprepared for in the wilderness and I’m not surprised to find that The Chief is one of the most visited places by BC Search and Rescue. I can’t quite trust my memory, so perhaps the First Peak is easier than the Second Peak, but returning there this year I felt quite astounded at how challenging The Chief is for how many visitors it receives.

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There are many rope climbs, narrow sections with steep drops, a ladder, and steep scrambles over slippery rock. The challenges are exacerbated by the crowds, which create bottlenecks at critical junctions. I’m sure this creates a sense of impatience among hikers that could result in mistakes at challenging locations if people are trying to hurry. I felt like it would be hard to lose the trail (though this does happen), but easy to get an injury. We were able to mostly avoid this with a very early hiking start, but it did make for a slower hike back down on the way out.

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So I definitely don’t recommend this hike for everyone. I’d like to return some day for the Third Peak, but after my last visit I can’t say I’m in a huge rush to do it again. Like I said, I’m reluctant to trust my memory, but given my recent experience with the Second Peak, I’m inclined to say that it’s a bit easier going up the First Peak (which I have done twice in the past). All 3 trails start at the same trailhead and it’s an easy flat walk through the walk-in campsites before you hit the stairs. Once you hit the stairs, it’s all uphill for the rest of the hike. It starts with constructed wooden staircase (which on its own is even challenging because the steps are very shallow and steep), but it quickly transitions to stone steps for the rest of the hike.

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Approximately 1.1km into the trail, there is a right branch that you can take to get onto the Sea to Sky trail or the branch to Third Peak. I’ve also done the Sea to Sky trail which climbs up to the gondola (you take the gondola down). It’s a very steep trail, but doesn’t feel as perilous as The Chief. I haven’t taken the branch to the Third Peak, but you can access it either through here or continuing on from the Second Peak. The topography looks a bit gentler than the trails to First and Second Peak, so if I do return for this peak, I’ll take that trail instead.

If you continue on past this branch, you’ll hit the second branch to the First and Second Peaks around 1.8km. It’s a shorter hike up to the First Peak – some apps show a trail connected the First Peak to the Second Peak trail, but it’s a climbing route, so do not attempt! In terms of views, both the First and Second Peaks have incredible views. The First Peak is the closest to Howe Sound, so if you want to snag some photos of the vibrant blue water, I’d pick this one. The Second Peak is higher and looks down on the First Peak and provides more of a bird’s eye view of Squamish.

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My visit to the Second Peak was a little sentimental because I hiked with Karen and Grant. Karen is my oldest friend (27 years and counting) and they recently moved back to Newfoundland after also spending the last 8 years in Vancouver. The Chief was my first ever hike here and also the last one that I did with Karen and Grant. We’ve all grown a lot since then and even though the climb is still strenuous, the stairs didn’t have us as breathless and panting as they did when we first moved here.

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The Second Peak is quite exposed for the last section – there’s no marked trail, you just scramble up the rock until there’s no where higher to go. We had the summit mostly to ourselves due to our early start and we stayed up there for a while snacking and taking some photos before hiking back down to get beers and pizza at Backcountry Brewing. The climb is tiring, but I always find the hike down worse. Take your time and do the rope and ladder sections backwards. There’s one particularly challenging part before the ladder that me and Karen both struggled on because we are shorter. There were more people on the trail on the way back, which slowed us down, but we made sure not to rush on the top section and talked each other through it on the way back. My biggest word of advice would definitely be not to do this hike if it’s rainy as the rock will become a big slip’n’slide.

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So that is my assessment of The Chief. I feel really different about it now than I did 8 years ago and I think that comes from better understanding the risks. Sometimes a little knowledge is almost worse than no knowledge because you don’t understand the depth of your unknowns. If you’re new to hiking, I’d recommend taking the Sea-to-Sky gondola instead of hiking The Chief. It has just as incredible (if not better) views as The Chief, but has much easier and well-maintained trails. There’s no shame in doing the easier hike. I just want to present a bit of a different perspective on The Chief because I don’t want people to blindly walk into it the way that I did when I first moved here. I still think it’s a great hike, but something to work your way up to.

Hiking Seed Peak

Over the years it’s become a bit of a tradition that me and Brandon always go hiking together on the Thanksgiving long weekend. The forecast was calling for gorgeous weather on Thanksgiving Monday, so we got to planning where we wanted to hit up this year. Brandon had a long list of hikes to try, but once we started doing a bit of research, we found it to be a bit challenging to find a suitable hike for the conditions.

Because I believe in always putting ample research and consideration into every hike you do, I’ll walk your through our process. First we crossed off some of the longer and more strenuous hikes from Brandon’s list. One of the hikes was a whopping 1800m in elevation gain and we were concerned about having enough daylight hours to do such a long hike. Next we took into consideration the weather. It had been uncharacteristically cold the week previous and in true Vancouver fashion, it had rained all week. A bit of research confirmed our suspicion that many of the local peaks were now covered in snow. Brandon was keen to do Tricouni Peak outside of Squamish, but the two routes up to summit involve either fording 2 creeks, or crossing what is described as the “mud gauntlet”. Both of these options sounded like a bad idea given the amount of rain that had fallen earlier that week and the peak was still quite high in elevation (meaning more snow), so eventually we landed on Seed Peak.

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4WD access road to the trailhead (E110)

Seed Peak is a less trafficked trail off of Mamquam FSR in Squamish. It was 300m lower in elevation than Tricouni, and while we knew there would still be snow, we guessed the access road would be snow free and overall make for a shorter, less strenuous hike. After having done the hike, I wouldn’t say it’s not strenuous, but hey, that’s how we ended up giving it a try!

Mamquam FSR is in good condition and any vehicle should be able to make it to the end of the road. AllTrails actually lists this hike as 19.5km starting from the end of Mamquam FSR. Brandon hates hiking on anything he could have driven, so we took his 4runner a fair bit further than that. From the end of Mamquam, you branch off onto E100 and then E110 to get up to the trailhead. E100 is a bit steep at the beginning, but still in pretty good shape, I think most SUV’s and AWD could make it up to the end of E100. We were able to get Brandon’s car all the way to the end of E110, but I would advise hiking up the last little switchback (about 300m). There’s a pullout before a steep rugged section and I didn’t think it was really worth risking the drive up that part.

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Logging at the trailhead

I would only recommend Seed Peak if you have good wayfinding skills. It’s pretty intuitive to know where to go, but there are parts without a well defined trail (and some parts with no trail), so if you’re hopeless with navigation I’d give it a pass. The most confusing bit for us was finding the trailhead. This is an active logging road and there has been some slashing between the road and the trailhead, which run parallel one another for a few hundred metres. I suspect they weren’t supposed to log onto the trail, but it looks like it happened nonetheless. We did some crawling over the logs to try and get to the trail, only to miss it entirely and then hike up the edge of the slash until we found trail markers. My recommendation would be to walk right to the very end of the road, from there you’ll see a trail marker, you may have to climb over a few logs, but you can pick up the trail a lot easier from there rather than trying to cut across all the downfall.

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After that it’s pretty easy to follow the trail markers up about 1km to the sub-alpine. This was the only part of the trail that didn’t have snow on it when we did it. The snowline started around 1400m. The great thing about this hike is that only the first 1km is in the woods, after that you have views for pretty much the entire hike! It was the main reason we picked it, because we figured if the conditions were too bad or snowy to do the whole thing, at least we still had a good chance of seeing some nice views early in.

It is a challenging trail though. It’s not been the easiest hiking season for me as I’m still pretty out of shape from the pandemic with all my normal exercise activities still being cancelled (or high risk). It’s 12km round trip to the top of Seed Peak, but the elevation gain is misleading as there is a lot of up and down and it is quite steep. Fortunately we were prepared with microspikes as we definitely couldn’t have done the trail without them given how steep it is. I was a little bit concerned as we were going up that it would be a struggle to come back down, but it was manageable with the spikes.

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After you pop out of the woods, you immediately start a steep climb up to the first peak. I can’t see a name for this peak on Gaia, but it has great views if you’re looking for a shorter hike. It’s very flat on the top, so we wondered around snapping photos before continuing on. This trail is also known as Pinecone Trail, so you might see it listed as that on some trail apps (Gaia included). The reason it’s called Pinecone Trail is because after the first peak, you cross the border into Pinecone Burke Provincial Park! I was particularly excited about this because I live in Coquitlam and go hiking in Pinecone Burke all the time.

For a bit of history, Pinecone Burke was first established in 1995 and has the unfortunate legacy of being one of BC Parks least funded parks. Despite it being a huge park located right in the lower mainland, it receives very little upkeep or promotion. Most of its users access it from Harper Road on Burke Mountain and it’s popular for mountain biking. There are a handful of trails in that area, but otherwise the park is mostly wilderness. It’s sandwiched between the Coquitlam Watershed and Pitt Lake in the south end, and continues north until it intersects with the south end of the much more popular Garibaldi Park. There’s limited access in the north end and Seed Peak is one of the only trails I can find exploring this end of the park, so I was excited to see a completely different side of it.

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After the first peak, the trail has a steep false descent, after which you climb up to a second smaller peak before beginning the real descent. We were one of 4 groups on the trail, so it was very empty. However, we were the last group, so we didn’t have to make tracks and just followed the trail the previous groups had created. This may or may not have been a good thing. Whether or not there is an actual trail in the summer is hard to tell when it’s covered in snow, so we don’t know how much we were actually walking on the real trail and definitely went through some vegetation. The upside is that all the rocks were covered in snow, so we didn’t have to navigate any boulder fields and mostly just cut a path straight down. We were definitely in the vicinity of the intended trail (according to my GPS), but I’m not sure if it would be any easier on a warmer day.

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The descent is a bit of a bummer when you know you have to continue climbing again. As you start to climb up the next peak (also unnamed on my GPS), you do get a few glimpses down to the beautiful jade waters of November Lake. It was a bit of a slog going up, but you’re surrounded by beautiful views on all sides. Unfortunately, there’s still one more peak to go after that. It took us about 2.5 hours to make it to this section, we continued a little bit further to get up to this hump before Seed Peak, but we opted not to go the whole way up Seed Peak. We did have enough time, but we could tell it was still a bit of a slog to get up there and we wanted to conserve some energy for the way down. So instead, we had a nice long lunch break in which to enjoy the view!

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If you do go the whole way, I think you get a view down to Pinecone Lake, which you can’t see from below because there’s a big ridge between Seed Peak and Mount Gillespie that blocks it. But there are still incredibly gorgeous views down into the valley and the snow-covered wilderness. I’d definitely be keen to return in the summer and camp along the ridge, although there’s limited water sources so you would have to come prepared for that.

Either way, we had a great time hanging out and filmed some fun videos to pass the time. It was definitely cold; I had a lot of layers, so my body was warm, but I had worn my hiking boots instead of my winter boots and unfortunately my feet did get wet from the snow getting trapped between the sides of my microspikes.

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We thought it might take us even longer to hike back because really steep sections are often worse on the downhill, but fortunately it wasn’t too bad and we cut about a half hour off our time on the way back. I was exhausted on all the uphill sections though, so I definitely need to start doing a bit more exercise on my non-hiking days. The trickiest part is that there is one rope section on the first peak (early in the hike). It’s even worse going down and we all guided each another on foot placement on the way back. I had been debating bringing Sadie on the hike with me, but I’m glad I didn’t. We read there was one rope section and I was worried about her on that part and with all the snow. I think a dog could get up the rope section, but I honestly don’t know how you would get them down. Overall there’s a lot of narrow edges and cliffs, so I would have been very weary with Sadie. I would likely have to let her off leash for my own safety in sections and I’d be worried about her making a mistake near a cliff edge. Also, we saw a GIANT black bear on the drive in, so they are definitely still active.

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Overall, we were hiking for just shy of 6 hours, so it was a great end-of-season hike. It’s about an hour drive from Squamish and we made it back to town around 5pm. The downside was there was an accident on the Sea-to-Sky. We had dinner at Howe Sound Brewing to try and avoid the traffic back-up, but it had only gotten worse and we ended up sitting at a standstill for 45 minutes. I think it was shortly after 9pm when I finally made it home, making for a bit of a long day! Either way, I’d recommend checking out this hike earlier in the season next year if you have 4WD or high clearance and like a challenge!

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