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


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


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


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


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.

Viewpoint Beach Backpacking Trip

I feel like it’s a bit misleading to refer to this trip as a ‘backpacking trip’ – it was only a 30 minute drive from my house and 4km to get to the campsite – but I still lugged a backpack and all my gear out there with me, so it counts!

Like many other locals, I was thrilled to hear that the government would be relaxing some of their coronavirus measures and that BC Parks would be re-opening for camping. I was one of the many hopefuls trying to get campsites when they released on May 25, but alas, I had absolutely no luck, so I was left to research where I could go on a last minute permit.

I went to Viewpoint Beach, which is located in Golden Ears park, that first weekend in June after the campsites opened back up again. I had 2 goals. The first was just to get outside and go camping; I wasn’t too fussy on where as long as I had enough space to set up my tent. The second goal required a bit more thought – I wanted to take my puppy on her first ever camping trip. That’s right, I got a puppy!


Seth and I have wanted a dog for a long time – like pretty much since we moved to BC – but of course a dog is a lot of work and we didn’t really have the space for one at our old apartment, nor were we ready to commit to the time constraints of a dog. But we recently bought our first home and getting a dog was pretty much our first priority when we got back from New Zealand. I know a lot of people have taken on pet ownership in the recent pandemic. We never intended to get a pandemic puppy, but I can’t deny that the timing worked out perfectly.

We’ve done a lot of dog sitting over the past few years, mostly for Jordie the Australian Shepherd and Alfie the Black Retriever. I love them both and was initially leaning towards getting a golden retriever, but after some research, we decided that a high strung Australian Shepherd was the perfect dog for us. Aussies have a bit of a reputation for being high energy and not great for beginners, but they’re also great hikers, so I was sold. We found a breeder in Keremeos and we were set. We picked out a little red merle puppy, named her Sadie, and brought her home at 8 weeks.


This was right around the time Coronavirus started to blow up (mid-march). The week before we picked her up we went pandemic shopping at the grocery store and I was so anxious to go get her because I could tell the climate was changing fast and I just wanted her home with us. We drove out to Keremeos on Friday night, picked her up Saturday morning, and then drove straight back home. She was so soft and precious. With the exception of vomiting a WHOPPING 4 TIMES, she slept in our arms almost the whole drive home. I took Monday off to stay home with her and by Tuesday, my work had announced we were going to a “work from home” protocol, so it was about 6 weeks later before we left her home alone for the first time. She’s a lucky pup – it was so much easier to be able to properly care for her as a puppy being home all the time, but it has resulted in a bit of separation anxiety (we think). Me and Seth are very much “her people”, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyways, back to the hike, what I’d intended to write about before going off on this life update. I really want for Sadie to be a hiking dog, but as a puppy, obviously she still has her limits, so I wanted something easy and close to home. We decided to try out Viewpoint Beach in Golden Ears.


I did this hike once before about 5 years ago, so I kind of knew what to expect, but it seems BC Parks has put a lot of work into the trail since then, so it was a lot different than I remembered. They’ve updated a lot of the signage, upgraded the path to the lower falls, and the bridge that crosses over to Alder Flats (was there even a bridge here before? I always thought there was, but I’d hiked to both Viewpoint Beach and Alder Flats in the past and never saw one before). They’ve also added an outhouse at Viewpoint Beach, so it was more popular than I was anticipating for a rainy forecast, but there were still only 6 groups on the beach in total. Not bad for the first camping weekend after a 3 month quarantine.

Seth had to work on Saturday, so it was me and Emily that went on the hike. Emily lives on her own in North Van, so we kept her in our bubble throughout the pandemic. We picked up a Modo right after work on Friday and went straight to Golden Ears. We had sandwiches in the parking lot and then set off at around 6pm. Sadie’s been hiking around the tri-cities with us and has hiked up to about 8km to date, so I wasn’t too worried about the flat 4km hike to Viewpoint Beach. It’s always interesting to watch her though – this was our first time with backpacks and I think she could tell it was a slightly different experience than previous hikes.


She’s a pretty high energy dog. She loves to be outside and if you don’t take her for a walk every day she’ll drive you crazy. It’s funny but even at 4.5 months old, she already has trail preferences. She doesn’t like wide gravel paths, I think she finds them a bit boring, and she seems to enjoy going up or down more than just going along a flat path. The more variety the better, so to date her favourite trails are actually mountain bike trails. We did a lot of exploring in the mountains up behind Port Moody during the pandemic, most of which are mountain bike paths, and she loves nothing more than running up and down those steep, technical trails. So I think I’ll have a pretty rugged hiking companion when she gets older.

It was a pretty easy hike to the beach, we knocked out almost 4.5km in just over an hour, which is actually pretty fast for us. Sadie did well on the hike, but the camping was definitely not without its challenges. Because everything was new, everything was very exciting and it was hard for her to settle down. At home when she gets hyper we just put her in her kennel for a little while and she calms down, but in the wilderness there’s no where to put her and she gets a bit anxious being on the line away from you.


But we were able to get camp set up without too much difficulty. The forecast was calling for rain all weekend, starting around 9pm that night, so we wanted to get everything set up before that happened. There was no sign of rain when we arrived at the beach though. There was blue sky and we had a lovely view looking up at Golden Ears and the surrounding mountains. We set up a tarp for the next morning and a bear cache before settling down on the beach for some tea. Sadie went back and forth between trying to settle next to us and running around the beach chewing as many sticks as she could find.

I was really curious what she’d think about sleeping outside. Having down time was a challenge, but she ended up doing really well in the tent. I bought her a little backcountry dog bed from Ruffwear and she seemed to like it. She settled down there pretty easy and spent the night alternating between her bed and snuggling up between mine and Emily’s heads. I don’t know how much sleep she actually got, but she was quiet until 6am, which is when she normally gets up.


The rain held off for most of the night, but then it really started to pour around 3am. It wasn’t calling for that much rain, but it was coming down pretty heavy, so I wasn’t really looking forward to the next day. It still sounded like it was raining when I got out of the tent at 6:30am with Sadie, but I quickly discovered it was only the rain from the trees dripping on us and that the rain had actually stopped. So we didn’t end up needing the tarp, but rule number 1 of camping, if you prepare for the rain, it will pass you by, so always prepare!

We had a chill breakfast on the beach and the weather continued to improve, not enough for us to dry the tent or tarp out, but we were able to pack down in dry weather, so no complaints. Had we known the weather would improve, we would have stayed for the day, but since the forecast had been all rain, we hadn’t brought a lunch, so we packed up and hit the trail again by 9am. So we didn’t spend that long in the wilderness, but it was great to finally get out camping and I actually really liked the campsite.


We had a lovely walk back to the car and decided to try the new (old, but better signed) trail to the lower falls. The first 20 metres of the trail is much improved, but after that it’s a pretty steep, technical hike down to the falls. Nothing we couldn’t handle and it ended up being Sadie’s favourite part of the trail of course.

It’s definitely going to be a very different summer with all the travel restrictions and extra precautions, but I’m so glad the parks have opened back up again because I think so many of us really rely on them to maintain our mental health. Can’t wait to get back on the trail again soon!

8 Great Spring Hikes in the Lower Mainland

Growing up in Newfoundland, I never really liked Spring because it’s barely a season there (pretty sure we just get a second winter). But Spring in the Lower Mainland is fantastic! It actually warms up when it’s supposed to and pretty much the entire city has been in bloom this April. But as much as I love it, it also kills me a little bit because even though it warms up so much in the city, it still takes a long time for all the snow in the mountains to melt. Proper hiking season doesn’t really start until late June, early July, but there are lots of lower elevation hikes that you can do in the Spring that are located right in our backyard! Here’s a few of my favourite Spring hikes to tide you over to those warmer summer days:

Baden Powell Trail

The view overlooking Deep Cove on the Lynn Valley section

The Baden Powell Trail is a whopping 42km long trail that runs all the way from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay. But don’t be intimidated by the length, the entire trail can be done in a series of day hikes, they’re just best done with two cars (one at the start and one at the end) so that you don’t have to backtrack. The four main trail sections include Deep Cove to Lynn Canyon, Lynn Canyon to Grouse Mountain base or Cleveland Dam, Cleveland Dam to Cypress parking lot, and Cypress to Horseshoe Bay. I’ll admit that I’ve only actually done the Deep Cove to Lynn Canyon section, but I’m hoping to hike a few more sections! I believe the more popular sections are between Deep Cove and Grouse, because there is significant elevation gain between the Cypress Mountain sections. Either way, there’s a lot to explore on this forested trail! Fun fact, the trail is named after Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, the founders of Girl Guides and Boy Scouts!

Big Cedar and Kennedy Falls Trail

Clowning around at Big Cedar

This is a great trail located in North Vancouver that hikes through the forest to 2 main attractions, a really big cedar tree and Kennedy Falls. The hike is 10km long, with approximately 150 metres in elevation gain. We thought it would be a pretty quick hike with such limited elevation gain, but there is a lot of up and down through the woods, so the cumulative elevation gain is greater. It’s also a more technical trail than I was expecting, so if you’re looking for an easy walk in the woods, this isn’t the one for you. However, if you’re looking to warm up those legs in preparation for the summer hiking season, this is the perfect hike! There is a lot of spray coming off Kennedy Falls with the Spring run-off, so bring a rain jacket if you want to get close for photos. The trail is dog friendly, but small dogs might struggle with all the trees and roots across the trail.

Jug Island Trail

The view of Jug Island and Indian Arm from the end of the trail

If you don’t want to travel to the North Shore, there’s some great hikes available in Belcarra Regional Park, located just past Anmore. Jug Island Trail is one of my personal favourites because it’s a short hike, but a good warm up. It’s only 5.5km long and has about 100 metres in elevation gain (it’s listed as having none, but that’s because it starts and ends at sea level). It’s a mostly forested hike, but there is a nice view about midway through the trail looking down at the backside of the peninsula, as well as a beautiful view of Jug Island and Indian Arm at the end of the trail. The beach at the end of the trail is also accessible by kayak from Deep Cove or Cates Park if you’re up for a boating adventure! This is the only trail I’ve done, but there are other short trails in the area such as Admiralty Point and Sasamat Lake.

Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve

Viewpoint from Fisherman’s Trail

The Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve is located between Grouse and Seymour and protects the ecosystem running up towards Seymour Lake, one of Metro Vancouver’s 3 water supply lakes. I worked in this area for about 8 months, so I had lots of time to explore some of the trails and there’s a ton of options to choose from! They’re all pretty similar in that they’re mostly forested trails (common theme for Spring hikes as it’s too early to get up in the mountains). Parking is available just off the end of Lillooet Road at the Rice Lake Gate, at the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre, or off of Rice Lake Road at the entrance to Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. I’d personally recommend avoiding the Ecology Centre as it draws a lot of tourists for the suspension bridge, it’s only about 1km hike to the bridge from the other entrances if you still want to visit. Some of my preferred trails include Fisherman’s Trail (13km), which hikes up to a viewpoint overlooking the River, and Rice Lake (3km), which is great for fishing (if you’re into that). I also like the Lynn Headwaters Trail (6km), which follows Lynn Creek and can be extended to hike to Norvan Falls (14km). The falls are definitely best explored in the Spring when run-off is high, by Fall, the falls are just a trickle!

Lighthouse Park

Coastal views from West Van

I know, I know, all the locals are already super familiar with Lighthouse Park, but as an East Coaster I only visited the park for the first time last year! This is the place to go if you’re after ocean views! There’s still a ton of forested trails here, but they pop in and out of the woods along the coastline. I think of Lighthouse Park as a bit of a build-your-own-adventure trail because there’s tons of trails running through the park and you can pick which circuit you want to do. When I visited, we mostly followed the coastline, making a bit of a loop from the parking lot. There’s limited elevation gain in this park, but lots of great views!

Golden Ears Park

Viewpoint Beach

I’m a huge fan of Golden Ears Park. It gets crazy busy in the summer though, which is why Spring is great time to visit! Don’t even think about doing Golden Ears Peak, it’s way too early for that, but there are some nice trails located at the back of the park. Drive to the far end of Alouette Lake and park in the North Beach Campground lot (do not actually go into the campground, parking is not permitted there). There’s two trails, the Lower Falls Trail and the East Canyon Trail to Viewpoint Beach. At 5.5km, the Falls Trails is really more of a walk, but affords some nice views of the mountains from the river and a nice waterfall at the end of the trail. The trail to Viewpoint Beach is a little longer at 8km, and has a great view looking up at the mountains from the beach at the end. There’s about 200m elevation gain on the viewpoint beach trail and none on the falls trail. On maps, it looks like you can connect between these two trails, but I’ve done these hikes several times and I’ve never been able to find where the two connect.

Capilano Regional Park

Looking back at Grouse Mountain, the Lions, and the watershed

This is another park I’ve explored as part of my work and it is a great urban trail in North Vancouver. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can hike all the way from Ambleside Park up to Cleveland Dam (~14km), but you can also access the trail from Cleveland Dam or from some of the local roads on the West side of the Park. The engineer in me loves Cleveland Dam and there’s a great view of the Lions looking out over Capilano Lake (another one of Metro Vancouver’s drinking water supply lakes). You can drive right up to the lake, but I’d recommend starting somewhere lower on the trail and making the dam and lake your lunch break in the middle of the hike. I like this trail because there’s tons of neat bridges to cross over with great views of the Capilano River and canyon. You can also stop in and visit the fish hatchery along the way!

Burnaby Mountain and Barnett Trail

The view from Burnaby Mountain Park

There’s tons of great Spring trails located around Burnaby Mountain and it’s easy to take transit to them! I’ve personally done the Burnaby Mountain Summit Trail, which loops around the top of the mountain, and the Barnett Trail, which loops around the back of the mountain. The best views are probably from Burnaby Mountain Park. Both of the trails overlap each other and I would definitely consider them urban trails as they loop in around the SFU campus and the bike park, but there are a few views looking down over Indian Arm and you do get a nice workout climbing back up the mountain. Both hikes are under 10km.