Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park
Flanked by beautiful towering mountains that are snow-capped in the winter, Chilliwack Lake is among Lower Mainland’s most stunning natural wonders. The lake is itself is worth the visit but the Chilliwack River, which flows at the lake’s southern terminus, adds extra incentive. The trails here traverse outstanding groves of cedar, fir, and spruces. Indeed, the unique growths and odd shapes of old-growth trees are on full display for hikers willing to explore.
On the east side of the river, the Chilliwack River Trail follows the river closely, moving in and out of the dense forest. It is a rough route where often only the occasional flagging tape dictates the direction. If followed long enough, it passes through by the largest known grand fir and through the international border with the United States. At that point, hikers enter North Cascades National Park in Washington and the trail deteriorates even further until it reaches Bear Creek Camp, approximately six miles from Chilliwack Lake.
The Hanging Lake Trail, west of the Chilliwack River, is a much rougher trail. It exists mostly in the Chilliwack River Ecological Reserve, an area set aside “for the preservation and study of natural systems and processes” as its sign proclaims. Accessing the trail requires fording the river - a logistically difficult endeavor. Only the most experienced off-trail hikers can successfully make the climb to Hanging Lake near the international border at around 4800 feet in elevation and through an extreme bushwhack.
Vancouver’s signature park, Stanley Park, is a wonderful urban oasis with awesome, cliff-side views of the city’s Inner and Outer Harbors, and, of course, the largest remnant of old-growth forest in the metropolitan area. I’ve found that the largest and old trees are primarily situated on the southwestern section of the park, west of Highway 99 (Stanley Park Causeway). All three of the photos pictured here, are taken by exploring the dozens of informal side trails that branch off of the paved trails.
Some of the most ancient cedars and Douglas firs in the park are located south of the east-west Meadow Trail & Lake Trail, and north of Lees Trail. The best section to focus on is around the Lovers Walk/Tatlow Walk and explore north and south of there. Some of the cedars right off of these Walks are amazing but it’s always best to push into the forest for a more authentic experience.
Lynn Headwaters Regional Park
The steep mountainsides of the Lynn Valley filter plenty of rain and precipitation down their steep slopes throughout the year, nourishing the giant trees that grow there. Several trails that cut into the old-growth forest are shared by hikers and mountain bikers alike. Though much of the original woody vegetation has been logged and sizable stumps remain as monuments to an earlier era, there are a few huge western red cedars found on the park’s unmaintained west trail. Most hikers know about the 600 year-old specimen on this “Cedar Trail” (picture one) but only a small fraction know about the side trail closer to the beginning that leads to an even larger cedar (picture two) as well as a big Douglas fir. Though short, this side trail is rough and takes some route-finding skills to follow.
Cypress Provincial Park
Randy Stoltmann’s “Hiking Guide to the Big Trees of Southwestern British Columbia” describes a short path leading to a small patch of large trees near a ski lift in Cypress Provincial Park.
Though the path can be found, it has fallen into disrepair since the book’s publishing and one must bushwhack and navigate up, down, and around blowdown to follow it. Regardless, the big trees that Mr. Stoltmann describes are still there. Some are alive and some are decomposing but they grow close to each other and look beautiful together.
A network of trails weave around an ancient forest at the foothills of North Vancouver’s mountains in an area known as Hollyburn Ridge. Though the Ridge’s largest cedars were logged in the 1920s, several pockets of old-growth remain, including two of the largest Douglas firs in Lower Mainland, the Hollyburn Fir (picture three) and the Candelabra Fir (picture four).
The Brother’s Creek Loop Trail is perhaps the best trail to use to experience this forests’ majestic cedars (pictures one and two), while the Crossover Trail provides access between the aforementioned giant firs. When wet, this area often collects significant mist, giving it a overwhelmingly otherworldly feel.