Hikes in Sunshine Coast
Located along the southern portion of mainland British Columbia’s coastline, the Sunshine Coast is a sparsely populated region that is geographically isolated by the Strait of Georgia to the west and the Coast Mountains of the interior to the east. Because of this, the communities along the Sunshine Coast are really only accessible by boat or air. Stretching 180km from Howe Sound to Desolation Sound, the dense rainforests and rugged coastline make for a remote and picturesque destination that is seen by many adventurers to be the perfect playground for a variety of outdoor activities.
While easy access to a good number of waterways might make water sports like canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding popular options for exploring the beautiful terrain along the coast, the region’s many hiking and biking trails provide a means to traverse the rugged mountains and dense forests that characterize the land here. With a number of pristine provincial parks like Tetrahedron, Mt. Richardson, Spipiyus, Francis Point, and Smuggler Cove all preserving the wild British Columbia landscape, there is certainly no shortage of breathtaking scenery to be experienced along the Sunshine Coast.
10 Great Hiking Routes on the Sunshine Coast
Although the rocky and rugged terrain along the Sunshine Coast might seem as though it fully exemplifies the terrain in the region, travelling just a bit further inland will reveal a wealth of wonderfully atmospheric temperate rainforests and rugged mountains featuring countless hiking routes that are suitable for all ages and skill levels. With a number of provincial parks that range from small coastal nature reserves where you can take in a beautiful sunset and watch the diverse wildlife to vast inland forests that are dotted with challenging peaks, there is no shortage of suitable terrain to be explored. Whether you are looking for a fun family-friendly walk along the beach or long distance route through the interior mountains of Tetrahedron Provincial Park, there is sure to be a hiking trail along the Sunshine Coast that is tailor-made to be your next adventure. Check out this list of our favourite hiking routes along the Sunshine Coast:
- Smuggler Cove: This 3.7 km hike is a fantastic adventure through Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park that provides some amazing views of the coast. With charming forest trails that are easy to navigate, this family-friendly hike is sure to be a favourite.
- Skookumchuck Narrows: A moderate length hike through the forest, this trail will take you to a scenic lookout with views of the churning waters of the Skookumchuck Narrows. Be sure to plan ahead and time your adventure with the tide to have the best viewing experience of this unique spot.
- Mount Elphinstone Summit Trail: This trail is an intermediate length adventure that will take you uphill for some stunning views of Howe Sound and Bowen Island. Although the trail has a fairly steep grade, it is more than manageable for casual hikers that want a bit of a challenge.
- Mount Steele: A bit of a longer hike, this 19.6 km journey through Tetrahedron Provincial Park will provide some amazing views of the nearby Tantalus Range. Elevation gain on this trail is largely spread throughout the route, making for a pleasant uphill climb through the forest and mountains.
- Francis Point Lighthouse Trail: A charming 2.6 km hike along the coast, this short trail will take you through Francis Point Provincial Park and its beautiful groves of arbutus trees. Parts of this trail are a bit rocky; however, stunning coastal views that stretch out to Texada Island await.
- Mount Gardner Loop Trail: A popular hiking route on Bowen Island, the Mount Gardner Loop will lead you uphill to a viewpoint with amazing views that sweep across the water from Vancouver Island to the mainland. Parts of the trail are poorly marked, so be sure to bring a map and keep an eye on the trail.
- Klein Lake: Another forested hike, this trail will lead you through a beautifully scenic woodland setting to arrive at the shores of Klein Lake. A good variety of terrain, scenic views, and the chance to hang out by the lake will make this hike a family favourite.
- Cliff Gilker Park Loop: A quick adventure near Sechelt, this trail will lead you through the rainforest to visit a lovely waterfall. The strong network of intersecting trails in the area can be a bit tricky to navigate, so be sure to bring a GPS for this one.
- Soames Hill Loop: Another short hike on the Sunshine Coast, the Soames Hill Loop will take you uphill to a viewpoint overlooking Howe Sound. Here, you will also enjoy views of the rugged mainland, as well as the Keats and Bowen islands.
- Inland Lake Loop: This fantastic day hike can be found within Inland Lake Provincial Park and takes you through the forest to walk the shores of a charming lake. Although the route is an intermediate length, the relatively easy to navigate terrain makes it perfectly suitable for casual and experienced hikers alike.
When is the Best Time to Hike the Sunshine Coast?
With mild average temperatures, weather along the Sunshine Coast remains favourable year-round, making it possible to plan a hiking trip here at any point depending on your tolerance for rain. An ideal window for hiking in the region ranges from May-October, although trails will likely be at their driest from June-August. While this time will likely see the largest number of tourists to the region, you should still be able to find some peace and quiet on several of the amazing hiking trails that can be found along the Sunshine Coast.
Other Outdoor Activities on the Sunshine Coast
Thanks to its beautiful forests and idyllic location along the Strait of Georgia, the Sunshine Coast offers access to countless outdoor activities to enjoy both on land and out on the water. Boating, fishing, and water sports like kayaking/canoeing/paddle boarding are all popular pastimes here, while hiking, mountain biking, and road cycling are great ways to explore the various landscapes along the coast. Although most of the communities along the coast will see a plentiful amount of rain during the winter, travelling a bit further inland towards the rugged, mountainous interior will provide opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling for those that prefer cold weather adventures.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Sunshine Coast
What is considered the Sunshine Coast?
Located in the southwest corner of British Columbia, the Sunshine Coast is a 180.0 km swathe of land along the Strait of Georgia that stretches from Howe Sound to Desolation Sound.
How do I get to the Sunshine Coast from Vancouver?
Although part of the mainland, the mountainous terrain of the Sunshine Coast makes it extremely difficult to access by car. As such, water and air travel are the preferred methods to reach the different communities in the area. The best way to access the Sunshine Coast from Vancouver is to take the ferry between Horseshoe Bay and Langdale, an approximately 40 minute journey that runs every two hours.
Best Hikes in Sunshine Coast
The trail to Smuggler Cove is a 3.7 km lollipop hiking route that will take you through the forests of Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park to arrive at a viewpoint overlooking the coast. Along the trail, you will experience a charming forest setting with a wooden boardwalk and breathtaking views across the Strait of Georgia. With relatively easy terrain and picturesque scenery, this scenic hike is sure to be a family favourite where you can create lasting memories on the Sunshine Coast.
The Skookumchuck Narrows trail is a 7.7 km out-and-back hiking route within Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park that will take you from the town of Egmont to a scenic viewpoint looking out over the Sechelt Islets and the rushing water of the narrows. Along the trail, you will experience an amazing forest setting and pass by the calm waters of Brown Lake before arriving at the viewpoints overlooking violent rapids and swirling whirlpools. Make sure to time your hike with the tide for the best viewing experience along this unique stretch of water.
Mount Elphinstone Summit Trail
The Mount Elphinstone Summit Trail is a 12.2 km out-and-back hiking route near Gibsons, BC, that will take you up to a viewpoint overlooking Bowen Island and Howe Sound. This challenging route is a bit of a leg-burner, as it climbs sharply uphill with an elevation gain of 1,065 m. Although steep, the trail is very well-maintained and easy to navigate, making it suitable for casual and experienced hikers that are looking for a tough hike.
Mount Gardner Loop Trail
The Mount Gardner Loop Trail is a 9.7 km lollipop hiking circuit on Bowen Island that will take you up to a wooden viewing platform at the summit. From there, you will have a sweeping view that stretches west to Vancouver Island and east across the North Shore Mountains and the city of Vancouver. This is a fairly easy trail; however, it is poorly marked in places, meaning that you will need to bring a GPS or a good trail map to stay on the correct route.
Mount Steele Hike
The Mount Steele trail is a 19.6 km out-and-back hiking route in Tetrahedron Provincial Park that will take you up to the summit for some breathtaking views that stretch northwest to the Tantalus Range. Although the route has a large elevation gain, this is spread throughout the hike, making for a lengthy but not overly difficult trek up the mountain. Along the trail, you will experience an amazing old-growth forest setting, as well as views of Edwards Lake and the surrounding mountain peaks.
Mount Gardner Hikers Trail
The Mount Gardner Hikers Trail is a 7.7 km out-and-back hiking route on Bowen Island that offers an alternate route to reach the viewpoint at the summit. Although it is a bit more steep and challenging, once you reach the top, you will have the same amazing views looking out across the water to mainland British Columbia. Make sure to bring a trail map/GPS, as there are intersecting trails that can make navigation on the mountain a bit tricky at times.
Cliff Gilker Park Loop
The Cliff Gilker Park Loop is a 2.1 km lollipop hiking route near Sechelt, BC, that is part of a dense network of trails through the forest. Along the hike, you will experience an amazing West Coast temperate rainforest setting, make your way over scenic bridge crossings, and visit a charming waterfall. Due to the easy terrain and well-maintained park trails, this route is perfectly suitable for hikers of all skill levels; however, you should make sure to bring a trail map or GPS to avoid straying from the main path on one of the intersecting trails.
Soames Hill Loop Hike
The Soames Hill Loop is a 2.6 km lollipop hiking route in Gibsons, BC, that climbs uphill to a lookout over Howe Sound. From the summit of the hill, you will have an amazing view across the water to Keats Island, Bowen Island, and mainland British Columbia in the distance. There are a number of stairs along the route, which may restrict usage of this trail for less-mobile hikers.
Inland Lake Loop Hike
The Inland Lake Loop is a 12.9 km hiking circuit near Powell River, BC, that will take you around the shores of this beautiful woodland lake. Located in Inland Lake Provincial Park, the trail passes through a scenic stretch of forest and skirts along the edge of the lake to provide amazing views across the water. Made up of relatively easy-to-navigate terrain, this trail makes for a perfect day-hike with little need to physically exert yourself.
Tin Hat Mountain Hike
The Tin Hat Mountain Hike is an 18.3 km hiking circuit near Powell River, BC, that traverses a variety of terrain types on the way to the summit of Tin Hat Mountain. Along the trail, you will experience beautiful stretches of forest, open meadows, rocky terrain, and an amazing viewpoint from the summit that stretches across the Sunshine Coast. If you are looking to make this into a multi-day hike, you can deviate from the trail at the southern edge of Lewis Lake to reach the Lewis Lake Recreation Site.
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