On Sunday, Crystal, myself and a friend did our second significant hike of the season. It was a long day but we had a great time, got some exercise and spent some time out of the city (without actually being too far from the city).
Crystal and I are pretty keen to push our limits in hiking, but we had a friend with us who was concerned that he was pretty out of shape, so I started looking for a hike that would be challenging but not too crazy. I considered the Lynn Peak trail, until I got to the part of the review that described it as the Grouse Grind, just less busy. That sounded a little more difficult than what we were looking for. A bit more browsing brought me to Baden Powell from Lynn Canyon to Grouse.
Intermediate difficulty, 5 hours total hike, and only 220 metres elevation gain all sounded like it fit the bill.
Since none of us downtown residents bothers to own a car, we hoofed it down to the Seabus and then jumped on the #229 bus at Lonsdale Quay, which dropped us off a block or so away from Lynn Canyon Park. It turns out, however, that we could have saved time and effort by taking the #228 bus and getting off at the end of Dempsey Road. Ah well, despite the crush of tourists, Lynn Canyon Park is a good place to grab snacks, water, and/or use the washroom before setting out. The hike from Lynn Canyon to Lynn Headwaters is about 15 minutes along the west side of the creek before a short, fairly steep ascent to Dempsey Road (the spot you’d get off the #228 bus).
Before getting to the trailhead, we walked down the narrow access road to the Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. There were no crazy drivers the day we were there, but I’d recommend being careful as most of the 750 metre long road doesn’t have a shoulder to walk on. After passing two overflow parking lots on our right we found the start point on our left – and with it our first test. The trail begins with a series of stairs and switchbacks (at about the half way point some helpful individual has marked that you still have 125 steps to go). We weren’t in a rush, so we stopped once or twice to catch our breath. Since we hadn’t done the trail before, it seemed wise not to burn ourselves out.
After the stair challenge, the trail flattened out until we intersected with the top of Mountain Highway – apparently a very popular off-leash dog-walking area. We took a quick break and refilled our water bottles at the fountain before hitting the next challenge. This portion of the trail is quite well-groomed and I believe it’s maintained by a local mountain-biking club. It is also quite steep and, 15 minutes in, we actually discussed whether we were in good enough condition to continue. Pride proved stronger than our tired legs and we pushed on. The trail soon flattened out and we were glad we persevered.
While the total elevation gain might only be 220 metres, it definitely feels like more because of the constant switching back and forth from climbing to descending. There were several trails that intersected with the Baden Powell, at least one of which leads to the peak of Grouse Mountain – another alternate Grouse Grind I suppose. With one minor accidental exception, we stayed on the Baden Powell the whole way.
Even with several short breaks and a bit of extra hiking at the start, we finished the trail in just over 4 hours. We were all a bit tired, and our friend’s legs were a bit shaky, but we were happy and proud to have completed a beautiful, challenging hike.
This part of Baden Powell ends at the base of Grouse Mountain – site of the famous Grouse Grind Yuppie Alpine Club. We were a little tempted by the Starbucks, but the area was packed with people so we just hopped onto the #236 bus which brought us to Lonsdale Quay and the Seabus back to downtown.
While it’s nice just to get out into nature once in a while, you really need to hike this particular trail just for the sake of hiking. There are only one or two places where you can actually get a decent view of anything. One of those view points had a nice new bench, so we took a quick break there. I tried to get a few shots of the view, but my iPhone (3Gs) couldn’t capture anything but a blur.
This definitely isn’t a backcountry trail. There are several places where you are walking right beside a paved road and there are a few houses built within 10-15 metres of the trail. It may not be as busy as Lynn Canyon or The Grind, but we did meet at least a dozen people along the way, ranging from hardcore trail runners to a group of SFU students to a couple of older ladies who powered past us in a blur of MEC jackets and trekking poles.
In addition to many sets of stairs, portions of the trail that are prone to getting muddy have been nicely built up with wooden walkways, but there are also steeper portions that are very rough and worn down. The trail is rated for all-year-round use, but I would be very hesitant to tackle it during heavy rain or in icy conditions.
While there are some very steep parts, none of them are very long and there are more than enough level portions to let you catch your breath. I would recommend this trail to anyone who is looking for a moderate challenge and isn’t motivated by reaching a particular view point.