For our second training hike of the season we decided to stay a bit more local Eagle Bluffs is a relatively easy, very rewarding and popular summertime hike on Vancouver’s North Shore. A couple summer’s ago we were able to do the “normal” approach, from Cypress Provincial Park. On that approach you climb the ski-hill, wander through a ridge-top forest and then drop down to the rocky bluffs.
This early in the season Cypress ski hill is still in operation and there is still a dusting of snow on the peaks. We also wanted to challenge ourselves with a bit more distance and elevation than last week so we chose the other approach option, which climbs up from a trailhead on Hwy 1.
Hike Name: Eagle Bluffs (Nelson Canyon approach)
Date: Sunday April 18
Location: West Vancouver, BC
Approx. drive time from home: 50 min
Distance: 7.5 mi. / 12 km (return)
Elevation gain: 3020 ft / 920 m
Max. elevation: 3412 ft / 1040 m
Time on trail: 5 hours
Knowing that the hike was a bit more local we decided to sleep in and enjoy a large breakfast before hitting the road. Even with our Sunday morning laziness, we hit the trail around 10 am.
The first section of trail meanders through Nelson Canyon park. The trail is wide with lots of built-in steps and railings. Keep your eyes open for the big old Cedars and Firs along the river canyon!
We enjoyed a brief stop at Whyte Lake, which seemed to be the main destination for other walkers in the park. There was a hint of skunk cabbage in the air, which for me is a sure sign of spring in the mountains!
We pressed onwards, following a forest service road for about 15 minutes. Then it was time to start the real climb. The trail narrowed significantly and worked it’s way up a rocky gorge. The trail eased up a bit as we made our way through the forest until we stood at the bottom of a small scree slope.
From that point on the trail got quite steep. We switchbacked up the scree and back into the forest. After a while longer we came out at the base of a large rockfall. We had to keep a sharp eye out for cairns and markers as we rock-hopped our way to the top, easily 50+ m above us. Back into the forest with more steep climbing, using rocks and roots to help us with the bigger steps.
Just as it felt like we had no more energy to climb upwards, the trail flattened and became more rocky. We came around a corner and were at the base of the Eagle Bluffs. We worked our way up to the top of the lower bluff and stopped for a well-deserved break.
The views from Eagle Bluffs are very rewarding. Looking West we see Horseshoe Bay, Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast. Looking South-East we can see Downtown with the Lower Mainland spread out beyond. It was a bit hazy that day but we still managed to see Mt. Baker in the distance.
It took us nearly 3 hours to get up to the bluffs, but thankfully it was a much quicker trip down, even moving slowly through the steeper sections. We made it back to the car with plenty of time left in the afternoon to visit a couple micro breweries for a well-deserved post-hike beer!