This past weekend was certainly one to remember. Not only was I treated to a real life Simpsons donut, we ticked off a longstanding hike on my bucket list that I had resigned myself to not doing, due to to the terrible conditions of the access road – it ain’t no place for a rental car, that’s for sure! In addition, we managed to see THREE different bears (including my first proper cub sighting) and witness one of the most magical sunsets I think I have ever seen.
It was a long weekend in Vancouver and Andy and I had planned with two of our friends, Jess and Dan, to do this particular hike. On Saturday the weather was positively miserable, so we ended up postponing until the following day. When Dan went to pack his bag, he realised that someone had broken into their garage and stolen a whole bunch of his hiking stuff (as well as kindly leaving a human poop in the driveway) which almost made the trip a non-starter, before we had even left. Thankfully a flatmate of theirs offered to lend Dan what he needed to make the trip happen.
We left Vancouver at 8am and drove in pretty solid rain up to Squamish. The weather was supposed to clear, but I definitely detected some fake optimism as we were driving! We had a preliminary stop at the Sunflower Bakery (great not just in name, but selection too) where we bought donuts, cinnamon buns and sandwiches, not to mention a delicious brew of 49th Parallel coffee.
The access road to the trailhead begins right near the Chief in Squamish. It went for much longer than any of us expected – almost an hour – and I was thankful not to be driving as it was pretty gnarly. Once we made it through all the pits, holes and bumps, we parked up and started organising ourselves. Looking around the carpark, it was obvious the weather had kept lots of people away, which is something we had been worried about due to the limited number of tent pads and the almost obscene number of people that tend to be on any well known BC hike.
The trail is 9.5km each way. It starts in the trees with a bit of steady elevation gain, before climbing up a hill and looping back in a horseshoe shape. Of course the rain began just as we left the tree cover! We then traversed the side of the hill for rather a long time – it is overgrown in parts, there is a few boulders to scramble over and the incline isn’t too bad at all. The views on the way up were minimal due to the weather – we could make out the valley and trees, but struggled to see the peaks through the clouds. The wildflowers were pretty lush and the meadows and rivers below were beautiful too.
After scrambling over rock for what felt like a very long time, we went back into the trees to endure a steep wee mudslide. The few days of rain had created huge mud pits and we all had to work extremely hard not to slip and fall. Once we came out the other side we were faced with a steep rock ascent, but we knew our destination lay just beyond.
Once we got to the top we circled past the hut and were just catching our first glimpses of the lake when some other hikers stopped us and informed us that there was a juvenile black bear on the rocks. We looked up, and sure enough there was a very chilled, very healthy looking, little bear clambering around above us. He was definitely aware that we were there, but seemed so unfazed that it gave us all a boost of confidence that we weren’t about to be attacked, and we were able to just stand there and appreciate the magical moment. We didn’t want to leave!
As the bear started to move further away we were able to turn our attention to the lake. It was gobsmackingly beautiful, even more so than I had even imagined! We took our time picking our way around the rocks on the lakefront to where the tent pads were. As luck would have it, there was one tent pad remaining right next to the water, so we nabbed that and set ourselves up.
Although the weather had cleared somewhat, it was still pretty chilly and we were all excited to get some hot food in us. We took our cooking equipment down to the waters edge and were just taking in the views when I noticed our little friend across the lake, back down on the rocks. Jess grabbed her binoculars and we spent the next half an hour or so watching him explore the lakefront. We then noticed a tiny little cub down by the water around the rocks a fair way from where the juvenile currently was. As we watched the cub going back and forth from the lake, we also saw its mama emerge and start doing a similar thing. Three bears! All at once! We didn’t know where to look. We got to see them paddling, running (they move surprisingly quickly) and eventually making their way off into the sunset.
As we ate our dinner we noticed the sky start to change. The sun had been trying to burn through the cloud all afternoon and with some success, the colours of the sunset were beginning to shine through. Just when we thought it must be over, a new part of the sky or landscape would light up in the little bowl we found ourselves in. Surrounded by mountains of various shapes and sizes, the analogy was made that we were like little people in a snow globe. Cold, but with exceptional views all around! We had thought bed time might be as early as 7.30pm, just to escape the cold of the evening, but what with the bears and then the ever evolving colours of the sky, we didn’t crawl into our tents until about 9pm. I was out like a light!
The next morning, we ate our breakfast down on the lakefront again where alas, we were treated to another visit from the bear. After breakfast the group hiked up to this little viewpoint overlooking the lake, and the bear remained in our sights virtually the entire time. He was making his was around the rocks closer to the campsite and when Andy and I climbed a rock on the water’s edge to get a better view, he looked right up at us! Moments later, he bolted. Moving quickly, he ran back around the rocks and up the side of one of the mountains – sadly, we wouldn’t see him again after that.
None of us really wanted to leave the lake, but once we realised we didn’t have anything to eat for lunch we decided to make quick tracks. I’m not sure if it was due to tired legs or the hunger (probably both), but the hike out felt very long, considering so much of it was a steady downhill. We got to see all the views we missed on the way up, including expansive views down the valley all the way to Squamish and the Chief.
We finished the hike and headed back to Squamish, hoping to visit Backcountry Brewing for a late lunch of pizza. To our dismay their kitchen was closed, so we ended up at Sunny Chiba’s instead – a Mexican place that has also been on my bucket list, so it was great to tick that off too!
I found the hike pretty challenging but incredibly rewarding, and that was even without the bear sightings and the glorious sunset we experienced. The terrain was pretty fun and although no part alone was too hard, it definitely added up to give me pretty sore legs the next day. It is incredible to think that because this hike is on Crown land, the entire experience (except for gas) was free! One of my favourite hikes to date and probably one of the last overnighters I will get in BC too with autumn steadily on the way. We also found out that the trail has now been closed temporarily, due to bear activity, so we were lucky to be there when we were!