What to do when you want to hike not far from the city, but still want to feel like you escaped? There are plenty of hikes that will give you views of Vancouver – and let’s be honest, they ain’t bad. Sometimes, though, a true break is needed from the hustle and bustle, but you don’t have all day to escape into the wild.
That’s where St. Mark’s Summit comes in.
Mixing it up
The trail is beautiful, with a variety of uphill, flat and downhill sections. The downhills on the way out don’t make you want to curse the heavens for losing elevation you worked so hard to gain – they’re just enough to give your muscles a break and add some variety. The trail is primarily forested with the occasional sneak peek through the trees at the views to come – enough to keep you motivated!
Starting from the parking lot at Cypress Mountain, you’ll walk past the lodge and follow signs for the Howe Sound Crest Trail to your right. It’s well marked and easy to follow. A few switchbacks start you off and then turn into a meandering trail along the edge of the mountain.
The first section is along a well-maintained, metre wide gravel path through old growth trees. The wide path then abruptly breaks up into a typical forest dirt trail with tree roots. That’s when the uphill slog starts. After a bit, though, you go along what is obviously the “crest” part of “Howe Sound Crest Trail”. This is where it flattens out a bit and you get a bit of downhill to mix things up.
Then another section of climbing switchbacks and you’re nearly there! The trail actually continues on to Mt Unnecessary, the Lions, James Peak, Deeks Lake, all the way down to Porteau Cove. This is suggested as an overnight trek and don’t forget – you’re in the mountains. Be prepared for quickly changing weather conditions and possible snow.
No use working harder than you have to, though…
If you’re not doing the full length of the Howe Sound Crest Trail, however, you’ll reach a sign post in the middle of what appears to be nowhere stating you’ve reached St Marks Summit at 1,370m. That’s where you veer to the left, up and over a rock until you reach the absolutely stunning views of Howe Sound.
The moment you stop, you’ll probably be surrounded by the ever-moving and super adorable chipmunks begging for a meal. It’s obvious that many hikers must feed them… Please make sure that if you do share food, it isn’t something that is bad for them! Same goes for the famously inquisitive whiskey jacks and ravens that will also make an appearance, hoping for a snack. Watch out too – they are cheeky and will get into anything left unattended.
Once you’ve taken in the views, you turn tail and go right back the way you came! I loved St Marks Summit as it wasn’t too long and wasn’t too hard, but the views are undeniably stunning.
IF YOU GO:
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 11 km roundtrip
- Elevation Gain: 500m
- Public Transit: No.
- Parking: Yes.
- Dog friendly: Yes, on leash.