Winter Hiking
on the West Coast

Enjoying the outdoors at Murrin Provincial Park

The first thing I learned when I moved to the West Coast a few years ago is that Vancouver is an animated, outdoor-oriented city year-round. With hiking in the summer and skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing in the winter, there is always a way to enjoy the breathtaking mountains and views British Columbia has to offer.

But while I love the outdoor lifestyle BC offers, I am always looking for ways to get out in nature during the colder half of the year without all the expensive equipment and resort passes that skiing requires.

If you don’t ski or snowboard, getting outside in the rainy Vancouver winter can be challenging. Famous hiking trails close to the downtown core become ski territory as soon as the mountain snow begins to fall.

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

You can take a stroll or jog through Pacific Spirit Regional Park right by the UBC campus—a 10-minute drive from downtown Vancouver— but there are also more mountainous options beyond May to October. Let me introduce you to one of my favourites: Murrin Provincial Park.  

Photo: Chris Christie/Tourism Squamish

Photo: Chris Christie/Tourism Squamish

Located just a 45-minute drive from Vancouver, Murrin Provincial Park offers breathtaking views (usually) without the snow.

Murrin Loop and Jurassic Ridge Trail is generally snow-free year-round (with exceptions of course, so be sure to check the forecast before you go) and is a wonderful change of scenery from well-known walking trails scattered in and around Vancouver.

Parking is right off the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The lot can fill up, so plan to arrive either before 9:00 am or in the early afternoon when morning goers have left for the day. No advanced booking or park pass is required. 

Limited winter daylight is not a hurdle for this short 2.5 km loop trail which averages under 2 hours to complete. That said, it’ll be tough not to linger at the top with views like these in January so give yourself extra time.

The trail begins in a forested area surrounding a lake and picnic area where you might stop and enjoy a quick bite to eat or immerse yourself among the rocks, picturesque lake, and trees. Brave souls can even go for a swim.

Continuing onto the Jurassic Ridge Trail offers a fun technical hike with some rope assists, scrambles, and even ladders. The hiking circuit is rated as moderately challenging by AllTrails. Wear hiking boots and exercise caution if it has rained recently as the rocks will be more slippery. Descending the rock faces can be challenging, so keep this in mind too.

Your hard work will be rewarded by the spectacular views overlooking Howe Sound.

If you’ve worked up an appetite or want to defrost with a warm drink indoors afterwards, bustling Squamish is only a 10-minute drive away from the trailhead. Unwind here at a charming coffee shop or do some quick shopping before heading back to Vancouver.

With Jurassic Ridge Trail as an option so close to Vancouver, hikers can continue to enjoy stunning views in the winter months without converting to skiing or snowboarding.   

Catie Futhey

Catie Futhey is a second-year medical student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. She grew up in Uxbridge, Ontario, and studied Neuroscience at McGill University. This prompted her to undertake the joint MD/PhD program at UBC, where she is researching Alzheimer’s Disease and schizophrenia. Outside of medicine, Catie loves playing and writing her own music, running, reading, and writing. She especially adores hiking in the breathtaking BC mountains.

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Photo: Travel Alberta/Lauren Bath

Photo: Travel Alberta/Lauren Bath