Your Guide to Canada’s Best West Coast Trails (For Every Skill Level)

If you’re planning a trip to British Columbia, make sure you check out a few of the awe-inspiring trails of the west. However, with so many stellar options, it can be tough making a decision of where to hike. 

To help guide you on the right track we’ve pulled together a list of Canada’s best west coast trails for every skill level. 

hiking canada
Hiking along the best west coast trails of Canada

Trails for Taking it Easy (Beginners)

Perfect for travellers searching for a leisurely hike, these trails are easy on the calves and offer a gentle introduction to this outdoor activity.

Takkakaw Falls Trail

Canada's Best West Coast Trails
Driving in Canada
  • Months of operation: Accessible from April to September
  • Time to complete the trail: 30 minutes
  • Province: British Columbia

If you’re driving through the Canadian Rockies towards Alberta and want an easy warm-up hike, the Takkakaw Falls Trail is an obligatory stop along the way. Or, if you’re driving away from the extreme trails of Banff National Park, this short hike is worth the detour. Just under one-mile in distance, this journey yields an incredible view of Takkakaw Falls. Prepare to be taken back by the thundering sound of the glacial water that flows down the side of the mountain in Yoho National Park.

Quarry Rock Trail

  • Months of operation: Accessible year-round
  • Time to complete the trail: 1.5 hours
  • Province: British Columbia

The Quarry Rock trail is the perfect hike for someone looking to take a short break away from Vancouver. With some light elevation and pleasant forest scenery along the way, this quick 2.2-mile hike is a pretty relaxed trail if you’re new to hiking, or if you are taking a break between tougher treks.

Try to arrive early to avoid the crowds and be one of the first to reach the impressive lookout point with views of Deep Cove and Indian Arm Lake.

Stanley Park Seawall Trail

stanley park
Stanley Park Seawall Trail
  • Months of operation: Accessible year-round
  • Time to complete the trail: 2-3 hours
  • Province: British Columbia

Although it covers a distance of 5.8-miles, this trail is easy to tackle as it offers a flat terrain. With fantastic views of the Vancouver Harbor, this paved trail circles Stanley Park and makes for a beautiful afternoon stroll. 

In addition to the trail, Stanley Park itself is home to many attractions that will keep you entertained all day long. Stop at the Vancouver Aquarium, Beaver Lake, Brockton Point Lighthouse, or the Naval Museum at HMCS Discovery to round off your day. 

Trails to Get Your Blood Pumping (Intermediate)

If you’re in the mood for something a little more challenging, check out these intermediate trails for you to take your hiking prowess to the next level.

Stawamus Chief Trail

Stawamus Chief Trail in Squamish, British Columbia – Photo Credit Thomas Shahan via Flickr
  • Months of operation: Accessible from March to November
  • Time to complete the trail: 3-6 hours
  • Province: British Columbia

Considered as one of the best hikes in British Columbia, the Stawamus Chief Trail is worth every second of your time. The 3.9-mile loop covers three separate peaks with over 2,644 feet of elevation and guarantees amazing panoramas of Howe Sound. It’s likely that you will encounter some wildlife along the steep walkways, so keep your eyes peeled. If you’re up for a challenge, try to hit all three peaks in one day.

There are a lot of steps on the way to the top of the highest peak, but that feeling of accomplishment will outweigh any tiredness.

Garibaldi Lake Trail

garibaldi lake
Garibaldi Lake Trail in Squamish-Lillooet, British Columbia – Photo Credit David Abercrombie via Flickr
  • Months of operation: Accessible from July to November
  • Time to complete the trail: 5-6 hours
  • Province: British Columbia

The Garibaldi Lake Trail offers a substantial hike with stunning natural landscapes along every step of the way. As you tackle the 11.5-mile trail, you’ll have the chance to preview two smaller lakes on your way to the stunning Garibaldi Lake.

If you’re staying in the area, you’ll have access to a number of gorgeous hikes available in the Garibaldi Provincial Park.

My highlight was actually swimming in Garibaldi Lake – something I hadn’t planned on doing when I set out on my hike. I did the hike during a heat wave so by the time I reached the lake after a brutal hike up hill, I was so hot, and the lake wasn’t as cold as it usually would be, so I jumped in. It was such a beautiful experience.

Don’t underestimate how tough this trail  is and make sure you take lots of water. It is 100% worth the slog because the lake is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. – Katie, The World on My Necklace

Buntzen Lake Trail and Diez Vistas Trail

Buntzen lake trial
Diez Vistas Trail in Anmore, British Columbia – Photo Credit Harold Cecchetti via Flickr
  • Months of operation: Accessible year-round, however, the Diez Vistas Section is only accessible from April to November
  • Time to complete the trail: 4-8 hours
  • Province: British Columbia

This trail is great for anyone who prefers to steer clear of a loop route but appreciates a two-for-one deal. Travelling all the way around Buntzen Lake, you won’t have to backtrack over the 6.4-mile trail. However, if you don’t mind seeing the eastern shoreline for the second time, there’s a point where the trail splits and offers the chance to hike a wider 7.9-mile loop known as Diez Vistas Trail. As the name suggests, you’ll encounter ten striking views during the course of this extended loop, so don’t forget to bring your camera.

Not for the Faint of Heart (Advanced)

If you’re the kind of person who is always searching for the next crazy adventure, look no further than these wild trails. 

Panorama Ridge Trail

Panorama Ridge Trail
Panorama Ridge Trail in Whistler, British Columbia – Photo Credit Su-Laine via Flickr
  • Months of operation: Accessible from July to October
  • Time to complete the trail: 9-12 hours
  • Province: British Columbia

If you considered the Garibaldi Lake Trail to be a warm-up, then the jaw-dropping Panorama Ridge is the hike for you. Located in nearby Whistler, this trail spans 18.3-miles of rough terrain with an elevation gain of 5,853 feet. This trail takes many hours of serious trekking to complete, and most hikers will complete the trail over the course of a few days. Just be sure to assess your skill level before you set foot on this trail. 

The West Coast Trail

Canada's Best West Coast Trails
The West Coast Trail in British Columbia – Photo Credit Paxson Woelber via Flickr
  • Months of operation: Accessible from May to September
  • Time to complete the trail: 6-8 days
  • Province: British Columbia

By far one of the most difficult hikes on our list, this one should be left to the pros. Following the trail along the rocky coastline for a whopping 47.2-miles will require plenty of advance planning and a lot of endurance. Make sure your pack is stocked with the right camping supplies so you’re prepared for rain, hail or shine.

The Great Divide Trail

  • Months of operation: Accessible from late June to mid-September
  • Time to complete the trail: 8 weeks
  • Province: Between British Columbia and Alberta

Spanning the natural border between British Columbia and Alberta created by the Canadian Rockies, the Great Divide Trail promises the challenge of a lifetime for those daring enough to brave the unmarked routes. The entire length of the trail is approximately 700-miles long and requires approximately two months of hiking to complete.

You will need to be proficient in navigating your way across the unmarked terrain and possess advanced survival skills. Most importantly, you will need to coordinate the pre-mailing of supply packages to yourself at strategic spots along the route. This will be necessary for securing necessary camping permits and to ensure your supplies won’t run out. 

During planning our road trip to Alberta we learned from countless photos and articles how beautiful the Canadian Rocky Mountains must be. They have been so right. Thick dark green forest with white topped trees, bizarre rock formations, shy droves of wapitis and a hungry black bear, we saw it all and couldn’t wait to look around the nearest bend of the Icefields Parkway to spot the next stunning photo scene.

Time is the key. Even if Google Maps says it will only take about 3,5 hours by car from Banff to Jasper, you will take more time. Almost every part of the way will blow your mind, so overwhelmingly lovely. Start early in the morning and don’t plan anything for the day just don’t forget to stop at Peyto Lake, the Columbia Icefield and the Athabasca Falls. The landscape of the Canadian Rockies is worth every minute. – Karl and Daan, Couple of Men

As you can see, Canada has some incredible hiking trails to explore on your next trip. There are hundreds of amazing trails to explore in British Columbia, so what are you waiting for? Get out there and start exploring!

Lukas is a travel writer and blogger who is currently exploring the European continent in search of incredible views, unforgettable experiences, and local flavours. When he is not working or writing for his blog, Still Studying Abroad you can find him snapping photos for Instagram @stillstudyingabroad or researching how to order a beer in the language of his next destination.

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