6 Carless Trips
From Vancouver, Bellingham and Anacortes
By Pat Grubb, Brandy Kiger-Shreve and Ian Ferguson. Photo by Neil Schulman
Want to get away? The world beyond downtown is full of opportunities for adventure and relaxation, and you don’t even need a car to get there. Here are five trips that use public transportation and your own steam to escape the rat race and reconnect with nature.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park Encompassing miles of beaches as well as an ecological reserve, Pacific Spirit Regional Park is a respite from the busy city. The park is located in the University of British Columbia’s endowment lands and has more than 73 km (45 miles) of walking/hiking trails. A significant proportion of the trails – 50 km (31 miles) – are multi-use trails open to cycling and horseback users as well.
This is a dog-friendly park with both on- and off-leash areas. Dogs must be under control at all times. You’ll need to pick up after Spot does his business. There are 90 hectares (222 acres) set aside as a second-growth ecological reserve. The area is dedicated to forest research and is not open to the public.
The trails are a real pleasure, regardless of your mode of transport. The trees reach high above you and once you leave the fringes of the park, the city noises disappear and you are alone with nature. Cedar, Hemlock and Maple trees predominate the park. The Lily Valley Trail takes you by huge stumps that loggers left in the early part of the 20th century.
The Cleveland, Heron and Imperial trails are wheelchair accessible as is the park center on 16th Avenue.
Feeling daring? The beaches from Acadia Beach at the north end to Trail 7 at the south end are clothing-optional. The famous Wreck Beach is located at the bottom of Trail 6.
Getting here is pretty much a snap. UBC buses stop at many of the trailheads. Consult Translink (translink.ca) for routes and schedules.
The Grouse Grind
The name tells you all you need to know about this mother. Starting at the base of the Grouse Mountain Skyride, the trail climbs upwards for 2.9 km (1.8 miles) for a total elevation gain of 853 metres (2,800 feet). Each year more than 100,000 people ranging in age from kids to seniors climb the trail.
First-time climbers should take about two hours to make it to the top; on average, it takes around 60-90 minutes. Feeling cocky? Sebastian Salas set the course record in 2010 with a time of 25:01. Leanne Johnson set the women’s record at 31:04 in 2007. This August, 18-year-old Oliver Bibby climbed the Grind 16 times in one day for charity, breaking the previous record of 15 climbs.
Grouse Mountain officials actively discourage people from walking down the trail but for most people, paying $10 to take the Skyride gondola down is probably the best $10 they’ll ever spend.
Don’t expect a lot of switchbacks – this trail is mostly up. There are 2,830 stairs ranging from rock to wood to root. You’d be well advised to wear boots to avoid ankle sprains, carry water and bring snacks. One or two trekking poles would be useful in taking weight off of your poor knees. This climb is intense – don’t do it if you’ve got a cardiac condition, bad knees or back or you’re in couch potato condition.
A nice way to get there is to take the Seabus across Vancouver harbor and pick up the 236 Grouse Mountain bus. All in all, it only takes about 40 minutes to go from a water view to a mountain view.
Vancouver to Victoria by bike
This is a popular way to travel from Vancouver to Victoria, and is an easy day trip for sure depending upon your starting point. It’s possible to ride from downtown Vancouver to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal but it’s faster and easier to throw your bike onto the front of a bus. The 620 bus will drop you off at the terminal where you’ll buy your ticket. Personnel will instruct you how to board and secure your bike for the ferry ride.
The ferry winds through the picturesque Gulf Islands to the Swartz Bay terminus on Vancouver Island. Once there, you’ll follow the signs for the Lochside Regional Trail. The Lochside Trail is a 29 km (18 miles) route that takes you through the farmlands of the Saanich Peninsula. Formerly a railroad route, the trail was created in 2001 and is popular both for commuting and recreation.
Cyclists, runners, walkers, skateboarders and horseback riders all share the trail. The trail is mostly flat and paved with the exception of some graveled portions still suitable for skinny tires. At Switch Bridge the trail meets up with the Galloping Goose Trail, a 60 km (37 miles) long trail that goes from Victoria to Sooke on a former railroad track.
Camp at Lizard Lake This overnight trip takes you up over 2,000-foot Blanchard Mountain – the only place where the Cascades meet the sea – to a lakeside campsite. A bicycle is your escape vehicle, and a tent is your home away from home.
Bike the Inter-urban Trail, which runs from Padden Lagoon on Harris Avenue in Fairhaven all the way to Larrabee State Park. It winds through hilly Arroyo Park along the way. Beyond that, it’s a flat and easy trail that follows a former railroad grade, with occasional water views.
Continue four miles south down Chuckanut Drive to the Pacific Coast Trail. It’s a scenic ride, but be wary of speeding traffic on this narrow road, especially around curves. Stash your bike near the Pacific Coast Trailhead and hike 3.25 miles to Oyster Dome, the summit of Blanchard Mountain.
The trail switchbacks up through fern forests for 1.5 miles to a signed junction at 1,100 feet. Head left on the Samish Bay Connection Trail. After another half mile, you’ll reach an intersection with Oyster Dome Trail and turn right. In a mile you’ll pass a trail heading left to the bat caves at the base of the summit dome. The caves are currently off limits, so stay on the main trail, which steepens for another 0.1 miles before reaching an intersection with the Rock Trail.
Go left past old cables and logging relics, cross a creek and head up to the dome for amazing views of bays, islands and the distant Olympic Range. Head back down the Rock Trail, but continue straight instead of taking the Oyster Dome trail on your right. After 0.2 miles, you’ll reach Lizard Lake. There are obvious campsites just off trail with grated fire rings and seating. Set up camp and relax, or bust out your collapsible fishing rod to try your luck for lake trout.
Lilly Lake, a short distance down the trail, has more campsites available. Leave no trace, and carry out everything you carry in.
Paddle to a Lummi Island Campsite
A major caveat to this “carless” trip is that you’ll need to get your kayak to the water. A call to Whatcom Transportation Authority confirmed that kayaks are not allowed on the bike racks on public buses (it was worth a shot, right?), but don’t let that stop you. Carless Ski to Sea teams have figured out many creative ways to tow canoes and kayaks behind their bikes. WIKE (wicycle.com) has a kayak trailer assembly for $180. Cheaper solutions have been made with a 2×4, a strap and the back wheels of an old tricycle.
Get your kayak to Gooseberry Point, just north of the Lummi Island ferry terminal on Lummi Point. A beach makes it easy to launch your kayak. Paddle from Gooseberry Point to Lummi Island. Hale Passage, the mile-wide gap between Lummi Point and Lummi Island, produces strong tidal currents, so it’s important to time your trip during slack tide, when the tide is highest or lowest. Embark right at high tide to let the ensuing ebb tide pull you towards the island.
Check the marine forecast and the tide chart. Also, ensure everyone in your group is capable of making the one-mile crossing and wears a personal flotation device.
Head south along Lummi’s eastern shore. Explore the rugged coastline as you go – bluffs rise up to 1,500 feet from the water. Campsites are located in a cove about five miles south of the ferry terminal, just under two miles from the island’s southern tip. These sites are on state department of natural resources land and are maintained by the Whatcom Association of Kayak Enthusiasts (WAKE). Help them out by leaving no trace behind.
Bike the Cascades to Coast trail. Ditch the coast for the serenity of a weekend camping trip at Lake Shannon via the Cascades to Coast trail. All you’ll need for this weekend trip to the Cascade foothills is a pair of feet to pedal and your camping gear.
In its entirety, the Cascades to Coast bike trail stretches from Vancouver Island through the Methow Valley to Winthrop (with the help of a few ferries along the way) but you can choose your waypoints anywhere along this the 155-mile route to create your own journey. For this trip, we’re starting in Anacortes for a 50-mile ride.
From Washington Park in Anacortes, head up Oakes Avenue and take a left to follow Highway 20 to your destination as this on- and off-road trail takes you through some of the Skagit Valley’s most scenic vistas along the way. You’ll pass through the La Conner Flats, the city of Burlington and Sedro-Woolley before landing in Concrete and until you reach the foothills of the Cascades, the route provides a relatively low-impact trip in terms of elevation gain.
At mile 50, with a left turn onto Baker Lake Road in Concrete, you’ll find yourself on the shores of the stunning Lake Shannon, a deep-water reservoir in the Cascade foothills. Make camp here, and enjoy the weekend. If you’re still not winded (or, just a glutton for punishment) push through for 10 more miles and a grueling 1,000-foot elevation gain for Baker Lake. X