Story and photos By Brandon Fralic
Not every outdoor adventure needs to be hardcore. This spring, between backcountry skiing in winter and summer’s high alpine explorations, consider taking a break to simply chill. No summit bagging, turn earning or backpacking – just take a leisurely weekend to hike low-elevation trails, cruise scenic bike paths, and enjoy local craft brews. It’s all there in Chilliwack, B.C.
The drive in from Bellingham or Vancouver is relatively short (1 hour, 15 minutes in good conditions) and couldn’t be more straightforward; set the cruise control and head east on B.C. Highway 1. Mt. Baker looms to the south and the Canadian Cascades rise up all around as you enter the Fraser Valley. Home to over 900 farms, the valley is an agricultural mecca and a literal breath of fresh air for those traveling from the big city.
Begin your Chilliwack weekend with a not-too-strenuous hike up Teapot Hill. The trail begins near the shore of Cultus Lake, and gains elevation slowly but steadily up an old forest road. At 1 mile (1.6 km), a signed junction guides you uphill to the right. Here, the hike truly begins. As you transition from forest road to dirt trail, keep an eye out for those namesake teapots. They could be everywhere or they could be nowhere – some trip reporters have counted up to 50 on a single day, while others claim to see none at all. It’s a mysterious phenomenon.
The story goes that in the 1940s, a logger discovered a teapot on this 1,181-foot (360-meter) hill. The name stuck, and in recent years users have taken the liberty of decorating the trail with teapots. It’s a fun hike for kids, no doubt, but litter concerns have prompted Cultus Lake Provincial Park to clean up the area. Be respectful and don’t add any pots to this tea party. At the top of Teapot Hill, enjoy views over Cultus Lake and the Columbia Valley before heading back to town.
If you’re staying downtown, check out Chilliwack’s newest brewery. Chaos & Solace is housed in a lofty historic building with exposed brick walls. Brews worth trying include the flagship Luckakuck Kölsch and Lakeside Hefe-Weisse.
Chaos & Solace is located one short block from The Royal Hotel, perhaps the best place to stay in downtown Chilliwack. Established in 1908, this boutique hotel offers antique furnishings and a whole lot of history. Head down to the attached bar (Wilde Oscar’s) for a nightcap before returning to your room for the ultimate chillout: a soak in a claw-foot tub.
If you prefer camping, B.C. Parks offers four campgrounds at Cultus Lake, which all open for the season on March 31. Check out Delta Bay and Maple Grove for easy access to Teapot Hill and other hiking trails. Be aware that Cultus Lake is one of the most popular provincial parks in B.C. Activities include swimming, fishing, paddle sports and boating. For a relaxed camping experience, try Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park. This park offers both car/RV and backcountry camping.
A good option for a second day in the far North Cascades is to head east along B.C. Highway 1 to Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park. The sixth-tallest waterfall in Canada, Bridal Veil Falls is bound to be busy on weekends. The park closes seasonally during winter and reopens in April; check with B.C. Parks before making the drive out. Once you arrive, a short loop trail leads out to the impressive 60-meter falls. Flows should be excellent in spring. Pack a lunch to take advantage of picnic tables throughout the park.
If you were visiting in summer, I’d recommend a hike up Elk Mountain or Mount Cheam. But in spring the snow lingers and it’s all about chillaxing in Chilliwack. Instead, bring your bike or rent some wheels for a riverside cruise on the Vedder River Rotary Trail. This 5-mile (8 km) gravel trail is flat, easily accessible year-round, and also great for walking and jogging.
When you’ve had your fill of leisurely outings, Old Yale Brewing is your best bet for a dialed-in pint near the river. On the Canadian brew scene since 1999, they’ve created a bevy of beloved brews over the years including Sasquatch Stout – named “Beer of the Year” at the Canadian Brewing Awards in 2014. You can’t go wrong with Old Yale’s solid lineup of IPAs, lighter brews and seasonals. Try the Screaming Banshee Irish Cream Stout – if you can find it.
Length: 3.4 miles (5.5 km) round-trip
Gain: 820 feet (250 meters)
Getting There: From Chilliwack, take Vedder Road south. After crossing the Chilliwack River, turn left onto Columbia Valley Highway. Follow this road 5.1 miles (8.3 km) to the parking lot on the left.
Bridal Veil Falls
Length: 1.2 miles (2 km) round-trip
Getting There: Going east on Highway 1, take exit 135. Do not cross over the highway. Go straight on an access road for 1 km to commercial area. Look for and follow Bridal Falls Provincial Park signage on your right.
Vedder River Rotary Trail
Length: 5 miles (8 km) one way
Getting There: Take Exit 119A (Sardis-Vedder) from Highway 1. Head south on Vedder Road and turn right on Keith Wilson Road. Access the trails and parking lots by turning left on either Peach, Lickman, or Sumas Prairie roads.
Brandon Fralic writes about Pacific Northwest trails, ales, and travel for a handful of regional publications. brandonfralic.com