Black Mountain is one of the super fun snowshoeing adventures in Cypress Provincial Park. It’s great as a moderate walk that you can complete in just a few hours. We have spent lots of time on this mountain on the various hiking trails as well as skiing, so I am always excited to head up here. It’s pretty similar to Hollyburn Mountain in terms of distance, difficulty and how crowded it is. It might be busy, but it is a fantastic hike, even with the crowds.
This is how I spent my birthday in December. We might not be able to visit friends in 2020; But we can celebrate by snowshoeing! I still have adventures to write about from the summertime, but there are so many people getting into snowshoeing here in Vancouver that I thought it might be more helpful for me to write up a few more of ideas for snowshoeing first.
Black Mountain Snowshoeing Map
Black Mountain Snowshoeing – the basics
Distance: 6 km
Elevation gain: 360 m
Highest Point: 1224m (North Peak)
Time: 3- 3.5 hours
What to bring:
The 10 Essentials
There is a loo, cafe, restaurant and a shop at Cypress Lodge
Dogs: Yes (on a leash)
Parking: The resort has started to charge for parking in most areas. You can only park in lot 3B for free. This is a slightly longer walk to the trailhead.
Transit: In winter you can take the shuttle up to Cypress Mountain.
How hard is it? Intermediate – It’ll get your heart going, but the path is well marked and it’s not very long.
Extra info: You need to go to Blackcomb Lodge to pick up a (free) back country pass before you get started.
Snowshoeing on Black Mountain – Getting Started
In previous years we just parked at the same area as the ski slopes. However in 2021 Cypress Resort is using covid-19 as an excuse to start charging for parking if you don’t have a ticket for skiing or snowshoeing on their paid Nordic trails. If you want to avoid the extra parking fees, you can park at lot 3B. After that, you need to visit Blackcomb Lodge. Just inside the door you can pick up a free back country pass that will allow you to cross the ski slopes at the base of the mountain without paying.
The start of the trail to Black Mountain and Bowen Lookout is just past the base of the Eagle Express Chairlift at the base of Black Mountain. Show your free back country pass to the Cypress Mountain resort staff, then follow the red sticks with green “BC parks” signs. Be careful to watch out for skiers who might zoom by on their way to the chairlift!
Bowen Lookout vs Black Mountain
Keep going straight if you plan to hiking to Bowen Lookout. It is one of the easiest free trails in the area, and is great if you fancy a short walk. For Black Mountain, you want to take the first turning on the left; Turn up the Baden Powell Trail and follow the switch backs up the mountain. The path has a few steep moments, but it is easy to follow and totally doable, even if this is your first attempt at snowshoeing.
As you climb higher, you are more likely to walk into the sunlight. You need to hike up past the top of the blue ski runs, so you can watch skiers and snowboarders swish down the slopes. You can also look back to Mount Strachan behind you.
Black Mountain Loop
Once you reach the top of Black Mountain, there is a loop past Cabin Lake and the two peaks. We headed clockwise past Cabin Lake first. It’s funny to think of swimming on top of this mountain when the lake is totally frozen!
Yew Lake Lookout
There is a trail up to the North Peak from the edge of Cabin Lake. Fewer people bother with this section, so there is a chance you’ll get these views to yourself. We stopped here for a cuppa to admire the views down to Howe Sound. I love looking at the Lions from this lookout.
Snowshoes vs Microspikes
Last time we visited Black Mountain we carried our snowshoes, but we didn’t actually wear them. The trail was so packed down by other hikers that is was easier to walk up with microspikes on our shoes. I’ve included a photo of both so you can see the difference. Both options fit over your hiking boots. It is easier to walk with microspikes if the trail is hard-packed. However once you reach powdery or melting snow, you’ll sink down into it. If you plan on visiting after fresh snow has fallen, then you should bring both.
This is what happens when you don’t wear snowshoes on softer snow! Your feet can fall into the snow, creating a posthole (as if your leg is some kind of fence post!) We didn’t have this problem on the main trail – only on the lesser-used path between Cabin Lake and Yew Lake Lookout.
Black Mountain South Peak
We spent the most time at the North Peak as it is so quiet, but we also wandered over to the South Peak
The views of Howe Sound and Mount Gardner (on Bowen Island) are lovely. If you come snowshoeing on a clear day, you can see all the way to Vancouver Island.
Watch out for cheeky Whiskey Jacks here! They will come to greet you if you take any snacks out of your bag. Just resist their cuteness as you should never feed wildlife in Canada (it’s one of the principles of leave no trace)
Once you have finished looking at the views, you can return the way you came, or continue snowshoeing along the loop around the top of Black Mountain. The loop will take you past a couple more pretty frozen lakes, and finish near the top of the ski slope, where you can head back down on the Baden Powell trail.
Walk or slide
If you are wearing snow pants, there are a couple of spots on the return hike that are perfect for sliding down the mountain. It’s not as steep as Hollyburn Mountain, (which is epic for butt-sledging) but it is still a giggle.
If you had fun, and still have some energy left, you can continue by hiking on to Bowen Lookout. That is what we did, so I’ll write a post about that snowshoeing trail next. If not, Black Mountain is a great mini winter adventure all on it’s own! What do you think? Would you like to snowshoe here? Or do you have other favourite winter trails near Vancouver?