St Mark’s Summit is a great hike for early summer if you live near Vancouver. You get to experience the start of the Howe Sound Crest Trail that follows along the Britannia Range of Mountains, past some incredible old growth trees with pretty mountain and sea views. The path is easy to follow, and not too exhausting if you are used to Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains.
If you fancy a quiet hike- this is probably not the best hike for you! It was sooo busy! You can just about keep social distance on the trail; But there were so many people that we didn’t really experience the quiet nature sounds on the way to the Summit. Having said that, if you continue on to Unnecessary Mountain or the Lions, it is far quieter.
St Mark’s Summit Map
St Mark’s Summit – the basics
Distance: 10.8 km
Elevation gain: 460m (elevation change is closer to 605m)
Highest Point: 1371m
Time: 4.5 hours (including a long break on the top)
What to bring:
Hiking poles are useful, as are microspikes if you go in spring or early summer.
The 10 Essentials
There is water and toilets at the Cypress resort.
Dogs: Fun for dog, but they need to be on a leash.
How hard is it? This is a great walk for the start of the hiking season. There is an easy to follow path (although it’s very rooty in some places.)
St Mark’s Summit – Getting started
One of the great things about this hike is that you can start at the base of Cypress Mountain Ski resort. This means that although the hike reaches up to an elevation of 1371m, your car will bring you all the way up to 900m. To get started, follow the signs towards Bowen Lookout. In early June there was a bit of snow on the trail straight away, but it wasn’t icy, so we didn’t need our microspikes.
After 30-40 minutes you’ll reach the first really good viewpoint, Bowen Lookout. If you don’t fancy walking the whole way to St Mark’s Summit this is also a fun mini hike with great views.
There were loads of families and small children who’d walked as far as Bowen Lookout. It was really busy, so I’m sharing my photo from last year when we arrived early in the morning and had the views to ourselves.
Path to St Mark’s Summit
I’ve described this pathway before (when we hiked to Unnecessary Mountain and the Lions). The forest in this part of Cypress Provincial Park is a pleasure to explore. The trees are seriously beautiful, especially when the sun shines through their foliage.
The pathway between Bowen Lookout and the turn-off to St Mark’s Summit had a few snowy patches. But once we reached Christmas Gully (the turn off if you plan to climb Mount Strachan), there were some deep areas of snow. This shows why St Mark’s is so popular at this time of year, the way up to Mount Strachan looks a bit more risky in the snow.
By now we were on the steep, but easy climb up St Mark’s. The path is wide, mostly snow-free and easy to follow.
After a while, the path levels off a little. Then, after that you get into the more adventurous part of the hike. The route is covered in roots, mud and melting snow. This was much more of a muddy adventure.
Get a bit higher still and the path was completely covered by snow. Be really careful once you reach the snow patches as the snow was not well packed down, and lots of people were post-holing, leaving deep tracks into the snow. Post-holing is always worse later in the day once the snow has warmed up a little – so if you want to walk when there is still snow on the ground, try to go in te morning.
Clouds on St Mark’s Summit
We reached the summit just in time to see… absolutely nothing! Despite the sunshine at lower elevations, cloud had settled on the peak, so we could not see anything at all. We decided to eat lunch slowly and hope that the sun might come out a bit later. We waited for around 30 minutes. Then, just as I had decided we should head back as it was a bit too cold… we got a few teeny views through the clouds.
This was the first weekend Cypress Provincial Park re-opened after the covid-19 lockdown, so it was VERY busy up here. We did manage to find some rocks to perch on while maintaining social distance… but we could still see and hear other hikers. When the teeny view appeared, everyone cheered!
I thought I should share a couple of photos from our previous trip up here, so you can see how amazing the views can look.
There is a very steep drop off, but the views from St Mark’s summit are spectacular. When you can see them…
Bonus Flowers on Cypress Mountain
I just had to share this as well! On the drive up and down the mountain the grassy slopes were covered in alpine lupine flowers. Aren’t they gorgeous!?
We were soooo happy to get back out to Cypress Provincial Park. St Mark’s Summit was a great (if busy) hike for this time of year. I hope you like the look of it too. Please click on the pins below if you’d like to save it for later.