Vancouver Walks – Bowen Island and Mount Gardner

Vancouver Walks – Bowen Island and Mount Gardner

We started the weekend by waking up at ridiculous o’clock to catch a bus, and then a ferry out to the beautiful Bowen Island. Our plan was pretty simple; Explore some of the island and climb Mount Gardner. Bowen Island is only about 20 minutes away on a ferry from Horseshoe Bay. And Horseshoe Bay is only a 40 minute speedy-bus ride from central Vancouver. So it is an incredibly accessible place to visit by public transport once you’ve worked out the logistics. It’s also very reasonable. Our tickets were $12.35 return – that is amazing value for a trip that feels like a mini holiday! We were on the ferry just after 8am when the coastline leading to Howe Sound was all misty and gorgeous.  Does this not look like a good start!?

Mount Gardner is the highest point on the island at 720m. It is perfect for a hike because the walk loops around the mountain, allowing amazing views from multiple locations. You also don’t have to double back and wander along the same trail twice. We had a hiking book with a slightly rubbish map. But we picked up a better map from a sweet info centre right next to the Bowen Island Library in Snug Cove. You can find their maps online here. Our new map showed a nice walk through Crippen Regional Park and around Killarney Lake to get to the trail-head for Mount Gardner. So we set off.

Crippen Regional Park is lovely! I mean, just look at these amazing ex-trees! The first fragment of a the trunk is so massive I can only imagine how impressive it was as a full tree! The other tree was one of the ex-trees that provided a base for new trees.

This whole areas is full of natural beauty. We saw a blue jay with ridiculously blue feathers! He was so bright he looked like he’d fit in hiding behind bright facinators at a posh wedding, or on ladies day at the races. We also saw an owl! It’s the first time I’ve seen an owl in the wild and I was so excited. I was even more excited when it turned its neck almost the whole way around – like the child in the exorcist – so it could stare at us! I did take photos of both these birds, but as I don’t have a zoom lens, they are not very clear. I’ll post other piccies of the amazing trees and scenery instead.

Next we walked around Killarney Lake . The  lake was reflecting the bright blue sky, so looked really pretty. It is also slightly eerie because there are quite a few tall, dead, waterlogged tree trunks that stand at  the edge of the lake bed. They must have been flooded when the Dam was first built, but for some reason the have never fallen down. They make me think of a tree graveyard.

From the lake, there is a bit of a climb up to the trail head; And then we were ready to hike up Mount Gardner!

The actual walk is a loop, so if you don’t get confused and turn the wrong way on the logging roads, you won’t have to follow the same path twice. It isn’t too steep. It’s far easier than the Grouse Grind (and Dam Mountain) or the Stawamus Chief. But for some reason I found it quite hard going. Marc is getting stronger, so he zoomed off and had to keep waiting for me. I did really enjoy the walk, but my heart was really racing to keep up most of the time! I even stopped to take a selfie while I felt knackered; This is because I normally remember things with rose-tinted glasses, and I wanted to remind myself that I can’t always zoom as fast as I want to!

Luckily the exhausting section was near the start. It actually got easier as we moved up the mountain as our route included a gentle ridge walk to the top. Soon after we got close to the top of the ridge, we were rewarded with this amazing view. Somehow seeing the lovely blue sky and sea re-invigorated me, and I was fine for the rest of the day. Yay!

I LOVED the last push to the top. There were pretty mushrooms, gorgeous trees, and holy trees that have been marked by a woodpecker. The path is well marked, but by teeny teeny bits of red tape, so they can be hard to spot!

The very last 50m(sh) were super steep, but there is a rope you can use to drag yourself up. We could hear what sounded like a party at the very top! There were loooads of people! Someone has erected two large decks for people to sit on while they admire the views. Once faces the island going North, and the other faces Vancouver and Mount Baker. There was no room on the first platform, so we decided to perch on a massive rock just above the main summit-party-folks.

While we relaxed and ate lunch, a deer wandered out of the trees to munch some of the numerous salal berries. I don’t think many other people could have seen her because they were facing the other way out to the obvious views. We didn’t want to shout to let people know, as it might have scared her off…so we managed to have a quiet deer moment in the middle of a mountain crowd.

We also spent some time admiring the view of Vancouver, my new workplace at the University of British Columbia and the Fuji-like Mount Baker.

The way down was similarly gorgeous to the way up. Although we did get turned around on the logging roads and managed to add a few extra kilometres to our walk. Oops.

Once we made it back to the trail-head, we didn’t have much water, so I wanted to head straight to a beach. Marc liked the idea of following another trail around Killarney Lake.  As he only had one day off this weekend, I let him choose. So we added an extra hours wander to the end of our day. The loop around Killarney lake is a really pleasant walk all of it’s own.

We finished our day trip with a dip in the warm waters at the beach just next to snug cove. There are quite a few barnacles on the rocks, so it is a little painful to step into the sea BUT once you’ve made it deep enough not to have to put weight on your feet, it’s awesome! There is quite a narrow entrance to the cove; So I suppose the cold sea water had some time to heat-up in this shallow area. Seriously though, if you come to Bowen Island, bring some swimming shoes!! Blooming barnacles.

Lastly we wandered back to the ferry terminal to catch a boat back to Vancouver. I was slightly confused because although we arrived with plenty of time, I couldn’t find a ticket office anywhere! I asked some ladies if they knew where I should go to buy our return tickets; They told me that everyone rides on the ferry for free in this direction. That way the ferry company doesn’t need to maintain staff and a ticket booth on this side! Clever eh!?

Anyway, this is SUCH a lovely day trip from central Vancouver. If you ever visit (even if you don’t want to climb the mountain) it’d still be worth a visit to wander around Killarney lake and to swim in the warmer-than-you’d-expect sea!

I’ll finish the main post with some of the pretty flowers we saw around the island. These are for mum. ❀ ✿ ❃

I may have overdone things this weekend. I keep hearing that Vancouver is rainy and a little grim in the autumn/winter so I really want to make the most of the sunny days. The problem is (if you can call it a problem – it is actually really awesome) at the moment it’s sunny all the time. So, I need to make the most of my time, all the time! Even though I am not quite used to waking up really early for work, I woke up even earlier at the weekend to go on these amazing hikes!

But now I have a bit of a sore throat and I feel a little poorly. Plus I didn’t have a chance to clean the apartment properly, so I now need to do all the chores that I should have done at the weekend. My body can’t quite keep up with all the things I want to do! And that is rubbish. 🙁

Having said all that, I had one of the best weekends ever!! It was TOTALLY worth it.

37 thoughts on “Vancouver Walks – Bowen Island and Mount Gardner

      1. Amazing photos! Just curious what equipment do you use for your photos and what do you use for post processing? Everything looks so lush and picturesque. Sorry for using this comment it gave me an error earlier!

        Please check check out my blog as well when you have a moment :).

        1. Don’t worry! It came though! I was just watching tele, so I didn’t manage to approve it yet.

          I’m popping over to visit your blog now too. 😀

  1. Wow – you walked pretty much the entire trail network 🙂 Definitely picked the right day to go up. The platforms at the top are helipads for servicing all the telecommunications gear at the summit. The first time we climbed Mt Gardner we couldn’t sit at the one with the view of Vancouver thanks to a big yellow helicopter 🙂

    1. Ooooh! I totally convinced myself that they had built them for walkers! I just assumed the people of the island were trying to create a walkers paradise! 😀

      It makes so much more sense now I know they are meant to be for helicopters!

    1. Omg. My new job is an hour away, and I start at 8am, so these days my normal wake up time is 5:45 if I cycle, or 6:00 if I don’t. It is truly ridiculous o’clock. I’m hoping I’ll get used to it at some point!!

  2. I can’t get over how BLUUUUE it all is!?!? Truly, how gorgeous!! Beautiful, thanks for sharing! I live in Arizona, and it’s very much a desert landscape! I do miss the water and the BLUE! Even the sky here is a bit dull because there’s not much water around! Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. I know, when the sun is shining everything is blue and green! It’s lovely!

      I think it’ll all go grey when the rain comes though!

    1. Thanks Hanna!

      I have a Lumix mirrorless camera (I want it with me all the time so I needed something small!) I didn’t buy any extra lenses, that’s why my wildlife shots are always a bit far away!

      I don’t do a lot of post-processing. I just need to straighten the horizons, remove flecks of dust, and occasionally boost the contrast. I use affinity (a cheap, but brilliant, photoshop-like program)

  3. “Ridiculous o’clock” LOL! That had me chuckling. I feel better knowing that a hiking ace like yourself gets lost too! I wonder if you didn’t have much energy during the beginning of your hike because you were coming down with something? Or, is it the smoke? I hate grown up responsibilities like cleaning when all you have is the weekend to live!!

    1. Yeah, I think I was coming down with a cold. I had to take a day off on Wednesday because I was so sick. 🙁

      The smoke wasn’t bad last weekend but it became reeeeally noticeable during the week. Now, Vancouver air feels like London air. (Nooo!)

  4. Your photos are gorgeous. I’ve never been to Bowen Island so really enjoyed seeing the views and beauty in your pictures. Good thing it was a deer not a bear that wandered out to munch on berries 🙂

    1. I wonder if there are any bears there!? They’d have to somehow sneak onto the ferry!

      I was wishing for one of your excellent camera lenses when we saw the deer and the owl! You are sooo much better at animal photos!

  5. Beautiful pictures, great commentary, and I love to see (based on your words) that you observe and enjoy all the little things nature has to give us. From woodpecker holes to brilliant wildflowers. <3 Thanks for sharing your hike with us!

    1. Thank you for popping over to read it!

      I think I get very caught up in seeing the little things like woodpeckers holes and mushrooms! Sooo many of my photos are of bits and bobs like that!!

    1. Aww thank you!
      I am so glad we managed to get some fresh air last weekend! This week the air is full of smoke from the forest fires faaaar away in central B.C. I think I would struggle to walk up the same mountain this week as it is so smokey!

  6. It can run to grey and rainy for months on end, but I think that the West Coast is still beautiful in spite of it! Something cool to try (if you have the time and motivation) is to do the same walks six months apart and see the difference in views- it’s crazy to see the difference the rainy season can make!! As always, your pictures make me excited to move further out west next year- thank you for sharing 😀

    1. Oooh I am very up for doing that! Apart from Evans Peak…that one might be dangerous once it gets wet!

      Where are you moving to next year? maybe we could meet up!?

  7. I am so glad you liked one of my blog posts that I found my way here. I have been to Bowen Island – more than once – but was completely unaware of the walks you describe. I too have some difficulties on the steep bits, but you have encouraged me to go back to Bowen and try out this walk. Thank you!

    1. Dear Stephen, I am really glad that you popped over then! I really loved the walks on Bowen Island. I hope you like them too!

      I loved your photos of the murals! I am now thinking about exploring around Main street this weekend to see them all. 🙂

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