Squee! I am going to share another amaaaazing walk near Vancouver – Coliseum Mountain. This might be the most epic walk so far! There was a long hike before the start, several hours of steep climbing followed by some epic scrambling up to the top. Coliseum Mountain is also the biggest faker of a mountain. There are so many views that look like they are the peak from below. I thought we’d reached the summit at least six times before we actually made it to the top!
One of my hiking friends from Wanderung had mentioned that this walk is brilliant. He told me it was long, but not too hard as it wasn’t too steep. So, I was expecting a long day but nothing too challenging. This was not true. We all found the walk HARD. It was steep, long and turned my legs into jelly on the climb back down. It took me half a week to recover as my muscles were so, so sore after this walk. So although normally I try to encourage everyone to copy my walks if you come to Vancouver, I am less keen to recommend this one. It is amazing, but you should know what you’re getting yourself into if you give it a try!! If you can’t quite manage a 10+ hour hike in North Vancouver, you can cheat and see my photos of this gorgeous climb.
Coliseum Mountain Map
Coliseum Mountain – The basics
Distance: 25km (we parked outside the gates)
Elevation gain: 1355m (but the actual elevation change is more than that.)
Highest Point: 1441m
Time: 10+ hours
What to bring:
Hiking poles (your knees will thank you!)
Loads of water (as there is hardly any on the trail apart from a couple of small snow patches)
The ten essentials
There is water and toilets at the Cypress resort. No toilets, water or facilities along the trail.
No. Don’t bring a doggy to this one. There is too much scrambling that is not suitable for paws.
How hard is it?
Difficult. Amazing, but difficult. If you are feeling super speedy and strong,you can continue on to Mount Burwell.
Coliseum Mountain – Getting Started
Marc and I went with my lovely friend Tegan (who I work with at UBC), who gave us all a lift in her car, and Min, who I met on on the way down from Goat Mountain. She is the lady who met a bear and a baby bear! We started at the Lynn Headwaters trailhead. But the road up to the trailhead is closed at the moment, so we had to tack on an extra couple of kilometres before we started the walk. This isn’t too much extra when you already plan to walk a long way! The total hike was about 25km.
Someone has decorated a tree to make it look like some kind of scary wooden gremlin near the start of the walk. Isn’t he awesome!? I also saw some bright orange mushrooms on a tree by the side of the path.
The trail begins with an easy 6km hike along the Lynn Valley over to Norvan Falls. The walk does gain a little elevation, but it is very easy going along wide paths full of dog walkers. The path follows the valley between several mountains so every so often you get glimpses of steep mountainsides through the trees.
The whole area was used by loggers in the last century and they seemed to have left quite a lot of their paraphernalia behind! We found an super-old cart with trees growing through it, as well as lots of old bits of metal chord, buckets wheel hubs etc. You can also see the sadder side of their work with the gigantic tree stumps that have lost their equally impressive treetops.
After the first section, we made it to Norvan Falls and the crossroads to Coliseum mountain. There was hardly any water flowing down the mountain stream, so we decided to skip the extra hike over to the waterfall. We’ll save it for a rainy day! The start of the path up Coliseum mountain is tough! It is very steep with lots of slippy ground and protruding roots! Near Norvan Falls at the bottom of the mountain there are also countless chopped tree-trunks. However as you get higher, some of the large old growth trees have escaped the chop. It is so cool to see these giants! I got Tegan to stand near one of them for scale.
It was a really varied and pretty walk BUT it was steep almost the whole way up. The path is well marked with orange ribbons., so it’s easy to follow. One moment we had to climb under a large felled tree. It’s not often that I find myself underneath a huge log, so I took a photo.
Partway up the steep climb, Tegan mentioned she was finding it hard, then she stopped to pop her rib back in! She is so hard-core that she hadn’t mentioned that her rib sometimes pops out! She seemed better after a bit of a break, but the terrain was still pretty tiring! By now we had gained enough elevation to see the sun through the trees. The forest transformed into a glowing green wonderland!
Gaining height also meant that the views between the trees became more and more impressive. We could see the Needles, three spiky peaks in a row, as well as the steep sides of the mountains on the other side of Lynn valley. As there was more light up this high, there were also loads of berries! I ate soooo many wild blueberries on this hike! Then, we made it to the top…of a ridge! We had our first open views – it was lovely!
But Tegan was just a little bit exhausted. The walk so far has been around 10km and she knew she still needed to walk that far back, so she decided to wait for us on a sunny spot on the ridge. We thought it was only another 20-30 minutes to the top, so when Min and I couldn’t persuade her to keep going slowly, we wandered on, leaving her behind to rest. Min and I rushed off to catch up with Marc who had kept walking further along the ridge.
For a few minutes the hike became faar easier than the previous couple of hours, so I thought we should go back and find Tegan again. Then, we realised that Coliseum Mountain is sneaky! What we thought was the peak, was just a fake peak, with a much higher section of mountain hiding behind it! From there the path up Coliseum mountain becomes more of a scramble with steeper rocks to climb as you ascend.
Coliseum Mountain does have some stunning views! This is the view towards Mount Seymour in one direction and over to some of the thousands of peaks we need to explore in the North! This view was from yet another fake peak. I didn’t mind when the vistas were so stunning. As we met up with other walkers, we gave them messages for Tegan, so she’d know it was taking longer than we expected to reach the summit.
I LOVE the views from some of these fake peaks. I have no idea what the massive mountains covered in snow are called. The three peaks in the photo on the right are the Needles that I mentioned earlier, with Vancouver looking beautiful in the haze below.
The next exciting section of Coliseum mountain involved climbing down onto a huge flat area of rocks. This had curved edges like a giant natural stage and amphitheatre. If it was possible to transport a cast (and a crowd) up this mountain, it could be the perfect backdrop for a Greek play! Can you imagine a better setting for a natural theatre!? I wonder why it is called Coliseum mountain, instead of Epic-Drama mountain!? Anyway, you can see from my photos how special this location is.
The photo above is looking back at Goat Mountain and Crown Mountain. They are the two mountains with the steep drop between them. They both look very different from this angle, but so pretty! You can also see Dam Mountain and Grouse Mountain on the left side of the photo. If you look carefully you can see the windmill on top of Grouse Mountain on the far left.
This panorama gives a wider view from slightly higher up. You can see the amphitheater, as well as Mount Seymour (the ridge to the left). The middle ridge is the Needles again. The mountains on the right are Mount Fromme, Grouse Mountain etc. You can see Vancouver, out to sea and even Vancouver island! We were so, so lucky with this perfect weather!
And finally, Coliseum Mountain allowed us to reach her real summit! There were quite a few other people at the top, despite the long, difficult walk! We met some rangers who told me the impressive mountain behind us was called Cathedral Mountain. They said it wasn’t really a mountain that you can climb, but it looks fantastic to view from other summits. The spiky mountain behind the Cathedral is called Sky Pilot Mountain in Squamish. Now that is a cool name for a mountain!
Marc and I didn’t attempt to climb Crown Mountain yet because we thought it would be a little too hard-core for us Mountain newbies. However the rangers said that they thought Coliseum Mountain is actually twice as hard as Crown! If I had known that before we started, I might not have attempted this walk. Oops!
We didn’t stay for long on the top because we didn’t want to keep Tegan waiting. I took as many photos as I could while the others ate lunch. Then I had to speed-eat as they were ready to head back down!
Marc took the best jumping photo EVER! I love the way it looks like I am flying over Cathedral Mountain! There was a pretty big drop behind me, so I was careful to jump forwards!
If we had an extra couple of hours, we could have kept walking to Mount Burwell. But We didn’t have enough hours of daylight left, and I don’t think my legs would have survived the return journey if we had tried! That is something to aim for next year. Mount Burwell is the rocky mountain to the left in the photo above.
Here is one last shot of Marc enjoying the view before we started our walk back down to Tegan.
Everyone left the peak at about the same time (probably because we all needed to zoom down before it got dark.) We left messages for Tegan with the rangers, as they were far speedier walkers than us! The we left the gorgeous views and started our long decent.
We weren’t the only ones that could leave mountain messages! Some hikers coming the other way asked if we knew Tegan. They passed on a message that she had started to descend slowly, and that she was about 45 minutes ahead of us. When we found her again at the trailhead, she said that everyone on the mountain seemed to know her! We’d told so many people to watch out for her, and they had all listened…so she had received chatty “Hi Tegan” from almost everyone that she’d met! I had left her one of my hiking poles, so she’d used that to hike down slowly. She’d had a long chat to the rangers, so she knew we were not far behind. She seemed happy and refreshed by the time we found her.
The hike down the mountain was still pretty, but oh my goodness it was tiring. Poor Marc’s legs got so tired at one point that they sort of gave way underneath him and we had to stop and sit on some logs! My legs went into total jelly-mode, so I had to be really careful not to twist my ankles. Near the bottom I was so tired that I couldn’t quite lift my legs high enough; So I have some impressive bruises where my shins hit logs. Ouch! Min fared far better than Marc and I, but even she seemed a little tired too.
Having said that, we all seemed to get a bit of a second wind when we made it down to the flatter walk through the Lynn Valley. The last 6 km were just as fast as the morning walk so we were soon reunited with Tegan at the trailhead. We walked the last kilometer back to the car, just in time to be greeted by terrible traffic back into central Vancouver!
Coliseum Mountain was truly an epic day out! I think it might be the hardest walk we’ve tried so far in Vancouver, so I am really chuffed that we managed it. It has been a week, so my legs are happy and ready to go again now!
What do you think? Would you give this walk a try? Or tackle some of the easier routes first?