When the trail leads you to somewhere magical.
Joffre Lakes, British Columbia
When the trail leads you to somewhere magical.
Joffre Lakes, British Columbia
You may not believe this (because this lake is so god-damn beautiful) but Buntzen Lake is actually man-made. Created in 1903, the Buntzen Lake hydroelectric project was the first hydroelectric generator to provide electricity to Vancouver. Back in the day, the lake used to be Vancouver's main source of electricity. Nowadays, the lake produces less than 0.4% of the power created by all BC Hydro generating stations. In 1972, BC Hydro completed the development of the Buntzen Lake Recreation Area and to this day still maintains the trails within the area.
One of the most popular trails in the area is the Buntzen Lake Loop. With a distance of approximately 8km, an elevation gain of 100m and a return time of 4 hours, it is the perfect cruisey day hike. We opted to go clockwise. Follow the 'Bunzten Lake Trail' signs and you will weave along a path parallel to the water. Shortly after beginning your hike, you will reach a floating bridge. Walk across this bridge and turn right onto a gravel road. Follow this gravel road until you arrive at a pump house. Turn right again and you will be back on the Buntzen Lake Loop trail, which encircles the lake in its entirety. And about halfway through the hike, you will reach North Beach - a quieter beach compared to the one near the parking lot.
The Buntzen Lake Loop trail allows you to walk between magnificent Douglas Fir trees and mighty Cedar trees, almost through small trickling creeks and over a number of wooden bridges that look like they could be pieced together to form an old school rickety rollercoaster. All the while (or most of it), the trail offers spectacular views of pristine water, dramatic mountains and the occasional kayaker.
Being only a 45 minutes drive northeast of the city, Buntzen Lake makes for a great day trip.
NB: A more challenging and uphill hike in the area is Diez Vistas. Suitably named as its Spanish translation is 'ten views'. We will definitely be coming back to do this one.
Just a 30 minute drive from downtown Vancouver lies a Pacific Northwest Rainforest oasis - Lighthouse Park. The 185 acres of forested land boasts some of the city's last remaining first growth Douglas Firs as well as a variety of excellent hiking trails that are easily accessible for all to enjoy.
Lighthouse Park's coastal temperate rainforest is home to some of the tallest trees in the world. First growth Douglas Firs, Hemlocks and Redcedars are around 500 years old and stand over 200ft tall. That's a lot of age and a lot of height. Stand anywhere in the forest and these trees will tower above you whilst you're surrounded on ground level by wet moss, fern trees and other vibrant greens. Amidst all of this rainforest lies the Point Atkinson Lighthouse. Originally built in 1874 and then renovated in 1912, the lighthouse highlights where Burrard Inlet (coastal fjord) meets Howe Sound (a network of fjords). It's these kinds of fjords that make the Vancouver landscape an incredible sight to see.
Within Lighthouse Park, there are a multitude of trails through the forest but for more coastal scenes of cliffs, coves and beaches, we suggest following Juniper Loop, Shore Pine Trail, Valley Trail and Arbutus Trail. Along these trails, you'll find various viewpoints including Juniper Point, Shore Pine Point, Eagle Point, Starboat Cove, West Beach and, of course, the Lighthouse Viewpoint. At Juniper Point, you'll often see rock climbers abseiling over the edge, scaling the walls and popping their heads up as they reach the top of their ascent.
Have a look at the trail map here and get exploring.
Three hours drive away from the city of Melbourne lies an incredible and rugged mountain range - the Grampians. This National Park boasts an array of adventure, hiking, camping, and even some food and wine from local producers and nearby vineyards. At the heart of the Grampians lies Halls Gap, a perfect spot to grab a bite to eat before a day of exploration begins. We recommend Harvest, a cute little cafe (come provedore and accommodation) delivering a number of hearty brunch choices and, of course, coffee.
No matter how long you spend at the Grampians, the trip is not complete without hiking the Pinnacle. This trail is an easy 2.1km with a short 2 hours return time. Starting at the Wonderland car park, follow the signs and walk over the bridge. The start of the trail is predominantly bushwalking and stairs. As you ascend, steep sandstone walls with spectacular layers will tower above you on both sides - this is Australia's very own Grand Canyon but, obviously, much smaller in scale. As you reach the top of the canyon, a green sea of Australian forestry as far as your eyes can see will be on your right. On your left, a trail leads you further up to the peak (aka pinnacle) where you'll find a magnificent 360° panoramic view of the Grampians.
For more awesome views, head to Boroka Lookout. For some waterfall scenes, check out Mackenzie Falls. Both of these are only a 10 minute drive from Halls Gap.
Wild kangaroos are aplenty in the Grampians, so you'll be sure to see some hopping about.
Hiking in the Grampians National Park.
Photo credit: Billie Norman
Amazing scenes and colours at Lake O'Hara earlier this fall.
Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.
If you've ever been to Banff (or seen a photo at least), you've probably noticed a perfectly placed mountain at the end of Banff Ave. This did not happen by chance. Back in the late 19th century, the town of Banff was consciously designed to illuminate the majestic Cascade Mountain in all of its glory. Standing at an impressive 2998m height, Cascade looks like a snow-covered misplaced pyramid in the Canadian Rockies. The dense tree line reaches less than half way up this colossal mountain whilst the rocky jagged peak soars high into the sky. Waking up every morning to a view of this mountain never gets old. And what makes it even better - is knowing that I’ve reached the summit of this bad boy!
To start this pretty strenuous all-day hike, head up to the Mount Norquay ski area and grab an empty spot at the parking lot. The trailhead begins at the Mount Norquay Ski Lodge and from here you want to follow the signs towards the Cascade Amphitheatre. Parks Canada signs will guide you to the Cascade Amphitheatre, but no further. The reason for this is because of the high risk and danger that hiking to the summit of Cascade Mountain can ensue. From the Ski Lodge, walk past the bases of the ski lifts until you get to the Mystic chairlift (0.8km). As you pass Mystic on your left, there is a sign to the Cascade Amphitheatre which leads you into the valley to Forty Mile Creek (2.9km). Cross the bridge and then the five hour upwards climb begins. First, you are treated to some pretty arduous switchbacks through wonderfully green and dense Canadian alpine forestry (2.3km), which can sometimes feel never-ending. The end of the switchbacks leads to a spectacular opening to the beautiful Cascade Amphitheatre. Towering limestone cliffs encompass an extensive polychromatic alpine meadow with fresh vibrant wildflowers scattered as far as you can see. Standing in the natural amphitheatre, the summit of Cascade looks pretty close but it is here that I learnt that appearances can be very deceiving. The false peak from this angle is stupidly obvious, but as soon as you get to the ridge line it is definitely not-so-obvious.
To the right you will see a steep path through scattered trees leading upwards, head this way until you get to another clearing. The next stage of the hike (top of the amphitheatre to the ridge line) looks like a never-ending trail of rubble in the form of huge boulders. It is here that your pace will probably begin to slow down as you have to think carefully about every step you take forward. From this point of the hike, there are no more Parks Canada signs. Instead, you are guided by fluorescent orange spray paint marks on scattered rocks – be sure to look for the next orange tag before you leave the one you’re at! As you make your way across these boulders, you'll often see a trail of scree (small loose rocks) that will lead you along the most popular route to the next orange point. As you traverse across the mountain, cute chubby marmots play hide and seek with their friends. You'll see them resting every now and again to take in the stunning view of Mount Norquay with its luscious green snow-less ski runs carved perfectly in-between the trees.
Once you get to the ridge line, it is now you're turn to tower over the humungous Cascade Amphitheatre - looking down from this point can be somewhat scary. It is here that you will see the easily mistakable false peak. To avoid getting stuck atop of the fake summit, follow the faint zig-zag switchbacks upwards that seem to hug around the right side of the false peak. Once you pass the false summit, it is easy to see the ridge line again and get back on track for the real summit! Although it looks close, the final ascension to the top is still pretty far away. But at least from here, the end is in sight!
After about an hour of ruthless upwards climbing on very forgiving scree, you reach the summit of Cascade Mountain. And this view is nothing short of spectacular. On one side, you have an incredibly blue Lake Minnewanka surrounded by beautiful mountains. And on the other side, there is a breathtaking panoramic view of a mighty Mount Rundle standing in-between Canmore on the left and Banff on the right with a never-ending supply of mountains in the background. (I was kicking myself for not taking my SLR on the hike with me, so these are all just photos taken from my iPhone.)
If you're in Banff for a couple of days (and relatively fit), I'd definitely recommend this hike. The feeling that you get from climbing a mountain as grandiose as Cascade, which is topped off with an awe-inspiring view is out of this world.
Round trip: 10 hours (give or take, dependent on fitness and how many stops you take)
Length: 18km (approx)
One of the views at the summit of Ha Ling Peak looking towards Goat Creek Valley with Goat Pond just poking out behind the mountains. Canmore, Alberta, Canada.
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