What makes British Columbia the (beautiful) British Columbia that I know? The first thing I always notice when I drive into BC, is the ground cover: ferns. There are ferns everywhere, growing on everything. That, couple with eight times the moss than I have ever seen anywhere else, especially in Alberta, makes for a million shades of green in every direction. The second thing I notice? The rich, earthy, sweet smell of cedar. It's also the trickling streams, the ever-mysterious fog and mist if you aren't already up in the clouds anyway. It's the many waterfalls, and it is the dense and unimaginably tall forests.
Anytime I get a chance to adventure in a new place, I jump at the opportunity to hike somewhere different! So, naturally, I had to get out while in BC this month.
Not being that familiar with the area, I did my research and selected a trail with some decent reward but little to overcome in terms of technical challenges, or traveling too far off of a beaten trail (for the sake of my very concerned grandparents!), and so I chose to do the West Canyon Trail in the Golden Ears Provincial Park.
I used the Trail Peak directions to figure out where to park (google directed me to the West Canyon Trail trailhead/parking area no problem) and for along the trail. The notes about traveling down a 25 ft embankment and climbing up the other side by way of a yellow rope, however, must be out of date. I did make it to Alder Flats (the signage and trail tags are excellent), but I did not run into this. I'm guessing either the trail has since been re-routed or the maintenance crew has managed to adjust the trail accordingly.
Speaking of the park service or the volunteers that manage and maintain this trail - it is in great shape! Especially considering the amount of water that runs over it, and the tree roots that run through it. I don't think I would have tackled this trail in early spring as I did, in my gym runners; waterproof hiking boots were a must! In some parts, the trail is a stream and you do have to wade through both some still and running water on the trail. There is also one creek crossing but even in the snow melt season, I was able to cross over the rocks and boulders easily enough.
I took off out of the parking lot at 8:23 am and arrived at Alder Flats by 10:30 am. I hung around and marvelled at the surrounding peaks for about twenty or thirty minutes (at the helicopter landing area), and was back on the trail after hearing some thunderous avalanche activity up on Golden Ears. I stopped for periodic photo breaks on the way down, and made it back to the car about 1:15 pm. Overall trip time was just shy of four hours.
It's 6 km from the trailhead to Alder Flats (which is a backcountry camp site), and another 6 km if you want to carry on up Golden Ears Trail. Since I haven't quite conditioned my legs for summer distances yet, a 12 km round-trip was plenty for me! While not necessarily steep, the rocky trail conditions and consistent elevation gain/loss/gain/loss is a good enough workout for the legs.
There aren't a lot of great view or vantage points, aside from the Gold Creek Lookout, but my heart lives in the forest, and I can never get enough of the moss that grows, stringing itself from scarecrow-esque tree limbs.
There are lots of options along the way to adjust your trail. Choose your own adventure! On your way down from Alder Flats, there is a connection where you can take the East Canyon Trail back down to the Gold Creek Day Use Area, which isn't much further down the road from where you left your car. Alternatively, at about the 3 km mark (going up), you can drop down to the creek and take a snack break around Lower Falls. There is a way to get back out on the Lower Falls trail from there (which also takes you back out to the Gold Creek Day Use Area), but I haven't navigated my way over to it, so I can't confidently give directions. I hiked into Lower Falls last year via the West Canyon Trail. Instead of taking the lower trail back, I just popped back up to the West Canyon Trail and went back the way I had come.
If you're up for a big day, but aren't interested in summiting Golden Ears after reaching Alder Flats, there are a couple other options along the way. Closer to the trailhead, there is a junction for the View Point Trail and Evans Peak.
Directions can also be found on The Outbound Collective. My only comment here is that I do not know how the 6.8 miles distance that is listed is generated. A sign at the trailhead says one-way it's 6 km to Alder Flats, and 12 km to Golden Ears Summit, and my tracking confirms that this is relatively accurate.
All-in-all, I had a beautiful Wednesday enjoying a rain-free but otherwise overcast spring day in the BC forest. I'd stay forever if I could.
Photos are my own. Please do not use or reproduce without my written permission.