Car Free Activity – Hike The Lions Overnight

You may be wondering where I am going with this post. It could be a legitimate criticism that blending regional hiking into a biking blog is blurring a certain line but let me explain. You probably already hike and if you don’t you probably would love it. Being cyclists, the fresh air, the mountains, the physical challenge and the spirit of exploration we love are found in both activities. But, you know what bothers me about hiking? The prevailing idea that you can only access it with a car. This isn’t to start any car debate, it’s only to say that I’m frustrated by activities where you need to rely on a car to start said activity and then you often have to pay to park it for the entire day, or overnight, while you go “out” exploring.

So, what if you don’t own a car? Do you rent a car, borrow one or join a group? Here’s the big idea: Many cyclists choose cycling as a lifestyle, and many choose that as a car-free lifestyle. But so many trail heads to great hikes are only accessible by car due to the remoteness of them. Not with The Lions. You can take two busses for $2.50 to within one km of the trail-head and access a challenging and beautiful hike for some cycling cross training. On board with me now? We did this hike as an overnighter Saturday, July 14th to Sunday this past weekend and it was great. We’ll tell you all about it and how, if you’ve chosen car-free, you can get there with ease and convenience.

Binkert Trail
Difficulty: Difficult
Time: 10 hours (with overnight bag)
Distance: 16km
Elevation Gain: 1280 meters
Season: July – October
Transit: 257, C12, 1.3km walk

The Snowy Lions are a Vancouver winter landmark. The towering backdrop to the city, The Lions are the inspiration for many things Vancouver – The Lions Gate Bridge, The BC Lions, the Community of Lions Bay – they are the dominant natural feature on the Vancouver skyline. 34 kilometers from downtown Vancouver, the trailhead to hike The Lions, more accurately known as the Binkert trail, is at the end of Sunset drive in the community of Lions Bay. From Downtown one can take the “257 Horseshoe Bay Express Bus” to Horseshoe Bay. From there, the district of West Vancouver runs a community bus “C12 Brunswick” that passes through the tiny Lions Bay Community. The C12 will drop you off just up the hill from the Lions Bay Cafe and General Store where you can grab lunch or supplies for your hike. To get to the trial head, you must start you hike 1.3km early and walk up the steeply inclined Bayview Road. Take a left onto Mountain Drive at the “T” and another left onto Sunset Road to the trailhead.

The 8km trail (one way) begins on an old logging road and starts steeply from nearly the first steps. Stay right and follow the markers to The Lions. If you’re carrying an overnight bag this section will get you sweating, especially if you start around 2pm like we did. You’ll continue on this logging road going up sharply until the trail eventually narrows and flattens out after about an hour where you’ll soon pass a waterfall on the left. At about the 1hr 30 minute mark, less without an overnight pack, you’ll cross a new bridge going over Harvey creek. The trail now proceeds to get continually steeper like and exponential growth curve and you’ll spend about the next two hours climbing over roots, boulders and fallen trees with a few views of the West Lions peak, Howe Sound and Bowen Island.

Once you reach the first ridge, after about 3.5hrs you can get a very nice view of Howe Sound to the West, Harvey mountain to the North, The Lion’s peaks just above you and the snow field you’ll need to cross to get up to the ridge that offers views of the city to the East. It’s not necessary to do this part, but few people will stop at the lower ridge. When we went, there was plenty of snow and in retrospect this snow field is the worst kind of dangerous. It’s not overly difficult going up, the snow is soft and easy to get a good foot impression, but sections of the traverse are incredibly steep and falling would mean serious injury. Two people were rescued by helicopter search and rescue from falling and we can only hope they weren’t seriously hurt. Most people, ourselves included were cautious, but realistically under-prepared. You should have an ice-axe and slip on snow cleats, or trekking poles at the very least. We managed up without problem but we really took our time and have quite a bit of experience with route assessment.

One at the main ridge, the West Lions peak will be behind you to the North. We didn’t ascend this section because it is very technical and we weren’t prepared for this as we wanted to set up camp and find a nice place to eat. We found both on a rocky outcrop with a little drop to the trees and snow below. It made for a very dramatic view out the door of our tent which was only a window in this case, because exiting wasn’t an option. Our location, precariously perched above Lions Bay made for an incredible sunset and sleep before the descent.

The descent was the standard inversion of the ascent, but the morning crossing of the snow field was tough work. I feel the need to state again, don’t underestimate this section, especially on an overnighter. The snow cools and hardens overnight and the surface becomes hard and slick. It is especially necessary to take your time ensuring solid footholds. Here is where the aforementioned equipment we were lacking would have been great, so please take it our rent it. We took our time going down and rested often and were back at the Lions Bay Cafe having lunch and resting our weary legs. we grabbed the bus back to Vancouver and were home for 2pm making for a enjoyable, challenging and car-free overnight trip.


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