Bowen Island Trail – Mount Gardner

– January 2017 –

Bowen Island had been on my list of places to visit for a while. We were excited by the extra ‘Adventure’ added by having to take the ferry across. So after our plans to go snowshoeing to Elfin Lakes fell-through (through terrible lack of planning) we thought that this was a perfect opportunity to employ a very high quality Plan B.

A less early start than anticipated we got ourselves on the 9am ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island. It’s only a 20 minute journey so by the time your coffee is cool enough to drink, it’s time to get going. I always love the ferry rides here on the West Coast because there is just so much to see. And despite it being a short trip one couldn’t help but look outside and gawp at the mountains and ocean around us.

Getting off at Snug Cove, a name fitting of somewhere on the Cornish Coast, the ‘town’ that presented itself to us is what we would probably expect to see from a small island such as this. It was cosy, it had some nice looking pleasure boats in the docks and some very quaint looking timber built restaurants and shops. It was just very . . . snug


We were heading up to Mount Gardener which had been promised to be a good 6 – 7 hour round tripper, so we didn’t really want to mill around too long (not that there were many things to mill over). Instead we took a short walk to Killarney Lake through some of the local trails. It was a pretty walk through meadows and some forested areas. It’s nice and flat so it’s perfect for the young families and some older folk that we saw with their dogs. We got to the lake and saw that the majority of it as frozen over. I dare say it was thick enough for a fat goose to stand on let alone a person but the majority of the lake had a slab of ice on top, with small branches resting on top having been thrown to test it’s resolve. I was one of them. After attempting and failing to capture the fog that hovered over the ice with my camera, we moved on to the base of Mount Gardner.

Some steep sides up Mount Gardner

At the trail-head, there was a nice little reminder that we should probably be walking this rather than running. The sign detailed the types of bragging rights that went along with the specific times for The Gardner Hardener. Although we are a relatively fit bunch, there wasn’t so much talk about running back this time.

We get off the access road as soon as we can by taking the Skid Trail. Not long into the trail we come across a fallen cedar. It looks to have come down by itself as there were splinters and shards of wood everywhere. Near the base of the tree the trunk had split from which the bright orange middle radiated and a beautiful smell floated. We could not help but take some time for a whiff.

Fallen tree on Bowen Island

It looks like there was a fair amount of colourful weather in recent weeks because the trail really wasn’t too clear. We followed what felt like the trail however we ended up taking a wrong turn. The path took us down the mountain rather than up. We grouped together down the bottom and agreed that this didn’t quite seem right. We made our way back up until we intersected the trail which was clearer further up. Now that we were a little higher we had reached the lingering snow from the last few weeks. It was hardly problematic. It was maybe 4 or 5 inches maximum. We curled around the side of Mount Gardner and came across a most fantastic view point. Out from the trees we saw the Howe Sound to the west and Vancouver City to the east. The overcast skies didn’t help with the photos but you could see pretty far into the distance.

The eerily grey radio tower

We weren’t too much further from the top. We decided to head to the North Summit as this is where the radio station is situated, and where there was promise of another wonderful viewpoint. Getting there was a little harder than anticipated. As the snow got deeper the trail again became less obvious. We didn’t have the benefit of other footprints to follow either as it didn’t look like anyone had been there for a few days. Of course like many of these trails, there are the pink ribbons or orange squares on the trees to follow but we found our way in the end. Not much longer we found the radio station. Some parts of the structure was fenced off and it looked like it could have been a Russian Communications tower from WWII (here’s the imagination going wondering again). It seemed very much out of place in the beauty of the forest yet it also fit.

Vancouver City in the background after having reached the top of Mount Gardner, Bowen Island

By now the snow was knee deep in some parts. But it’s not the nice kind of snow that we experienced on other hikes such as up to the Wendy Thompson Hut. Rather, it was rotten wet snow, the kind of city snow that turns into a lethal weapon when making snowballs. Arno felt the full annoyance of this. For some reason he was wearing shorts and had taken off his leggings. As a result, when the rotten snow under the ice crust gave way, it scratched and cut his ankles as he sunk into the ground. Every step was received with a yelp. It was worth his pain because it was an even better view point than the one earlier in the day. Standing on a nice wooden platform raised from the ground we could see over to the mainland, to Vancouver city and the mountains far beyond. It’s not always that you get to see so far, especially this time of year when the weather is rainy, but on this day we had our luck and got some great views.


It was soon time to make our way down. We were doing a loop so we weren’t covering the same ground as before. It looks us probably 20 minutes to find out where we should be heading. We walked up and down from the radio tower maybe 3 or 4 times which was tiring seeing as in some areas of our little investigation the snow was waist deep. We knew we had found the right way as we had come across the rope section down. This would have been fine in summer but with cold hands and slippery nylon rope it asked for a little more caution.

Arno’s bloody ankles

Staying true to our feelings towards running down we kept to a good walking pace. The snow was hanging around for quite a while on the trip down and it started to thin out as we reached the access road. It wasn’t before long that we went past the entrance for Skid Trail which we looked back on in the knowledge that this trail led us to somewhere we weren’t expecting, as if it knew it was taking us away from where we wanted to go.

Then that was it. We took ourselves back to the lake and meandered around the local trails back to Snug Cove. One of the longer hikes that we’ve been on for a while which was great for us, as it meant being out of the city for that much longer. On it’s day the views were incredible and we hope that you can see that from this post

Thanks, Scott

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