For many, the access to wild, natural places around us here in Squamish was originally a strong motivator to make the move to our little slice of paradise at the head of the Howe Sound.
Residents who have also chosen to start a small family in this town and raise their children here will, at some point, have to answer the question: “What will be this new person’s first hike?” Thankfully Squamish has trails of all levels of difficulty, down to those easy enough for very young children.
When to start taking your kid hiking is a tough question to answer but most advice seems to always be “as soon as possible.” The benefits can be huge, from simply providing a great source of physical activity to helping in the development of a child’s imagination and sense of wonder.
Once you have a good understanding of your own child’s abilities and interests you can begin planning where to take them and what to expose them to.
Here is advice about what to plan at home before heading out:
Points of interest
Thankfully this is almost never an issue in Squamish, but pick a hike that has plenty of viewpoints or interesting features along the way to break it up so your child has opportunities to play between walking along the trails.
Keep them close
It goes without saying, but keeping your kids within sight at all times is always great advice. While most seasons go by without any serious encounters with wild animals on the trails in Squamish, cougars and bears are out there and should be thought about.
Water and food
Exactly like adults, a child that is hydrated and fed will have the energy and happiness to sustain them throughout the hike. Plenty of snacks to break up walking on the trail is highly recommended.
In regard to where to go, Squamish has a lot of locations that are near a main road and offer flat and undulating trails of varying distances with plenty of attractions and points of interest along the way.
Here are a few that I can highly recommend:
Four Lakes Loop
While to many the Four Lakes Loop in Alice Lake Provincial Park is already a staple for hiking and walking, I know that personally I only found out about it after living in Squamish for a few years.
This six-kilometre trail, if completed in full, winds its way through the quiet forests near Alice Lake, passing by Stump, Edith and Fawn lakes along the way. There are sections of steeper uphill but they are short lived.
The trail mostly meanders, rolling up and downhill along the way.
A stop at one of the beaches at Alice Lake near the end is highly recommended for a swim to cool down or play in the sand.
Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash. Camping is allowed in Alice Lake Provincial Park if you wish to make a weekend out of your visit!
This is a personal favourite area of mine to explore.
While most of the visitors to Brohm Lake will stay along the craggy eastern shores to swim and sunbathe on the rocks, the trail networks along the west side of the lake that snake up and into the trees are usually quiet most days.
The forests are lush and varied with plenty of natural curiosities to keep a young person’s mind alight with wonder.
Make sure to arrive early for this hike as the parking lot quickly fills up at this popular spot.
From the parking lot you have the option of heading left or right around the lake.
I recommend going left in a clockwise direction. Starting out you could do the straightforward, undulating trail and circumnavigate the lake but on subsequent visits, if your child is feeling up to it, you can ascend trails on the western side of the lake, which weave their way through the forests, bringing you to unexpected viewpoints across to Mount Tantalus and the peaks that surround it.
A visit to Shannon Falls, British Columbia’s third highest waterfall, is always a classic family outing in and around Squamish.
But, after a visit to the base of the falls and the viewpoint trails around it, consider a walk through the forest over towards the base of the Stawamus Chief and the campground there.
Head out north on the trail towards the base of the Sea to Sky Gondola but stay in the forest. As you pass by the gondola you will join up with a newly built trail that leads over toward the base of the Chief. From here, depending on your child’s age, you can begin to tackle the steep trail up to the summit or simply return the way you came.
Squamish Estuary Trails
This trail is also a personal favourite because your experience can be completely different from high tide to low tide, at different times of day and season in the year. It’s definitely worth the drive down the short gravel road towards the Squamish Spit. Signposts on your left and a parking pullout indicate when you are at the start of the trail.
Along the trail you will pass by reeds, salt marshes and mud flats with the opportunities to catch a glimpse of up to 200 different varieties of wintering and migrating birds, as well as other creatures.
The views are some of the best in Squamish. Get there for evening light on the Stawamus Chief with Sky Pilot rising up behind. This short trail is sure to be a winner with young ones as there are points of interest at almost every step along the way.
These are a few places to think about as your child’s first experience with visiting natural places in and around Squamish.
We are fortunate to have so many well-maintained and easily-reached trails, lakes and viewpoints right on our doorstep. For additional ideas consider also looking into the “Oceanfront Interpretive Trail” near Newport Beach, as well as the expansive trail network in and around Murrin Provincial Park and Browning Lake.
As your child gets older, a walk along the old road to the warming shelter at Red Heather Meadows or on towards Elfin Lakes is also highly recommended.
With fall quickly approaching, now is a great time to consider hiking with young ones. The bugs are disappearing and the daytime temperatures are becoming more comfortable.
Make plans to go for a hike in Squamish!