July 5th hike to the Saddle of the Lions (via Lions Bay)
There are several ways to hike the Lions, with two of the popular ones being from Cypress Mountain Trail Head and the other from Lions Bay. There are pros and cons to both (mainly from Cypress is slightly longer, but a little less steep). We did it from Lions Bay but would like to try it the other direction next time.
Note that if you leave from Lions Bay, there are only 4 parking spots at the trail head and the parking lot is at the school a kilometer down the steep windy mountain. We got there at 6am hoping to beat the crowds but the spots were already full. We realized on the hike up that they were from over nighters. (So with the extra 2 km that added on, we could have matched the extra distance from the Cypress route and I hear the trail is nicer.) Either way, the roads are groomed and no 4x4 is necessary. Look up online for exact directions depending on that route you want. They are both easy to find.
Starting from the well marked gate/TH in Lions Bay, follow the wide gravel road and after 5 minutes of flat terrain, you will begin your ascent. A short distance up the trail, you reach a fork that heads off to Mount Harvey. Go right and continue along the wide gravel road as it travels through a series of switchbacks, gradually snaking its way uphill.
After 25-30 minutes of hiking, the trail reaches another junction. Again, go right and continue uphill as the trail begins to level. For the next 30 minutes, the trail remains at a relatively easy incline but don't get too comfortable with this as the every section you will come to gets steeper and more technical than the last. The trail wraps around the mountainside and passes a scenic waterfall (where we decided we would cool off in on our way back).
* Please note that there is NO acceptable drinking water along the entire trail. There is one waterfall but it is marked that it contains (or may contain) Giardia. Make sure you take plenty of water. It's a long, difficult hike with the last grueling hour + in exposed boulder fields. We passed many unprepared hikers and urged them to turn around.
Though the trail is well marked for the most part, keep your eyes open for markers. We had to back track a couple of times but it was never far and was always easy to find where we veered off. Though we blasted through the first 6.5km, the last 3km took twice as long. (Keep your pace steady as you have to reserve energy for the final boulder fields where you really need to pay attention!)
Just a short distance after the trail begins to really start to climb, there is a clearing which offers a viewpoint of Howe Sound and Bowen Island. Unfortunately my brother and I hiked it in the midst of the hot, hazy air from the forest fires so we could hardly see a thing... but I image it would be beautiful on a clear day!
For the next hour or so, the trail climbs steadily through beautiful fir and cedar forests with a significant amount of dead fall. Be prepared to climb over and under many fallen trees. Eventually, the trail opens on a ridge from an opening in the trees and standing tall to your right is the breathtaking West Lions. This is the Look Out point. From here you can only see the one Lion as the other is tucked behind it. Once you approach it from another angle you will see both, I promise!
Follow the trail to the right and for a short distance you won't see any markers. Keep going and eventually you will see spray painted marks on big boulders leading you up. As you continue your climb, take the occasional moment to stop and look back at the view of Howe Sound and the town of Lions Bay where you started your trek earlier in the day.
The route over the boulders continues to climb and with each step it gets steeper. The last section of the trail is the steepest, climbing up a short gully (between Unnecessary Mountain and the Lions) as you make a scramble to the top. Reaching a ridge, another small hill appears in front of you. Just a few more minutes up this section and you have reached another ridge that offers a full view of both Lions' peaks as well as the views of Howe Sound, Unnecessary Mountain, and Vancouver off to the left.
If you're brave, experienced, and prepared, you can continue further and summit the West Peak from here, but we did not have time that day (and truth be told, though I love a good scramble, even this one looked daunting to me). We sat here, ate some chicken wings, and then started our descent.
On the way down, we stopped at the waterfall and cooled down. A very nice reward to a long hike!
(Based on the Lions Bay TH, to the base on the West Lion, and back)
18km (add an extra 2 if you can't park nearby and have to park at the school)
1328m final elevation gain (from the TH; again add more if you park at the school)
It took us 9 hours, but that was with many picture breaks, half an hour (at least) at the top for lunch, and half and hour at the waterfall. So probably 7.5-8 hours of hiking time, but allow 9 hours (or more) if you like to stop.
If you have any questions, feel free to email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or follow her on other adventures here: https://instagram.com/the_wandering_willow/