Snowshoeing Vancouver Area

The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley: 7 Places to Go Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley. The view from Elk Mountain in Chilliwack.

If you live in the Fraser Valley, you probably don’t want to drive all the way to the North Shore to go snowshoeing. After all, you’ve got tons of mountains right in your backyard. Whether you are a snowshoe virgin or have years of experience, there are lots of places to go snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley from Agassiz to Chilliwack to the Coquihalla to Manning Park. In this guide to snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley I’ll give you info and directions for 7 different snowshoe areas ranging from super flat beginner trails to all-day epics in true backcountry terrain. I’ll also make sure you have all the safety info you need to sure you have a great trip. And if you don’t have snowshoes yet, I’ve also got info for you on local Fraser Valley snowshoe rental shops.

 

But First… Be Prepared

Make a Trip Plan

Snowshoeing in the mountains is no joke. While these trails may be steps from a busy road or ski resort, they access serious wilderness. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. Check out the great trip planning tools over at Adventure Smart. Keep in mind that snowshoeing is tougher than hiking and it will take you longer to snowshoe a trail than to hike it. Plan to start early so you don’t get caught out in the dark.

Check the Weather, Trail Conditions and Avalanche Forecast

Snow conditions and the weather can play a big factor in the success of your snowshoeing trip. Be sure to check trail conditions online before you go. You should also check the avalanche forecast for the region you plan to visit. Unless you have taken an avalanche safety course, you probably shouldn’t go out unless the forecast is rated “Low” or “Moderate”.

Wear Winter Clothing and Pack the Essentials

Make sure you wear proper winter clothing and footwear. Check out my post about what to wear snowshoeing to get you started. I’ve also got a post with tips for winter hiking and snowshoeing that will give you a good overview of what safety gear to pack and how to stay warm. I always pack a headlamp or flashlight on every snowshoe trip in case I get stuck coming back in the dark.

Use Safe Snowshoeing Techniques

Snowshoes give your feet more surface area to spread out your weight so you don’t sink into the snow. They also have crampons and other traction aids underfoot to help grip icy snow. But snowshoes are not the best gear for walking sideways or downhill. The platform part of the snowshoe gets in the way and the crampons under the snow can’t bite into the snow properly. When it’s icy, snowshoers are prone to slipping and injuring themselves in these types of scenarios.  Michael Coyle, a Search and Rescue Manager, has a great article explaining snowshoe slip and fall accidents called “How to Kill Yourself Snowshoeing“. It’s a great read for any snowshoer, both beginners and experienced.

If you encounter a steep slope (one that looks steep enough to ski on or slide a toboggan down) and it’s very icy, it’s probably not a good idea to tackle it in snowshoes. Consider taking off your snowshoes on these kinds of slopes when descending or sidehilling. I pack a pair of microspikes (mini crampons) to wear on steep and icy slopes. If you don’t have crampons, you can also kick steps into the slope with your boots. I also bring poles that I can use for balance and to help anchor me to the slope. For more info on safe snowshoe travel in steep terrain, read Michael Coyle’s other excellent article “How NOT to Kill Yourself Snowshoeing“.

Take an Avalanche Safety Course

Unless you plan to only snowshoe on super easy beginner trails that are totally flat, you should take an Avalanche Safety Course. The courses aren’t that expensive (usually $200-$300) for a 2.5 day course and could save your life. They teach you how to look at terrain and “read” it for potential hazards. After I took my Avalanche Skills Training 1 course (AST1) it totally changed the way I look at the mountains. If you aren’t ready to take the plunge and sign up for a field course, there’s a great FREE online beginner tutorial on Avalanche.ca.

 

Where to Rent Snowshoes in the Fraser Valley

If you’re looking for advice on how to choose snowshoes, check out this great article from MEC. I like to wear MSR snowshoes for the steep and icy trails around Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Sunny weekends and holidays can be really busy for rentals, so try to reserve a pair ahead of time if possible. (Note that prices below are current as of January 2018.)

You can rent snowshoes in Surrey at Skyview Outdoors for only $10 a day. They have MSR Evo snowshoes, which are great for steep and icy backcountry terrain.

In Langley head to MEC where you can rent basic snowshoes for $15/day or fancier ones for $18.

Mount Waddington’s Outdoors in Chilliwack has snowshoe rentals for $19 day.

Sasquatch Mountain Resort in Agassiz rents snowshoes at $17/half day and $20/full day, but you can only use them on their trails.

Manning Park Resort rents snowshoes that you can use on their trail system or on the free provincial park trails. The rental price includes a trail pass and is $24/day. There are cheaper rental options if you only want to go for a few hours.

If you’re heading to Mount Baker, you can rent snowshoes on the way at the Glacier Ski Shop in the town of glacier. They charge $20/day.

Do you know of other places in the Fraser Valley that rent snowshoes? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them.

 

Where to Go Snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley

Quick Reference Guide

Trail Rating Time Needed Cost Dogs
Sasquatch Mountain Easy/Moderate 1.5-3.5 hours $15 No
Elk Mountain Challenging 5-6 hours FREE Yes
Needle Peak Challenging 4-5 hours FREE Yes, on leash
Falls Lake Easy 1.5-2 hours FREE Yes, on leash
Zoa Peak Challenging 5-6 hours FREE Yes, on leash
Artist Point Moderate 2.5-3.5 hours FREE Yes, on leash
Manning Provincial Park Super Easy/ Easy/ Moderate/ Challenging 30 min-8 hours FREE/$6.50/$10 Yes, on leash/ Not allowed at Poland Lake

 

Snowshoe Trails at Sasquatch Mountain, Agassiz

Snowshoeing at Sasquatch Mountain (formerly Hemlock Valley) in Agassiz, BC. Read about how to snowshoe here in the Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, BC, Canada

Looking down to the base of Sasquatch Mountain Resort. Photo Credit: “Hemlock Valley” by Marcin Chady on Flickr. Used under CC BY 2.0.

The Trail: Longtime Fraser Valley residents might remember Hemlock Valley Resort. In 2017 they reinvented themselves as Sasquatch Mountain and added two snowshoe trails. The short and flat Base Loop trail is great for beginners. More adventurous snowshoes who want a great view of the resort should take on the Mount Klaudt Loop trail, which climbs up higher.

Distance: 3-8km

Elevation Gain: Up to 300m

Time Needed: 1.5-3-5 hours

Rating: Easy-moderate

Trail Markings and Navigation: The resort marks both of their snowshoe trails.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: The Mount Klaudt Loop trail climbs some steep slopes, but there is no significant avalanche danger or other hazards. Check the avalanche forecast for the South Coast region before you go.

Trail Map/Guide: There’s a trail map on the Sasquatch Mountain website.

Permits/Fees: Trail passes are $15/day.

Dogs: Not allowed

Driving Directions: It’s a 45min drive from Agassiz to Sasquatch Mountain Resort. The last 7km of the road are gravel, steep and winding but it is plowed and sanded regularly. Provincial law requires you to carry chains (and you’ll probably want them). Click here for driving directions.

Parking: There’s lots of parking in the ski area parking lot.

 

Snowshoeing to Elk Mountain, Chilliwack

Snowshoeing at Elk Mountain in Chilliwack. Read about how to snowshoe here in the Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, BC, Canada

Looking down on snowy Chilliwack. Photo credit: “Elk/Thurston” by Tim Gage on Flickr. Used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Trail: This steep trail is sometimes referred to as Chilliwack’s version of the Grouse Grind. (Although it’s not quite as steep!) The first two kilometers are steady climbing, but after the 2km mark it gets even steeper. Once you break out of the trees on to the ridge it’s flatter you’ll get great views of Chilliwack and of the Chilliwack River Valley. If you want to extend your trip, you can continue along the ridge for another kilometer or so. The Elk Mountain trail is by far the most popular place to snowshoe in Chilliwack so the trail is often so packed down that you can get by with just microspikes and only use snowshoes once you are on the ridge.

Distance: 7km return

Elevation Gain: 800m

Time Needed: 5-6 hours

Rating: Challenging

Trail Markings and Navigation: This is a popular trail so there is usually a boot beaten path to follow.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: The last section of the trail before you reach the ridge top can be very slippery. It may be worth bringing microspikes or crampons for this section (especially going downhill). There are very steep slopes and drop offs once you reach the open ridge top. Stay in the center of the ridge and well back from steep drops and slopes. Check the avalanche forecast for the South Coast Inland region before you go.

Trail Map/Guide: There’s a good trail guide on Vancouver Trails.

Permits/Fees: None.

Dogs: Allowed.

Driving Directions: It’s a 25min drive from Chilliwack City Hall to the trailhead. The last 2km are on a gravel road that is not plowed and can be very icy. Bring chains or be prepared to walk the extra 2km on the road to the trailhead.  Click here for driving directions.

Parking: There is a gravel pullout for parking at the trailhead.

Hey! Do you want every single snowshoe trail on this list in one easy to navigate google map? Well guess what? I made a custom map for you! Sign up and I’ll email you the secret link.

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Snowshoeing to Needle Peak on the Coquihalla

Snowshoeing at Needle Peak on the Coquihalla. Read about how to snowshoe here in the Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, BC, Canada

Photo Credit: “Needle Peak Ridge” by Rob Murota. Used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The Trail: The Coquihalla is a great destination for Fraser Valley snowshoers since the road reaches high into the mountains to access lots of fresh snow.  This challenging trail climbs through the trees on to the ridge of Needle Peak. In the summer the ridge all granite slabs and wildflower meadows, but in the winter, it’s blanketed in snow with great views of the surrounding mountains. It isn’t safe to go all the way to the summit in the winter unless you have mountaineering skills and equipment, so turn around somewhere on the ridge and retrace your steps back to the car.

Distance: 8km return

Elevation Gain: 650m

Time Needed: 4-5 hours

Rating: Challenging

Trail Markings and Navigation: The trail is fairly popular with snowshoers and ski tourers so it should be fairly easy to follow. The first few kilometres are in the trees. After the trail gets above the treeline, the trail gets harder to follow, but just stay in the center of the ridge.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: This is a true backcountry trail and is only appropriate for experienced snowshoers. As long as you stay on the ridge you can avoid the worst of the avalanche terrain, but you’re never totally safe from avalanches on this trail.  Check the avalanche forecast for the South Coast Inland region before you go and don’t go unless the forecast is low.

Trail Map/Guide: There’s trail info on the Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area website and on Trailpeak.com.

Permits/Fees: None.

Dogs: Allowed on leash.

Driving Directions: From Hope, it’s a 35 min drive on the Coquihalla. Take exit 217 to the Zopkios Rest Area on the south side of the highway. Click here for driving directions. You will need winter tires or chains to drive the Coquihalla.

Parking: There’s lots of parking by the green highway maintenance shed.

 

Snowshoeing to Falls Lake on the Coquihalla

A post shared by Jen (@jenniheaven) on

The Trail: The trail to Falls Lake is the only easy snowshoe trail on the Coquihalla. The first half of the trail follows a paved road that isn’t plowed in the winter. After reaching a summer parking lot, it heads into the trees before emerging on the shores of Falls Lake. This lake is surrounded by tall peaks and feels much more remote that the short 2km walk from the road.

Distance: 4km return

Elevation Gain: 100m

Time Needed: 1.5-2 hours

Rating: Easy.

Trail Markings and Navigation: The first part of the trail follows the summer road and is easy to follow. After the trail reaches the summer parking lot it heads into the trees and is a bit harder to follow. As long as you keep Falls Creek on your left and head straight, you should make it to the lake without problems.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: Be prepared to share the initial road section of the trail with snowmobiles. There is no significant avalanche danger on this trail, but once you reach the lake stay away from the west bank as the steep slopes there can send avalanches down.  Check the avalanche forecast for the South Coast Inland region before you go.

Trail Map/Guide: There’s trail info on the Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area website.

Permits/Fees: None.

Dogs: Allowed on leash.

Driving Directions: From Hope, it’s a 40 min drive on the Coquihalla. Take exit 221 and follow the tunnel under the highway and turn left. You will immediately see a snowed-in road heading uphill. This is the trailhead. Click here for driving directions. You will need winter tires or chains to drive the Coquihalla.

Parking: Park near the snowed-in road on the shoulder of the highway on-ramp. This is a popular parking area for a couple different snowshoe/ski trailheads as well as snowmobiles. Make sure you don’t block other users or snowplows.

 

Snowshoeing to Zoa Peak on the Coquihalla

Snowshoeing on Zoa Peak on the Coquihalla. Read about how to snowshoe here in the Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, BC, Canada

Photo Credit: “Zoa Peak” by Tim Gage on Flickr. Used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Trail: The trail to Zoa Peak starts at the same trailhead as the trail to Falls Lake. But while the trail to Falls Lake is flat and easy, the trip to Zoa Peak is all uphill and definitely not easy. The trail climbs a steep hill on an access road, before turning left into the forest. Soon you’ll reach the treeline and stroll along the ridge looking waaay down towards Falls Lake. While the summer trail goes all the way to the true summit, in winter it’s much safer to be content with the views from the sub-summit since there’s a steep gully between the two.

Distance: 11km return.

Elevation Gain: 635m

Time Needed: 5-6 hours

Rating: Challenging

Trail Markings and Navigation: The first part of the trail follows the summer road to the Falls Lake parking lot and is easy to follow. After the trail reaches the summer parking lot turn right and follow the access road up the hill. After about 800m you should see lots of snowshoe and ski tracks heading left into the forest and maybe a small sign for Zoa Peak. Follow the tracks uphill through the forest, being careful to stay in the center of the ridge.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: Be prepared to share the initial road section of the trail with snowmobiles. There is no significant avalanche danger on this trail, but once you reach the ridge stay away from edges, especially on the west side, as the steep slopes there can avalanche.  Check the avalanche forecast for the South Coast Inland region before you go.

Trail Map/Guide: There’s trail info on the Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area website. There’s also a good write up on Vancouver Trails.

Permits/Fees: None.

Dogs: Allowed on leash.

Driving Directions: From Hope, it’s a 40 min drive on the Coquihalla. Take exit 221 and follow the tunnel under the highway and turn left. You will immediately see a snowed-in road heading uphill. This is the trailhead. Click here for driving directions. You will need winter tires or chains to drive the Coquihalla.

Parking: Park near the snowed-in road on the shoulder of the highway on-ramp. This is a popular parking area for a couple different snowshoe/ski trailheads as well as snowmobiles. Make sure you don’t block other users or snowplows.

 

Snowshoeing to Artist Point at Mount Baker

Snowshoeing at Artist Point. Photo Credit: “_DSC0496” by jyl4032 on Flickr. Used under CC BY-ND 2.0.

The Trail: If you’ve got a passport, Washington’s Mount Baker makes a great cross-border trip for Fraser Valley snowshoers. In the summer Artist Point is a gorgeous viewpoint that you can drive right up to. In the winter meters of snow blanket the region and you have to park further down and hike up… which means it’s way less busy… and possibly way more beautiful. After a moderate 300m of elevation gain, you’ll be treated to great views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan wearing their winter coats – in fact the Washington Trails Association calls it one of best viewpoints in the state!

Distance: 6.5km/4 miles return

Elevation Gain: 300m/1000 feet

Time Needed: 2.5-3.5 hours

Rating: Moderate

Trail Markings and Navigation: The route is not marked but it is a popular trail so there should be tracks to follow. The slope is mostly un-treed so bring a map and compass in case the clouds roll in and make navigation difficult.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: This route crosses avalanche terrain in several areas. Check the avalanche forecast before you go and don’t go if the hazard is above low unless you have avalanche training. You can check avalanche forecasts for Washington on the North West Avalanche Centre website. For Mount Baker check the forecast for the West Slopes North region.

Trail Map/Guide: There’s a great guide on the Washington Trails Association website.

Permits/Fees: None.

Dogs: Allowed on leash.

Driving Directions: From Abbotsford, drive 1.5 hours to the Mount Baker Ski Area. Drive past the ski area to the very end of the plowed road. Click here for driving directions. Don’t forget your passport for the border crossing and bring chains for your car. This is a very a high elevation mountain road.

Parking: There is a designated and plowed parking area at the end of the road.

 

Snowshoeing at Manning Provincial Park

The Trails: In my opinion, Manning Park is the best place to snowshoe in south west BC… and it’s not too far from the Fraser Valley. There are tons of trails to snowshoe in Manning Park… in fact there are so many that I had to put them all in a separate post! There are flat easy strolls for beginners, more adventurous backcountry trails and lots in between.

Distance: You can go out for as little as 1km or as much as 16km!

Elevation Gain: Trails range from flat to gains of up to 700m

Time Needed: 30 min-8 hours

Rating: Super easy-Challenging

Trail Markings and Navigation: Some trails have tons of winter marking, while others require backcountry route finding.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: Most trails are fairly free of avalanche danger and other hazards, but there is avalanche terrain in the park. Check the avalanche forecast for the South Coast Inland region before you go.

Trail Map/Guide: The best source of info is my post all about Snowshoeing in Manning Park.

Permits/Fees: Most trails are free, but there are paid trails for $6.50/day. As well, you can pay $10 for a one time lift ticket for the ski area to skip a big hill on the Poland Lake trail.

Dogs: Allowed on leash on all trails except Poland Lake.

Driving Directions: Manning Park is roughly 50 minutes from Hope. Click here for driving directions. Provincial law requires you to have winter tires or chains to drive highway 3 east of Hope.

Parking: There are plowed parking areas at all trailheads in the park.

I made a map that shows all of these trails plus rental locations… and I want to give it to you!  Sign up and I’ll email you the secret link.

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Which of these trails is your favourite? Do you have more suggestions for snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley? Tell me in the comments.

 

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Snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, BC, Canada. Get info for snowshoeing trails including safety tips, avalanche info, driving directions and rental shops.

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