From our home base in Bellingham, WA, British Columbia has long been a favorite destination. Vancouver, the Sea to Sky Corridor, and the BC coastline feel far enough away to be exciting, yet close enough that we can travel there in a day. From gondolas to “grinds”, the hiking trails in BC offer up a new variety of adventures for us Washingtonians. Not to mention the beer! We’ve been exploring BC craft beer together for years, sampling the scene as it rapidly grows and changes.
When traveling, we often pair two of our favorite things: beer and hiking. Since 2013, we’ve covered “trails and ales” across the Pacific Northwest on our blog, Beers at the Bottom. Our new guidebook, Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest highlights 10 BC trail and ale pairings — barely scratching the surface of possibilities — in Southwestern BC. Here are a few highlights from our BC Trails and Ales exploration so far!
Sunshine Coast Trail: Wildwood to Theyeth Lake – 12km roundtrip
Fancy some lake-bagging? Backcountry lakes abound along the rolling 180-kilometre Sunshine Coast Trail (SCT). While we backpacked for two nights on the trail, you can easily day hike out to several scenic lakes on the route. Begin at the Wildwood trailhead in Powell River, following the SCT north 2.4km to Little Sliammon Lake. Continue north, descending to the shoreline camping area of large Sliammon Lake — a good turnaround point at 5km. If you’re willing to put in the work for a third lake, climb 100 meters in 1 km to reach Theyeth Lake at 6km before returning to town.
The SCT is generally accessible year-round, though winter snow may limit access at higher elevations. For more info, visit the Sunshine Coast Trail website.
Back in Powell River, one of our favorite BC breweries beckons. Townsite Brewing is housed in an art deco brick building constructed in 1939. Inside, Belgian brewmaster Cédric Dauchot has been crafting saisons, sours, and big Belgian brews for the local Powell River community since 2012. Try the Sunshine Coast-inspired Suncoast Pale Ale or Tin Hat IPA — both sure to satisfy thirsty hikers after a day on the trail. We loved their beer so much that we packed a bomber of it up to Manzanita Hut for our first overnight stay on the SCT.
Hungry? The Sunshine Coast Ale Trail offers up some solid eatery options in Powell River. But our fave foodie experience is a bit further north. Continue up the coast to the charming town of Lund, located at kilometre zero of the Pacific Coast Highway. Here, you can pair some of the best fish and chips on the Sunshine Coast with harborside views and Townsite brews at The Boardwalk Restaurant.
Sea to Summit Trail – 7.5km one-way
To tell the truth, we’ve only hiked this trail once. Yet it made a lasting impression, for we’ve written about Squamish’s demanding Sea to Summit Trail several times since. Here’s an excerpt from p. 207 of our book, Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest:
“Sea to Summit Ascent. It’s a sexy trail name, no doubt — alliterative and alluring, the stuff of daydreams. But this trail is no fantasy. Perhaps somewhat underrated in terms of difficulty, Sea to Summit Trail gains 918 meters over terrain so steep that fixed ropes and chains are in place to assist you.
Yet the payoff is oh-so worth it. Trailside waterfalls gush with snowmelt, and views of Howe Sound improve with every kilometer. Gondolas pass quietly overhead — a reminder that your hike is only one-way. Fortunately most of the route is under tree cover, providing shelter from the elements. Summit Lodge awaits at the top, with plenty of attractions to keep you busy all day.”
Access Sea to Summit Trail via the Darrell Bay parking area, then cross the street into Shannon Falls Provincial Park. Take a gander at B.C.’s third tallest waterfall before following the Connector Trail towards Sea to Summit Trail. The route is well signed. Once you reach the top, purchase a download-only ticket ($15) to ride the Sea to Sky Gondola back down (this trail is not recommended for downhill travel). This trail is accessible spring-fall — the gondola closes during the month of November for seasonal maintenance. For more info, see the Sea to Sky Gondola website.
With the high rate of recent brewery openings in BC, sometimes we’re so focused on “what’s new” that we forget those foundational breweries that paved the way. Howe Sound Brewing, however, is one brewpub that always springs to mind when a friend asks about breweries to check out in BC — because it’s a Beer Traveler’s dream. The combination of brewery, pub, and hotel is exactly where we want to head after a day of hiking. Howe Sound makes Squamish a destination for Beer Travelers; more than just a stop on the way along the Sea to Sky highway.
Howe Sound Brewing’s Legacy was well established by the time we first visited five years ago. Firmly rooted by the movers and shakers of the BC Craft Beer Renaissance, we remember tasting the years of experience in the clean and balanced brews we enjoyed on that first trip. Looking at the current tap list today, we appreciate Howe Sound as a brewery that continues to innovate and brew new styles. History and craft collide at Howe Sound — an excellent home base to spend the weekend sampling the Squamish Ale Trail.
Sendero Diez Vistas – 8km roundtrip
Translated from Spanish, the “Ten Views Trail” was one of the hiking trails we discovered while writing and researching our book. In this case, the beer actually came first — we’d heard some buzz about the up and coming Port Moody Brewers Row and knew we needed to explore it. Then it was just a matter of finding a nearby hiking trail. We landed on Sendero Diez Vistas, lured in by its promise of Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm views.
The trail can be hiked as a loop — a 13 km route for advanced hikers and trail runners. But if you’re like us, you’ll want to leave plenty of time for beer exploration back in Port Moody. In our book, we suggest an abbreviated hike out to one of the best viewpoints on the trail (many of the 10 views are now overgrown, or slightly obscured by trees).
The route begins on the south end of the Buntzen Lake Trail before taking off on a steep climb through forest to the ridge. Expect steep switchbacks and a few sections assisted by fixed ropes. The challenge is worth it once you reach what we call the “best vista” at 4 km. Here’s the description from our book:
“From this wide, unobscured vantage point you can look across the Indian Arm at Deep Cove. Vancouver and Burnaby’s high-rise buildings look like tiny toy towns in the distance.”
Sendero Diez Vistas is best hiked spring-fall. See Vancouver Trails for more info.
Come for the endless dog puns, stay for the excellent brews! We love Yellow Dog Brewing because it feels like a slice of home. Like many of our beloved neighborhood breweries back in the states, Yellow Dog is a “come as you are” community gathering space. Rotating food trucks, picnic tables, and communal tasting tables make this a place great for families.
During our visit, we grabbed a taster tray and worked our way through a solid line-up of both hoppy and dark beers. Perhaps we’ll plan our next visit in time to grab a pint of Little Dog Syndrome Fresh Hop or Chew Toy Coconut Porter. Either way, we can’t wait to explore more of the Port Moody Ale Trail.