Hiking the Howe Sound Crest Trail

Rate this Adventure 18 miles 6000 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Matt Hosford

Amazing vistas. Alpine hiking. No Crowds. Great swimming holes. Awesome Camping spots. 2 Emergency Shelters (if needed).

  • Distance: 18 miles / 29 kms.
  • Duration: 1 - 3 Days
  • Elevation Gain: 6000 ft. / 1800 m.
  • Magnesia Meadows: 49.483708, -123.190377

The Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT) is one of the most epic hiking trips one can do in the Vancouver area. The trail is entirely located within the Cypress Mountain Provincial Park. The route follows the ridge line along the Howe Sound from Cypress Mountain to Porteau Cove (south - north). While it is possible to hike from north - south many begin the trail on the south end at Cypress Mountain to avoid extra elevation gain.

The trail head is located at the Cypress Mountain Ski Resort. 49°23′46.04″N and 123°12′15.60″W. There is overnight parking in the parking lot.

The majority of the trail from the parking lot to St. Marks is gravel and graded. From St. Marks the trail becomes narrow and rugged, descending down and then back up again to Mt. Unnecessary. The views from here are breathtaking. Make sure to stop and enjoy.

Continue along the ridge from Mt. Unnecessary descending and then climbing up to the Lions. The west Lion is frequently climbed by hikers coming up from Lions Bay. The HSCT does not go up the Lions but hikers can choose to leave their packs at the fork and climb up this iconic peak.

The HSCT ducks down to the east of the West Lion and ascends onto the West-East Lion col. The trail from here to Harvey Pass is the least travelled part of the trail and should be crossed with caution. There are spots that are very exposed and steep. Clear and dry conditions are recommended to travel this section.This section looses and gains 1640 ft. / 500 m.

Head over Harvey Pass and into Magnesia Meadows. This is considered the half way point and it is an ideal, picturesque spot to spend the night. There is also an emergency shelter if needed. The combination of the alpine meadows, the seclusion and the views into Howe Sound will make this an unforgettable camping experience.

The terrain on the second half of the HSCT is much smoother. Almost all the elevation gain has been done, leaving the long descent. The trail rounds Mt. Brunswick to the west and dips down east to Brunswick Lake. Options to climb either Mt. Brunswick or Mt. Hat are available here.

The trail is quite good and one can cover ground quickly on this half of the trail. The lakes are great swimming holes and the trail is covered with blueberries. Take full advantage.

The last 4.4 miles / 7 km of the trail is from Deeks Lake to the Porteau Cove. The first 1.9 miles / 3 km is fairly steep and can be quite grueling. The trail finally pops out on to an old logging road which meanders down to the parking lot.

Distances between benchmarks:

  • Cypress Bowl Ski Lodge: 0 mile / 0 km
  • Mt. St. Marks: 3.4 miles / 5.5 km
  • Mt. Unnecessary South Peak: 5.2 miles / 8.5 km
  • West - East Lions Col: 6.5 miles / 10.5 km
  • Magnesia Meadows: 8.8 miles / 14.3 km
  • Brunswick Lake: 11.8 miles / 19 km
  • Deeks Lake: 13.6 miles / 22 km
  • Parking lot on HWY 99: 18 miles / 29 km
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