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25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

If you’re traveling to British Columbia in search of adventure, I’ve got you covered. Check out these 25 adventures that include everything from hiking to backpacking, and biking to canoeing and kayaking. I’ve done 23 of them and the two I haven’t are at the top of my wish list. 

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Sunset over Vancouver Island from Quadra Island

Backpacking in British Columbia

Backpack the Juan de Fuca trail

Not sure if you can handle the full West Coast Trail experience? Hike the 47 km Juan de Fuca Trail over four days instead. You don’t need reservations and it’s free except for a shuttle and a $10/night/pp camping fee. It’s still very beautiful but be warned – in summer campsites can be overflowing. Try a June or September trip instead.

Read: The Juan de Fuca Trail: What you Need to Know Before You Go

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Backpacking on the Juan de Fuca Trail

Backpack the West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail is a physically demanding 75 km hike stretching along the west coast of Vancouver Island. You need to reserve in advance.

The trail offers a lot of variety including root covered trails, endless ladders, several cable car crossings over roaring rivers, gorgeous beaches, and plenty of slimy green, poorly maintained boardwalk that can be very slick. If it’s a rainy year, beware of the mud as it can be knee deep in places. Highlights include the beautiful Carmanah Point and Pachena Point Lighthouses, the section in and around Hole in the Wall, Tsusiat Falls and the expansive views from Valencia Bluffs.

Read: A Free Guide to Hiking the West Coast Trail

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

You have to pull yourself in this contraption over several large rivers on the West Coast Trail

Backpack the Chilkoot Trail

The historic 53 km Chilkoot Trail offers a unique backpacking opportunity on the gold rush trail of the late 1800’s. It begins in Dyea, Alaska just outside of Skagway and climbs up over the Chilkoot Pass at the United States/Canada border and then descends into a barren but very beautiful landscape. Finish in Bennett, British Columbia after several days of hiking through forests and along a series of lakes. In Bennett you can take the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad  and return to either Carcross, Yukon Territory or Skagway, Alaska. Allow four days.

Read: A Guide to Backpacking the Chilkoot Trail

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Down from the pass on the Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail

Backpack the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay Nattional Park

The Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park is one of the premier backpacking trips in the Canadian Rockies but its one tough trip. Every day requires steep ascents and knee crunching descents. But the payoff off – following the Rockwall, a 35 km (22 mi) long limestone cliff that can only be viewed if you’ve made the effort. Other highlights include spectacular Floe Lake, wildflower filled meadows, hanging glaciers, Helmet Falls and the ochre coloured Paint Pots. Allow five days. Reserve backcountry campsites – in January and February for the best choice of dates.

Read: Backpacking the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Floe Lake on the Rockwall Trail

Backpack the Sunshine Coast Trail

The Sunshine Coast Trail is a 180 kilometre hut to hut hiking and backpacking trail that runs from Sarah Point to Saltery Bay where the ferries come in from Earl’s Cove. The brainchild of Eagle Walz, the trail links sections of old growth forest.

Hike the trail for a day, a week or do the whole thing. There are lots of entrance and exit points. You can’t book the huts along the trail but they are all free.

Read: The Sunshine Coast Trail: What You Need to Know Before You Go

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Some of the forest you hike through on the Sunshine Coast Trail is truly awe-inspiring

Berg Lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park

Another of Canada’s premier backpacking trips takes you to Berg Lake with Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, as a backdrop. A two day trip doesn’t do the area justice. Add on days so you can explore Snowbird Pass and/or the Hargreaves Glacier/Mumm Basin Route. This is a popular trip so make reservations well in advance. (As a side note some people book a helicopter ride in and then walk out.)

Read: Backpacking to Berg Lake in Mt. Robson Provincial Park

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Berg Lake

Backpack the Spectrum Range, Mt Edziza Provincial Park

Although I haven’t done this trip it’s very high on my wish list. I’ve heard from fellow hikers this is a trip I shouldn’t miss. The remote park is located in northwestern BC – a full two day drive from Calgary and then you still have to charter a plane to fly in. The hike takes you through a remarkable, multi-hued volcanic landscape with lots of lakes, wildflowers and wild animals, especially moose. You’re supposed to carry a satellite phone in case of problems and be very self-reliant. If this sounds like you check out the BC Park’s website for more information. And for some inspiring photos and a first person account read this.

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Seriously beautiful hiking in Mt Edziza Provincial Park – Photo credit: Andrea Sussmann

The Best Hikes in British Columbia

Hike the Coast Trail, East Sooke Park

With a start only 45 minutes from downtown Victoria, the 10 km one way hike on the Coast Trail is a standout from start to finish. Despite its short distance, it’s difficult. But the rewards are great; spectacular and rugged coastal scenery broken by temperate rainforest, massive cedars and firs, pocket beaches, tide pools, views of the Olympic Mountains, as well as swaths of wildflowers in season. Try to arrange a shuttle so you can do this as a one way hike.

Read: Day Hikes near Victoria: The Coastal Trail in East Sooke Park

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Beautiful but tough walking in the Coastal Trail

Do the Kwai Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

If you’re visiting Vancouver Island head for Strathcona Provincial Park so you can do the 15.6 km Kwai Loop hike. You only need about five hours as there is only about 200 m of elevation gain. Enjoy a series of pretty sub-alpine lakes, flower studded meadows and mountain vistas. It’s easy to add mileage and even make it into a backpacking trip.

Read: The Kwai Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Beautiful lake and forest scenery on the Kwai Lake Loop

Hike the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park

Located in Yoho National Park, the Iceline Trail starts from the parking lot at the splendid Takakkaw Falls. It’s steep at the start, climbing 400 m to reach tree line. And then it’s absolutely glorious. There are lots of variations on the hike – and in fact it’s possible to do a three day backpacking trip if you visit the Stanley Falls Hut (or nearby campground) and do some off-trail exploring. If you have a sunny day, enjoy far-reaching mountain views, panoramic vistas of Yoho Valley, Emerald Glacier and of course Takkakaw Falls from above.

Read: Hiking the Spectacular Iceline Trail near Field, BC

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Looking at Takkakaw Falls from the Iceline Trail

Hike in the Rainbow Mountains, Tweedsmuir Provincial Park

For a remote world-class hike do a day hike in the Rainbow Mountains. Plan to be self-sufficient and be bear aware as chances are you’ll see very few people. All told hike about 8 km one way with a 300 m elevation gain. Once at the bigger lake there’s loads of off trail hiking; you could literally go for days. There are bear boxes part way up so camping is possible. Otherwise enjoy the wildflowers, coastal mountain views, wildlife and the incredible colours of the mountains that make up the Rainbow Range.

Read: A World-class Hike: The Rainbow Range in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

The gorgeous colours of the Rainbow Range

Hike the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit, Yoho National Park

For a soul-stirring hike do the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit. There are few of its equal – certainly that are accessible – in Canada or anywhere else for that matter. The alpine circuit connects seven trails to create a large loop. Hike it in any direction and exit at numerous locations should you find it tough going or bad weather arrives. Don’t attempt it until the snow melts in mid-July. The payoff – phenomenal alpine scenery, turquoise-coloured glacier fed lakes, catwalks and ledges, meadows, wildflowers and come the fall, yellow larch trees.

Read: Hiking the Lake O’Hara Alpine Route in Yoho National Park

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

The phenomenal Lake O’Hara alpine route

Hike to the Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park

If you’ve skied at Whistler, you’ve seen the Black Tusk – an unmistakable landmark that sticks out from all the other mountain peaks in the area due to its unique appearance. The black volcanic dome is also visible from many vantage points along the Sea-to-Sky Highway. It rises to a height of 2,319 m but you don’t have to go to the top to feel like you’ve hiked it. A large number of hikers call it a day once they’ve reached the shoulder as there’s exposure after that. Once you’re close to the shoulder enjoy incredible views of Garibaldi Lake and high alpine meadows.

Read: A Hike to the Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Views of Garibaldi Lake from the Black Tusk

Hiking to Eva Lake in Mount Revelstoke National Park

Gorgeous turquoise-coloured Eva Lake is accessed via a trail at the top of the Meadows in the Sky Parkway in Mount Revelstoke National Park. Start at the parking lot by Balsam Lake, in a beautiful landscape of sub-alpine tundra. A shuttle option in summer cuts off a kilometre.

The trail starts in a forest of stunted sub-alpine fir, Englemann spruce and mountain hemlock with periodic views of the Columbia River, thousands of feet below. Cross unbelievable wildflower filled meadows before entering a world of rocks and boulders about 30 minutes out from the lake. Allow 5 – 6 hours to do the 12 km return hike.

Read: A Hike to Eva Lake in Mount Revelstoke National Park

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

It’s a moderate hike to Eva Lake

The Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park

I’ve got this hike planned for early September. The Rim Trail, is considered to be a moderately challenging 15 km circular route in stunning but off the beaten path Cathedral Provincial Park near Keremeos. Gemma at Offtrack Travel calls it one of the best hikes she has done in all of BC.

Read: 5 Awesome Hikes with a view near Penticton

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Superb views on the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park – Photo credit: Gemma Taylor

The Best Kayaking and Canoeing in British Columbia

Paddle the Bowron Lakes

Years ago Outside Magazine called the Bowron Lake canoe circuit one of the world’s Top 10 Canoe Trips. It attracts an international crowd looking for adventure. The 110 km loop is usually paddled over 6-10 days. The circuit involves six major lakes and two rivers linked by numerous well marked portages with the Cariboo Mountains serving as a backdrop. A canoe cart is highly recommended to make the portages tolerable. Reserve your start day well in advance.

Read: Paddle BC’s Gorgeous Bowron Lakes Circuit

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Waiting for the storm on the Bowron Lakes circuit

Kayak Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago 

Johnstone Strait is home to the largest number of resident orca whales in the world. The possibility of paddling among the orcas – an exhilarating though scary experience – is not the only reason to visit Johnstone Strait. The area is home to a huge amount of sea and animal life. It’s quite likely you’ll see bears, seals, sea lions and dolphins or porpoises. On one kayaking trip I witnessed a pod of dolphins that was at least a half mile long. Continue on into the Broughton Archipelago for wilder, west coast scenery where you’re unlikely to see another soul.

Read: 5 Great Sea Kayaking Trips on Canada’s West Coast

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

The view from one of our campsites in the Broughton Archipelago

Kayak Desolation Sound 

Desolation Sound, located off the northern end of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is famous for its summer boat cruising but it also draws kayakers, for both the spectacular beauty of the Coast Mountains and for the fact that the waters are some of the warmest ocean waters north of Baja California in Mexico, – warm enough even for swimming in the summer. Plan to spend a week to 10 days in this area poking around the islands, islets, sheltered bays and pocket coves.

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Superb kayaking in the warm waters of Desolation Sound

Kayak in Gwaii Haanas National Park Preserve

You will be wowed by a visit to Gwaii Haanas National Park Preserve. Located at the southern tip of Haida Gwaii, in northwest British Columbia, the park offers intermediate to advanced paddlers the chance to explore a world the Haida people have lived in for over 12,000 years. Experience a combination of magnificent west coast scenery, including gorgeous sand beaches and dense rainforest, incomparable marine life and native culture. This is the one place I’ve had a whale actually dive beneath by kayak.

Read: Highlights of a Kayaking Trip in Gwaii Haanas National Park Preserve

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Pretty exciting when the whale blows behind your kayak

Kayak Clayoquot Sound

Ruggedly beautiful Clayoquot Sound, on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island, is a superb spot for a kayaking trip. Enjoy classic west coast mountain and ocean scenery, deserted sandy beaches, wildlife including possible gray whale and sea lion sightings and abundant bird life. Do it self-supported or hook up with one of the many tour companies leaving out of Tofino.

Read: A Kayaking Trip in Clayoquot Sound, BC

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Always fun exploring at low tide when you’re on a west coast kayaking trip

Kayak a loop in the Broken Group of Islands

The Broken Group of Islands in Pacific Rim National Park Preserve is a kayaker’s paradise – in the off season. In summer it can be over run – with privacy at a premium. There’s lots of poking about to do, beaches to explore and camping is available on several islands. Just keep an eye on the weather because though popular, conditions can turn in a heartbeat on the west coast.

Read: A Sea Kayaking Trip in the Broken Group of Islands

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Beautiful paddling through the Broken Group of Islands

The Best Bike Rides in British Columbia

Cycle the Kettle Valley Railway from Myra Canyon to Penticton

The Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) is an abandoned railroad track that winds across the Okanagan and Similkameen region in southern BC. All told it offers over 800 km of cycling but it’s the 80 km section from Myra Canyon near Kelowna through to Penticton that is the most popular. The 12 km Myra Canyon section draws the biggest crowds of all. You can do it on your own but tour companies rent bikes and offer tours, usually out of Kelowna.

Read: Bike Myra Canyon on the Amazing Kettle Valley Railway

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Superb cycling through Myra Canyon just outside of Kelowna

Cycle Victoria and the Gulf Islands

Victoria and the Gulf Islands are known for their mild temperatures, sunny days and low rainfall in summer. The Gulf Islands are a fantastic biking destination for a day, a week or even longer if you enjoy a variety of off the bike activities. (My favourite is Saturna Island.) On Vancouver Island, enjoy the mostly flat and easy Lochside Trail – a dedicated bike path that takes you from downtown Victoria to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, while on the Gulf Islands look for a mix of pastoral and coastal scenery on generally quiet but hilly roads. The big decision you’ll have to make – which islands to visit and what ferry to take.

Read: A Free Guide to Biking the Gulf Islands

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Every Gulf Island has a unique personality

Cycle in the Shuswap Region

The Shuswap-North Okanagan region encompassing the towns of Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Chase, Sorrento, Enderby, Armstrong and Falkland is home to over 675 km of biking trails. They range from the epic 40 km Larch Hills Traverse to mellow hour long trails in some of the local parks. Which one do you pick? Decide if its birding hotspots, wineries, beaches or local farms you want to visit and then visit Shuswap Tourism’s website and check out their downloadable bike guide.

Read: Biking in the Shuswap area of British Columbia

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Some beautiful places to stop if you’re doing a bike ride in the Shuswap

Cycle the trail between Cranbrook and Kimberley

Cycle just over 28 km one way between Kimberly and Cranbrook on the North Star Rail Trail. The route which lies between the Purcell Mountains and the Rocky Mountain Trench offers both pastoral and mountain scenery along with a scenic crossing of the St. Mary’s River on a 135 m long bridge with cut-outs in the wire for viewing. This is a great one for families.

25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia

Lovely cycling on the North Star Rails to Trails multi-use pathway between Cranbrook and Kimberley

Which of these 25 adventures would you most like to try?

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25 of the Very Best Outdoor Adventures in British ColumbiaLeigh

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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