Want to get out of the city for the afternoon? Need to reconnect with nature? We do too. Since it’s February we thought we’d highlight some easy walking trails that not only suit this fickle weather, but that could also provide some romantic ambiance if you so desire. After brainstorming and researching, we’ve found six short nature walks that you can do in the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region which are perfectly suitable for the month February.
Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve – Chilliwack
There’s something inherently romantic about going for a stroll amongst our fine feathered friends. If you’re an amateur birder or simply enjoy their company, bundle up this month and head out to Chilliwack’s Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve.
It’s here where you can explore 9km of easy walking trails through the un-dyked floodplain of the Vedder River. But what makes this site particularly unique is its large colony of nesting great blue herons. Writes local blogger My Boots n Me, “There are over 90 nests here, and the reserve is set amongst some of the most spectacular scenery British Columbia has to offer.”
Photo: Great Blue Heron. Source: David Boyd via Flickr.
Climb up the observation tower for a panoramic view of the wetland ecosystem and take advantage of their bird blinds for some serious birding. There’s a guided trail if you wish to go the self-guided route, or drop into the Rotary Interpretive Centre to learn about this nature reserve’s secrets.
Elgin Heritage Park Nature Trails – Surrey
Photo: Elgin Heritage Park. Source: Robert White via Vancouver Is Awesome.
If you like a bit of history mixed in with your meanders, come visit Surrey’s Elgin Heritage Park. Situated along the banks of the Nickomekl River (the river that empties into Crescent Beach), the land was originally pre-empted in the 1880s and was settled by the Stewart Family who lived there for five decades. Their beautiful 1894 Victorian farmhouse and barn is a reminder of this colonial era and has become a popular location for wedding photos.
But it’s not all history; Elgin Heritage Park has 3km of walking trails spanning its ecologically-rich terrain. Writes the City of Surrey, “The forested area between the two entrances to the park has many large trees often used by eagles and hawks to survey the surrounding area for prey. The habitat functions of the marsh significantly contribute to the ecological value of the lower Nicomekl River. The area supports fish and other wildlife and is used for nesting by small perching birds and waterfowl.” Needless to say, it’s the perfect blend of nature, wildlife, and history which you can experience in an hour’s visit.
Soames Hill – Gibsons
Photo: Soames Hill. Source: Arcturus Retreat Conversations.
If you want to impress your sweetheart with a rainforest trek that ends with a spectacular view over Howe Sound, Keats Island, Bowen Island, and the Strait of Georgia, take them to Soames Hill. Accessed from Gibsons, it can be done as a day trip from Vancouver or as a part of an extended trip to the Sunshine Coast. However you do it though, be prepared for some physical activity. Sunshine Coast Trails explains, “With over 5 kilometres of trails you can choose either a moderate hike or a strenuous one. If hiking to the summit allow between 30 to 40 minutes each way.”
The view, however, is well worth it. Writes Arcturus Retreat B&B, “The top of Soames Hill is what sets it apart from other hiking trails. The views are simply amazing.” And if you’re wondering whether a visit makes sense in February, a commenter on Trailpeak makes a good point. They suggest that Soames Hill is a “great short hike, especially during the winter months when time and good weather is limited.” If you’re looking to get the most out of your limited time where the reward for such a short hike is immense, this is your spot.
Quarry Rock – North Vancouver
Photo: Adventures on Quarry Rock. Source: Jason Statler via Flickr.
North Vancouver’s Deep Cove may be famous for its quaint village and sea kayaking opportunities, but it’s also home to an impressive lookout known as Quarry Rock. Located along the eastern end of the expansive Baden-Powell Trail, it’s only a half hour drive from downtown Vancouver and takes approximately two hours to do.
But perhaps labeling it an “easy nature walk” isn’t entirely fair seeing how it’s sometimes known as “the Grouse Grind alternative”. Yet Quarry Rock’s on our list because, like Soames Hill on the Sunshine Coast, it’s doable in February and offers a great reward for such a short hike. Yelp reviewer Luisa D. confirms it. She writes, “I really like Quarry Rock for an easy to fit in hike on the weekends. It only takes about 30 minutes to get up and if you’ve got time for a picnic, the view from the peak is spectacular”. Picnics? Beautiful views? Easy-to-fit-in hikes? What more could you want for a little nature-loving romance?
Fort-to-Fort Trail – Langley
Photo: Fort-to-Fort Trail connects Derby Reach to Fort Langley. Source: ClubTread.
Langley has this certain old fashioned romantic allure, especially if you appreciate the subtle beauty of pastoral countryside. Of course, throw in the Fraser River, the old (for the Lower Mainland) colonial heritage, and the distant views of both Golden Ears and Mount Baker, and you’ve got scenery that verges on the sublime. And there’s no better place to experience this in February than along the Fort-to-Fort Trail arm-in-arm with the one you love.
Best defined as a rural walking trail (and not a hike), the Fort-to-Fort Trail parallels the Fraser River and connects the former 1827 location of the Hudson Bay Fort (present day Derby Reach Park) to the current location of the 1839-era fort that we know today as the Fort Langley National Historic Site. The trail eventually leads you into the heart of the village of Fort Langley where you can end your walk with coffee at Wendel’s Cafe (a personal favourite) or treat yourself to a romantic dinner at Beatnik’s Bistro – something I did back in August, but I’d do again in a heartbeat.
Killarney Lake – Bowen Island
Photo: The local wildlife as seen along the hike to Killarney Lake. Source: Cub’s Corner.
If the journey is equally as important to you as the destination, then a visit to Bowen Island is in order. Just a 20 minute scenic ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay, you don’t even need a car to get there – simply take the bus from downtown Vancouver and walk aboard the ferry. Once on Bowen Island, you’re in the charming village of Snug Cove and then it’s only a short walk to one of Bowen Island’s most popular nature trails around Killarney Lake.
Vancouver blogger Cub’s Corner recently did this 9km hike and summarized it into a pseudo haiku: “First some meadows, then some hauntingly beautiful forests, and then finally, the lake”. But it was his encounter with the deer (pictured above) that made the experience all the more magical. He writes, “At the end of the day, already on my way home, I saw this deer. Amazing. For about 3 minutes, while I got my camera set up, we stood in this pose, about 3 meters apart. In that timespan – which seemed an eternity – the deer didn’t take his eye off me once. What was it that kept him from running away? Trust? Curiosity?”
And if frolicking in the woods with deer isn’t a tinge romantic, when you head back to Snug Cove, treat yourself to dinner at Tuscany or a hot chocolate at Cocoa West Chocolatier. Or better yet, spend the night and do the hike again the following day.
Looking for more short nature walk ideas? Check out our Shore Nature Walks for November post here.