Photo: Feeding the ducks at the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary. Source: Robyn Hanson.
Want to get out of the city for the afternoon? Need to reconnect with nature? We do too. November is, surprisingly, a beautiful month for a nature walk if you know where to go. After brainstorming and researching, we’ve found five short nature walks that you can do in the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region which are perfectly suitable for the month November.
George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary – Ladner
The George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary is one of my favourite nature sites in the entire Lower Mainland, but it’s even more of a special place in November due to its autumn foliage and the abundance of wintering birds. I’ve been coming here for decades to reconnect with nature and I cannot recommend it enough for wildlife enthusiasts.
Just a 45 minute drive south of Vancouver on Ladner’s Westham Island, this park provides countless wooded trails, a lookout tower for panoramic views over the Fraser River estuary, and a plethora of bird watching infrastructure. My tip? Be sure to buy a bag of birdseed at the admission gate so you can feed the ducks by hand.
Photo: The snow geese migration on Westham Island in late October. Source: Robyn Hanson.
Another bonus for visiting in November is the annual snow geese migration. Up to 20,000 snow geese can be found (and heard) feeding in the abandoned barley fields all over Westham Island.
If you’re going to visit, it’s best to arrive no later than early afternoon for they close their gates by 4pm. You’ll want to spend 1-2 hours here at least. For more details, check out this old blog post of mine from November 2009, or simply visit the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary website at reifelbirdsanctuary.com.
Cliff Gilker Park – Roberts Creek
Photo: Cliff Gilker Park in April. Source: Gary McGuire via Flickr.
Have you ever walked through a coastal temperate rainforest in the rain? Take it from me: it’s a sublime experience. The canopy of the forest shelters you from the downpour and the earthy smells of the forest become intoxicating. And more often than not, you have the entire forest to yourself as very few understand the magic of a rainforest wet with rain.
To experience such a rainforest, head to Cliff Gilker Park on the Sunshine Coast just east of Roberts Creek. Kat S. of Burnaby writes on Yelp that there’s “so much beauty packed into one little park” and it’s perfect for those who are seeking short walks ranging from one to three hours in length. From waterfalls that surge with the late autumn rains to grand stands of Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar, it’s an enchanting environment rain or shine.
Celia of Arcturus Retreat B&B writes in her blog, “Cliff Gilker park is part of the Sunshine Coast Regional District Park System. As such, the trails are wide and well maintained with good signage. You can’t get lost in this park.” For more information, read this blog post by SunshineCoastEh and check out these fabulous photos on the Up The Creek Backpackers B&B website. The official website for Cliff Gilker Park can be found on the Sunshine Coast Regional District website at www.scrd.ca/Cliff-Gilker.
Spirit Trail – Harrison Hot Springs
Photo: The mystical Spirit Trail in Harrison Hot Springs. Source: Tourism Harrison Hot Springs.
We’re fortunate to get this insider tip from Robert at Tourism Harrison Hot Springs. He tells us, “The Spirit Trail is pretty much only known by the locals. It is a short, less than a kilometer, trail through some wonderful cedar forest. What makes it particularly unique is that a local resident [Ernie Eaves] has placed a couple dozen beautiful handmade masks on many of the trees. It gives the trail a very unique and mystical feel.”
You can access the Spirit Trail quite easily from McCombs Drive – a residential road just south of the main village of Harrison Hot Springs. TrailGuru provides a detailed GPS map of the Spirit Trail here. But to truly get a sense of this one-of-a-kind nature walk, take a look at these photos, and you’ll know where to detour the next time you visit Harrison Hot Springs!
Camosun Bog – Vancouver
Photo: Camosun Bog – a hidden secret within Pacific Spirit Park. Source: Bruce McPherson via Flickr.
The Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region has its fair share of bogs – remnant ecosystems of the last ice age. The two most famous are Delta’s Burns Bog and the Richmond Nature Park. But lesser known is the Camosun Bog right in the heart of Pacific Spirit Park.
Camosun (pronounced Ca-MOE-sen) is the only surviving bog in Vancouver proper. It’s here where you’ll find native bog species such as sphagnum moss, the fragrant Labrador tea and the rare carnivorous sundew plant.
Although nearby development and changing water levels have threatened its existence, this tiny bog has been carefully restored by passionate volunteers who call themselves the “Crazy Boggers”. Bruce McPherson, the photographer whose photo is featured above, is one of the Crazy Boggers and told us that they’re an affiliate of the Pacific Spirit Park Society. Be sure to check out the Pacific Spirit Park Society’s website at pacificspiritparksociety.org to learn about the flora and fauna of this unique ecosystem, as well as for updates on guided walking tours. You can also check out some of their work on this aptly named Camosun Blog.
While Camosun Bog can be easily explored within an hour, you can turn it into a longer activity by including hikes along the other trails throughout the rest of Pacific Spirit Park.
Campbell Valley Regional Park – Langley
Photo: A Stellar’s Jay in Campbell Valley Regional Park. Source: Paul & David Baker via Flickr.
Out along the USA-Canada border where Langley and Surrey blur is Campbell Valley Regional Park – 535 hectares (1400 acres) of forest, bramble, and pastoral countryside. If you’re looking for the ideal landscape for a late autumn stroll, this is it. Surrounded by horse ranches, farms, and estates, Campbell Valley is a beacon of nature just begging to be explored. And with 29 km of walking trails, it’s incredibly easy to do so.
But walking isn’t the only way to experience Campbell Valley. This park has long been a favourite amongst the local equestrian community for its riding ring and equestrian-friendly trails. Yes, you’ll need to watch your step in certain places! The park is also a popular destination for birders. Local birder Birdtrekker BC even claims, “Campbell Valley is probably one of the best places in the Lower Mainland to hand feed birds next to Reifel Bird Santuary and Stanley Park.”
In addition to nature, Campbell Valley offers something for the history buffs. Found within the park is the Annand/Rowlatt Farmstead: a designated historical site with restored buildings dating back to 1898. There’s also the Lochiel Schoolhouse: a one room farmhouse from 1924.
But it was David and Adrian who have a blog called Vancouver Life who remarked at how different Campbell Valley is compared to the more archetypal Metro Vancouver landscapes. They visited the park with their dogs in 2010 and write, “The landscape is quite different from the North Shore. In fact, the rolling hills, open farmland and deciduous trees are reminiscent of English countryside”.
For more information, visit the Campbell Valley Regional Park website at metrovancouver.org.