Until we got a puppy, our hikes tended to start in Squamish. Nowadays, entertaining the pup for a 45-minute car ride before we tire her out isn’t an option (she’s discovered ponytails and LOVES them.) Thankfully, it turns out Burnaby and Coquitlam have plenty of wilderness and trails to be wandered – and all of them are way quieter than similar ones in Lynn Canyon.
Crystal Falls, in Coquitlam, is a new weekend favourite. It’s 20 minutes from our house, 30-45 minutes if you live more centrally in Vancouver. It starts in what seems like the middle of the city at an unmarked trailhead off Karley Crescent, but within minutes you’re walking alongside a river (the Upper Coquitlam River) that would be well-suited to the backcountry.
The trail is long and flat (7 km round-trip, and doable in 1.5-2 hours) and mostly alongside that river. It does meander up into a beautiful, green and moss-covered forest at points, but the trees are magical enough to rival the beauty of Pacific Spirit Park so you don’t miss the water too much.
After 40 minutes on the trail, you pass an abandoned pickup trick. Don’t bother veering off, as it appears to be used more often as a dumping ground than a photo spot. 15 minutes later you’ll come across the sight from which the trail gets its name – Crystal Falls. In winter, the falls are a sight. Wild and powerful, with plenty of boulders to perch on for a bite. In the summer, it would be tempting to hop into the rapids below the falls but in January the crystal clear but freezing cold waters were less tempting.
We’ve done the hike several times, in the fall and winter months, and it’s always been quite secluded. On the busiest days (beautifully sunny mornings in January) we’ve still only seen a handful of people. Because of the seclusion, there are a number of off-leash dogs and apparently in the summer it can be busy with mountain bikes. Either way, the views and the proximity to the city make it the perfect short, all-year hike. After rains the trail can get quite muddy, so it’s sometimes best explored with a pair of rain boots rather than hikers.
Time: 2 hours round-trip
Distance: 7 km
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Driving time from Vancouver: 35 minutes
Worth-it Factor: 8/10