In our pursuit of hiking trails that aren't covered in snow or requiring a full-day time commitment, we headed out to the Tri-Cities to do the Buntzen Lake Loop on an unexpectedly spring-like day. There's nothing like an incorrect weather forecast to make you appreciate the sun.
Because it's such a popular beach area in the summer, Buntzen Lake is easy to find if you follow the signs from Ioco Road. From either parking lot, walk to the beach and start your loop.
Most trail websites will tell you to start left for some reason, but we went against the grain in pursuit of the off-leash area. Unlike the gravel prisons of some places, Buntzen's Lake off-leash area is massive and includes a long stretch of beach and a creek. Lucy chased the big dogs around, happily unaware that they weren't playing back.
From there, we headed right and hugged the shoreline. The loop is mostly flat, though there are enough ups and downs to make you feel like you've gotten a workout.
I won't get into detail since it's a very well-marked trail, but expect to see beautiful viewpoints, cross small creeks and wander up and down rooty trails through second-growth Cedar forest before reaching a sandy beach on the far side of the lake.
Mat attempted to persuade Lucy to swim after him by wading into the water, but it was too cold even for him - and by the time he was knee-deep we had to race back to our picnic table to chase away some very persistent (and freakishly large) crows.
The trail back is much of the same, with longer exposed patches higher up the lake bank as you cross under the BC Hydro power lines.
The loop ends up with a flat gravel path back to a floating bridge, where you can cross and return to the parking lots... or go for round-two at the off-leash beach.
Pro tip! Post-hike, stop in Port Moody for a six-pack at Moody Ales and a small halibut and chips at Pajo's.
Time: 3.5 hours, plus as much time as you spend at the beaches
Distance: 8 KM
Elevation gain: 110 M
Driving time from Vancouver: 1 hour
Worth-It Factor: 8.5/10