The Lions are a familiar Vancouver landmark that even the most urban city dweller can recognize. With some determination, you can get a closer look than most people will ever have the opportunity to enjoy.
From the trailhead in Lions Bay, the trail plunges into your typical North Shore forest and climbs steadily along an old logging road. The trail is marked with flagging tape and with stone arrows on the ground. Keep right. The trail passes a waterfall on your left and offers some peek-a-boo views of Howe Sound on your right. The logging road narrows to a trail and after about an hour and a half to two hours you should reach the turn off to Harvey Creek. It is well signed. The trail descends steeply to the bridge crossing. (The old Harvey Creek crossing is closed now and this new bridge crossing replaces it) There are some nice views of Howe Sound from the bridge.
The trail gets trickier now. For the next two hours or so you switch back through thick forest, scrambling over fallen logs and clambering up the trail, which consists mainly of rocks and roots in many places. This is the steepest part of the trail except for the climb up to the summit of course. Finally, the trail deposits you out onto the Howe Sound Crest where you are rewarded for your efforts with views of the clear-cut slopes of Mt. Harvey to your left and in front, and the West Lion to your right.
Continue along the well marked trail up towards the West Lion. The grade eases but its still not easy going as you hop from rock to rock along the heather covered slope. In half an hour or so you will reach the Howe Sound Crest. Most people stop here. It's a great place for lunch with views of Capilano Lake, the city, and many of the North Shore Mountains.
WARNING: ONLY EXPERT CLIMBERS SHOULD CONSIDER CLIMBING THE LIONS SUMMIT, PEOPLE DO DIE HERE.
If you choose to continue to the summit, descend into the gap between the Lions using the fixed rope. The worst part of the ascent is the first part where you must traverse a dangerously exposed section. It's not terribly difficult except for the fact that falling is NOT an option. Keep right and look for the orange markers. The ?trail? is well marked with good handholds almost all the way up. That being said, this is NOT for inexperienced climbers. The climb is dangerously exposed in MANY places. Go slow and test your holds, many of which are roots and branches. Do not attempt the summit of the West Lion without proper footwear.
The views from the summit are phenomenal. We could see Black Tusk, Garibaldi, Cathedral, Coliseum, Needles, Crown and many more of the North Shore peaks. It took us 4.5 hours from the trailhead to the summit. Helicopters regularly circled the peak bringing tourists in close to watch the climbers. This was kind of fun the first time but after 4 times it was getting distracting and annoying.
I expected the climb down from the summit to be worse than the climb up but was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't as bad as I expected. It was much more enjoyable than the rest of the descent. My knees took a hell of a beating on the long way down. The trail through the trees and then down the logging road seemed to go on forever. We made it back to the car at 5:30. We'd spent an hour on the summit with two more short breaks on the way up and down so all told we hiked for about 7.5 hours.
This is not a hike for the inexperienced or unfit but is a rewarding challenge for experienced, fit, prepared hikers.
One word of warning, do not leave anything lying around. It's a sad reality that people are stinkers. Last week a friend of mine had his trekking poles swiped after he left them at the base while he climbed to the summit. I had someone pick up my camera when I had taken off my pack and was resting on the way down.
Take Hwy 1 to Lions Bay. Take Oceanview Road, and go left on Cross Creek Road, and then right on Centre Road. Go left on Bayview Road, left on Mountain Drive and left on Sunset Drive. There is parking at the trailhead but unless you get there early you'll have to park 1 km down the road at the school on Mountain Drive.
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Posted By: LiamCounihan
- Thu Jul 23 16:56:53 UTC 2015
GroupTripVacation in Vancouver next month. Would like to join a group hiking the Lions.DETAILS are in this forum: Lions Hike
Posted By: moodygirl
- Sat Aug 17 03:42:31 UTC 2013
UpsideStunning view at the top, incredible sense of accomplishment</br></br> DownsideThe logging road at the start seems to double in length on the return</br></br> CommentAugust 5, 2013 (BC Day): Beautiful day to hike the Lions. Full sun and no rain for weeks meant a mud-free and full-view hike. Absolutely incredible. Not for the weak, this hike is strenuous, but quite doable for those in shape. Will definitely do this again, though perhaps from the Cypress Bowl approach.</br></br>
Posted By: SarahBSadd
- Tue Jul 23 15:41:27 UTC 2013
UpsideGreat views. DownsideBugs! CommentDid this on July 21st and had a wonderful time. Arrived at about 8am and we were able to park along Mountain Rd. Terrain at the beginning was fairly boring and steep but the fog was great to keep cool. Overall we had no problems finding our way as all major forks were well signed. The first steep, road part took us about a hard hour of uphill hiking, followed by half an hour of flat trail. The trail then became very steep and we were climbing for about 1 hour on trial that reminded me of the grouse grind. Final 45 minutes was on the exposed side heading up to the West Lion. Still a little bit of snow but nothing to crazy. Spectacular scenery. The worst part for us was the bugs - we don't seem to have any bites today but they were really annoying in our ears and also fighting off the deer flies. Other wildlife included a chipmunk, snake and a Grouse or Ptarmigan. Great views at the top of Vancouver and Schelt. Total time of the hike was just shy of 6 hours. About 3 hours to the top, half hour lunch break, and 2.5 on the way down. Sore glutes today but great memories and pictures to remember the day.
Posted By: PhotoKaz
- Mon Aug 20 20:59:45 UTC 2012
UpsideFantastic views, well marked trail. DownsideA long way to go, on the way down the road seems to stretch forever. CommentI went up with some friends August 18, 2012. Beautiful summer day, not much snow on the trail. There were a lot of people at the trail head but we didn't see many on the way up, everyone gets spread out. A bit hazy at the top but the view was spectacular!
Photos from the trip here: http://photokaz.com/2012/08/hiking-the-binkert-trail-to-the-lions/
Posted By: trailrunner
- Sun Sep 13 16:44:55 UTC 2009
UpsideTruly grand view. Just inspiring to be on West Lion's peak! DownsideSome sections after the alpine is rather confusing. Comment(This trip was made as a walking trip with many people. Parking gate to West lions peak and return 8hrs including numerous rest. If I ran it would be 3.5 hrs go & return. Fast runner should be able to do in about 3hrs. Trail is entirely runnable except at the West Lionâ??s peak ascent. If going just to the Weat Lionâ??s peak base, I would take off 40-60mins trip time)
Trail uses an old logging road for a good half portion. There is a turn off sign from the ex-road to the right into the trails to get to the lions but we met people who took the straight up logging road route to get to the lions as well. Then go through old growth stands with some blowdown trees before soon get behind the treeline; there is a big flat section to rest to admire Lionâ??s West peak view as well as Mt Harvey. Trail gets rather confusing from this point from time to time till you get to the ridge. Now from the ridge the West Lionâ??s base is easy to reach.
Below is my reporting on danger of West Lionâ??s peak ascent from a beginnerâ??s perspective. If you are thinking about doing the West Lionâ??s Peak so that you can look it up from Vancouver and tell your self proudly â??I was there!â??, I hope below info can be helpful.
First I needed to accept before I starting there is a good risk of serious injury - to mentally prepare. I divide this deadly but worthy climb into 4 sections.
Section 1; first you need to come down a mini cliff of 4m(but actually a much larger cliff, itâ??s just the view is hidden by the bush with a existing two ropes. The angle of this short decent is more than 100%, so you will need to grope the foot holding without being able to see. You will need to swing to the your right about 2m as you decent while you hold on to the rope so this is rather challenging. Going straight down is not an option as there is nothing there to set foot on.
Section 2; after this mini cliff you need to traverse a col ridge(5m) with both sides are cliff like angle. There is a loose thin rope but I think you can it for balancing only.
Section 3; this is the famous traverse. It goes like 50m or so on a narrow ascending ledge. But this 30-100cm wide ledge is often 20% or so inclined towards the cliff and multi-tiered as well. So you would need to grab a rope and rock holding and go step by step. My friend went ahead of me on another ledge higher from the rope route. You reach a small tree base growing on the side of the cliff to rest.
Section 4; I thought the traverse was the main challenge but now the cliff like climb starts which is divided into three sections by treebush with each about 10-20m up. Cliff is about 70-90% incline, then eventually reach 90-100% as you go beyond eyeâ??s reach. We saw only one rope provided in this ascent, so you hold onto rock and bush trees. I would advice to go only after each entire section is cleared off people as rock falling is an additional hazard. Also if the person above you falls, then they will likely hit you as well.
Other elements to consider; 1- It is enormously helpful to go with others. I would simply advice against going alone if you are beginner. It is very difficult for beginners to orient self if the route being taken is the right one. You have a very limited view of immediate surroundings. Your friend can coach you whether the route you are taking is a safe one or not by observing from some distance.
2- Go very slowly not only to get good firm hand grip & foot holding, but also to make sure the each step you are taking is retraceable.
2- For the first three sections, there is only one way to get to for the beginners. At the section 4, there seemed to be several options to ascend. But probably best to follow paint markings are.
3 To descend follow the cairns. But again there seemed to be numerous ways to go down the section 4.
4 For beginners I would definitely advice against trying the peak if; a- Surface is not completely dry. b- Windy day c- Weather doesnâ??t seem to be guaranteed to be clear and dry for next 60mins when you start the climb from the base. d- Going alone. e- If your leg/arm muscle is prone to cramp. f- If you cannot do a chin-up/pull up. g- Carrying back packs(can get caught in the bush at the crucial moment or lose balance when cliff is at your back as you want to be leaning closely against it. Leave them at the base).
5 Strangely, we beginners felt it was lot easier coming down than going up. I thought usually it would be more scary going downâ?¦.
Posted By: docdusty75
- Thu Feb 17 21:44:19 UTC 2005
UpsideThe views on the ridge just West of the West Lion are unbelievable! DownsideJust the pounding your knees will take on the descent. Get on the stairclimber in early April so you are ready for this hike in early July! CommentIt is a very demanding hike on the knees especially on the descent but it is well worth it. I would recommend going with a buddy that is an experienced hiker/climber because once you get to summit to the West of the West Lion you will want to finish it off by climbing the Lion.
Posted By: mikehamata
- Wed Nov 26 21:56:24 UTC 2003
UpsideGreat Views. Climbing the actual lions was worth the hike up. There is a rope ladder about 150 meters down on the opposite side that you summit to get across to the West Lion, over a fairly sizable cliff. Tons of fun. DownsideLong, and no water. We hiked from lions bay up the lions, and out through cypress. The lions bay trail is well marked, but to get from the top to cypress can be a bit confusing. CommentBring lots of water, and allow plenty of time, because you will need both.
Posted By: Lighthouse
- Thu Oct 03 15:26:37 UTC 2002
UpsideFantastic Alpine views along the Crest without needing to grunt straight up from Lions Bay. DownsideAppart from the start, no water enroute. Lot's of up and down as you go along the Crest. CommentBeen up the Lions both ways and the trip in from Cypress, though tough, is more enjoyable.