Cana­dian Trails

Li­ons Binkert Trail, North Van­cou­ver, B.C.

Canadian Running - - CONTENTS - By Wing Tay­lor

Van­cou­ver’s North Shore moun­tains are a trail run­ning par­adise, but most of the routes tend to play out in a sim­i­lar fash­ion – trees, trees, trees… more trees, a big, stun­ning view, then back to more trees be­fore find­ing your­self at home. As won­der­ful as it is to run un­der the canopy of the rain­for­est, the Li­ons Binkert also spends a lot of time giv­ing you spec­tac­u­lar views of down­town Van­cou­ver, English Bay, and, to the west, the fjord­like Howe Sound and its moun­tain­ous is­lands. In fact, quite counter to the norm on the North Shore, the Li­ons Binkert trail fea­tures in­cred­i­ble views for more than half of your to­tal run­ning time (this is es­pe­cially so if you ham­mer the down­hill). Named af­ter Paul Binkert of the British Co­lum­bia Moun­taineer­ing Club ( bcmc), the trail was built in 1971 and climbs di­rectly out of the town of Li­ons Bay to Van­cou­ver’s iconic Li­ons, two side-by-side rocky peaks which are one of the dom­i­nant fea­tures of the land­scape when look­ing north from the city. There are dozens of things in Van­cou­ver

named for the Li­ons, in­clud­ing the his­toric bridge con­nect­ing down­town to North and West Van­cou­ver.

All of this adds up to a very pop­u­lar climb, so head out early (I’ve been there at 6 a.m. on a sum­mer morn­ing and not re­motely been the first one there – park­ing near the trail­head is quite lim­ited, and park­ing reg­u­la­tions are strictly en­forced).

The first sec­tion of trail is an ini­tially steep fire road, which be­comes quite runnable soon enough. Af­ter a while you reach a creek bed with the usual un­even sur­faces and loose stones, but this does not last long and soon gives way to a south­bound tra­verse through typ­i­cal North Shore forested trail. There are a cou­ple of nice wa­ter­falls, a short but scenic bridge cross­ing and a look­out with a nice but nar­row tease of the view to come. And then the trail turns up­hill. This sec­tion of trail is steep and heav­ily wooded, but even­tu­ally breaks out onto the ridge line just to the west of the Li­ons. As soon as you crest this ridge, the real joys of the trail be­come ev­i­dent.

First, you see the north­west side of the West Lion loom­ing over you – for first timers, it’s ex­cit­ing to see up-close some­thing that has al­ways been such an im­por­tant but dis­tant part of the Van­cou­ver land­scape. As you fol­low the ridge to the south, you es­cape the trees and en­ter a boul­der field, and the un­in­ter­rupted panoramic views start in earnest. Note: it is quite easy to reach this boul­der field early enough that morn­ing dew and a lin­ger­ing freeze may be con­spir­ing to make the rocks quite slick.

Wayfind­ing through the boul­der field is straight­for­ward with abun­dant paint mark­ers and f lag­ging, and you are even­tu­ally fun­nelled into a short steep sec­tion which gains you the ridge line. Turn­ing left at a “T” (and thus merg­ing with the other main in­com­ing trail to this area – the Howe Sound Crest Trail) you are now headed north again for the fi­nal ap­proach to the Li­ons.

The ridge does not take long to climb, and be­fore you know it you are right there – the huge West Lion, di­rectly in front of you, and the East Lion off to the right re­veal­ing it­self to be sig­nif­i­cantly lower in el­e­va­tion, and a con­sid­er­ably steeper and nas­tier-look­ing peak.

The end of the trail is at the ridge just un­der the Lion. Here, you get in­cred­i­ble panoramic views in­clud­ing the Capi­lano wa­ter­shed and reser­voir, down­town Van­cou­ver, the In­let, Ge­or­gia Straight, Howe Sound, En­chant­ment Lake and many peaks to the north and east. You are also perched atop an amaz­ingly sheer cliff to the west that, in and of it­self, is ex­cit­ing. Watch your step. (There is plenty of nice f lat space to hang out on – but that edge has a grav­i­ta­tional pull for those who can han­dle heights.)

Ac­tu­ally sum­mit­ing the West Lion is a class-three scram­ble, so don’t at­tempt this un­less you know what you are do­ing. But for those who are pre­pared, it’s very re­ward­ing to sum­mit a fea­ture that is viewed from so many dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in the city and sur­round­ing ar­eas on a daily ba­sis.

Descend­ing is made all the bet­ter be­cause now those views are in front of you as you make your way back down the ridge, back down the boul­der field, and down into the trees. But once you do fi­nally find your­self back un­der that fa­mil­iar canopy, it’s time to run fast. And it is an ex­tremely fun, quad-pound­ing de­scent. By the time you reach the fi­nal steeper pitches of the fire road, you will likely find your­self grate­ful for the li­cence to hit the brakes and ease your way down the last lit­tle bit to the car.

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