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Mt Strachan is the highest peak of the Cypress Bowl Ski Area and one of the least well-known hikes too. However, I’d argue it’s one of the best Cypress Mountain hikes for intermediate-advanced hikers. There’s some steep, technical sections, a plane crash, and beautiful views (if you go on a non-cloudy day!). If you’re looking for hikes near Vancouver, make sure to check out the Mount Strachan trail.
Mount Strachan hike
From the top of Strachan, you’ll get magnificent views of The Lions and Garibaldi to the north as well as views of the Howe Sound and Vancouver Island to the south. Compared to other Cypress hikes, such as Eagle Bluffs and St Mark’s Summit, Mt Strachan is less well known and travelled (although increasing in popularity!). The trail is mostly well marked, but you’ll have to keep an eye on the trail markers.
One difference between Mount Strachan and many other local Vancouver hikes is that it can be easily hiked as a loop trail, rather than an out and back hike. This guide will detail the trail from Cypress Mountain, via Bowen Lookout, and down the T-33 ski run where the remains of a Royal Canadian Navy T-33 Jet lie.
How to get to Mt Strachan
Mt Strachan is best hiked from the Cypress Bowl downhill ski area. You can park for free in the upper car park. But, if there’s any chance you’ll be out past 8 pm then you’ll need to make sure you park before the gates to avoid your car being locked in.
From downtown Vancouver, head over Lions Gate Bridge and follow signs to Whistler to join Highway 99 headed north. Then, take signs to Cypress Ski Area. The trailhead is about 30 minutes away from Vancouver, depending on traffic.
Know before you go
- Always practice leave no trace ethics. Not sure what those are? Get a refresher here.
- Just because it’s spring in the city, there’s often still snow in the local mountains until July.
- Carry bear spray with you on all BC hiking trails. Get more bear safety tips here!
- Wondering what to pack for Vancouver day hikes? Here’s a hiking packing list!
- Refresh your memory about hiking safety with BC Adventure Smart.
- Don’t leave home without your 10 essentials. They could save your life!
- Dogs are allowed on a leash.
- Check trail conditions and Mount Cypress weather beforehand.
- This map from MEC is great for North Shore hiking and Cypress mountain trails.
Mount Strachan Hike
Most people hike Mount Strachan in a clockwise loop starting from the parking lot for Cypress Mountain resort downhill ski area. You can also hike it the other direction, but going up Christmas Gully is a lot easier than coming down it!
Starting at the parking lot for Cypress ski resort, head towards the ski area with the main lodge on your lefthand side until you reach the Cypress Provincial Park signboard and map. At the bottom of the Lions Express Quad Chairlift, there’s a trail marker heading into the forest signposted ‘Howe Sound Crest Trail’. Follow this route into the woods.
Very quickly, you’ll arrive at a small junction. Here, you can continue straight, following signs for Bowen Lookout rather than Howe Sound Crest Trail for a more scenic hike. Or, take the Howe Sound Crest Trail path. You’ll end up at the same place.
You’ll then notice the Eagle Express Quad Chair on your left, but keep going straight into the meadow and towards Yew Lake. Then, make a right at the junction marked for Bowen Lookout. After a short, small climb in the forest, make a left at the sign for Bowen Lookout and then left again once you reach the gravel road. This is where you’ll come to if you didn’t take the route by Yew Lake.
The road is flat and you’ll cross over a small bridge before beginning to climb uphill over a series of switchbacks. The last few of these switchbacks before Bowen Lookout are quite steep. If you’ve never been to Bowen lookout, I highly recommend it. You’ll see a sign pointing downhill and left off the trail you’re walking and it’ll add about 500 metres to the hike.
Once you’ve walked back to where you left the trail, you’ll continue walking uphill until you enter into the forest again and the trail flattens out. It’s not long before you come across a major junction. There’s a useful trail map of the area and, as you head left, there are some beautiful views of The Lions. This trail walks through the forest but is pretty flat and you’ll cross a view streams here and there. It’s the same way you go as if you’re hiking to St Mark’s Summit.
Don’t get too distracted by the beauty of the forest. You need to pay attention to make sure you don’t miss the turnoff for Mount Strachan. At about 3.5km into the hike, you’ll reach Strachan Meadows where there are two small wooden bridges crossing over the creek. The trail to Mount Strachan is on your right between these two bridges. It’s quite hard to spot at first; look for an overgrown trail headed into the brush. I find using a downloaded map on the AllTrails app helps to make sure you’re headed the right way.
There is some flagging on the branches, so keep your eye out for them.
The trail then opens up into a steep climb known as Christmas Gully. You’ll need to climb al the way to the top of here. Since the area is covered in shade, the snow here lasts late into the summer. If you’re hiking in Spring or early summer be prepared for this.
The trail starts to head to the left of the gully and into the trees. After about 10 minutes, you’ll come back out into the gully. Take care when making your way to the top as the rocks can be slippery.
The two summits
Once you’ve reached the top of the gully you’re almost there! There are two summits to Mount Strachan: the north is to your left and the south is on your right. Take the north summit first by following the trail on your left. This route involves a steep, exposed scramble but the view is an amazing panorama of the North Shore and surrounding mountains.
When you’ve enjoyed the view on the north summit, retrace your steps to the clearing at the top of the gully and make your way to the south peak straight ahead of you. This summit has great views of Howe Sound and downtown Vancouver (or so I’ve heard, the view was shrouded in mist when I did this hike!).
The next part of the trail is quite tricky to find, so get that AllTrails app out. You want to head to the Southern (far) side of the summit until you come to the top of the Sky Chair chairlift. You need to really pay attention to find the flagging and keep to the path as close as possible. I’m sure we went round in circles a little bit at this point!
The trail is down and left from the chairlift and it dips into the trees where it becomes ane easier to follow, define trail again. It’ll start heading downhill steeply and then zip-zags through the trees. Then, you’ll come across the wreckage of the T-33 jet where the fuselage and engine parts can still be seen.
The T-33 plane wreckage
The T-33 plane that you come across crashed in 1963. The two Navy crew members were in training during the time of the Cold War when the fatal crash occurred. Do not touch or remove any of the wreckage out of respect.
To continue the trail from here, head downhill until you come out at a wide gravel road /ski run which you follow all the way back down to the lodge and parking lot.
If you want to make the hike longer, you can take the “Old Strachan Trail” as marked on the trail map linked above, which eventually links up with the Baden Powell trail. However, this is steep and adds a lot more distance. Another option is to link the Mt Strachan trail with the Hollyburn Mountain trail. This works great if you’ve got a shuttle between the downhill and cross-country parking lots (or if you don’t mind walking up the road!).
Mt Strachan hike statistics
Know the essential hike details of the Mt Strachan trail, BC.
What to pack for Mt Strachan
Make sure you look at these packing lists for the Mount Strachan hike.
Other Cypress Mountain hikes
If you’re looking for other local hikes and more Cypress hiking trails, check out this list: