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Hiking St Mark’s Summit near downtown Vancouver

Hiking St Mark’s Summit near downtown Vancouver

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St Mark’s Summit is one of the best Vancouver hikes. In fact, I like it so much that I’ve done it twice in the space of just a few weeks. If it weren’t for Panorama Ridge I might even say that it’s one of the top BC hikes.

The best thing about the St Marks trail is that it’s super close to downtown Vancouver! If you’re hoping to hike to St Mark’s Summit this summer, here’s everything you need to know.

No day passes are needed for Cypress in 2021. 

st marks summit hike

St Mark’s Summit hike

The St Mark’s Summit hike is considered a moderate hike. It’s not too challenging as for most of the way the trail is very well maintained and not too steep. Compared to the Grouse Grind, you’ll gain 460m hiking St Mark Summit which is 393m lower than the Grouse Grind and it’s about twice as long = it’s not too steep!

St Mark’s Summit is part of the Howe Sound Crest Trail (a 30km trail from Cypress to Porteau Cove) which includes Unnecessary Mountain up in the Vancouver mountains. When you begin your hike, you won’t see signs to St Mark’s. Instead, you’ll see signs to Bowen Lookout and The Lions. Follow these to get started on the correct trail to St Marks.

The view from St Mark’s Summit is undoubtedly one of the best hikes in Vancouver thanks to incredible views across the Howe Sound and downtown Vancouver. If you’re visiting Vancouver or are looking for hikes near Vancouver, this hike is pretty much a must-do in Vancouver!

Know before you go hiking in Vancouver, BC

  • Check that the trail is open. Many Provincial Parks in BC are currently closed. You can see the full list of open BC Parks here.
  • Always practice leave no trace ethics. Not sure what those are? Get a refresher here.
  • Carry bear spray with you, particularly on higher elevation on North Vancouver hikes & West Vancouver. Get more bear safety tips here!
  • Wondering what to pack for Vancouver day hikes? Here’s a hiking packing list!
  • Choose quieter trails, particularly nowadays. Hike early morning or mid-week if you can.
  • Refresh your memory about hiking save with BC Adventure Smart.
  • Don’t leave home without your 10 essentials. They could save your life!
  • I highly recommend this Howe Sound Crest Trail map for hikes on the North Shore including St Marks. For a specific St Marks trail map check out the trail on AllTrails.

How to get to St Marks?

The St Mark’s Summit trail is within Cypress Provincial Park and starts from the Cypress Mountain ski area. From the parking lot, you’ll head past the winter offices and ski pass pick-up on your left until you get to a trail map and the start of the woods.

Parking is free but if you think you’ll be out hiking until after 8 pm then make sure to abide by the signs so your car doesn’t get locked in!

St Marks trail

st marks summit sunset (3 of 6)

the view from st marks summit

There are a few different routes you can take to get to St Mark’s Summit. You can hike via Yew Lake or you can take the more direct route to the top! Both options offer some beautiful views.

If you take the Yew Lake route bear left at the beginning of your hike to St Mark’s Summit.

Then follow the signs until you loop back around and get to a signpost and take a left turn, following signs to Bowen Lookout.

This is where you’ll come to if you just went straight from the Cypress ski area and down a flatter, open road without going to Yew Lake.

The final climb up to Bowen Lookout is a little bit steep, arguably one of the steepest bits of the entire trail!

Bowen Lookout, Cypress

bowen lookout date ideas hiking in vancouver

As you walk uphill, there’s a small sign and a pathway on your left. This path takes you down to Bowen Lookout. The views here are some of my favourite in Vancouver!

Once you’re done soaking up the views, retrace your steps to where you came off the main trail and make a left to continue uphill until you reach a forested area.

At this point, you’ll see a map of the various hikes within Cypress Provincial Park and, slightly past this, a little glimpse of The Lions.

You can also do the Bowen Summit hike on its own, it’s one of the best easy hikes in Vancouver.

St Marks Summit Vancouver

st marks summit hike

Making a left out of the forest you’ll pass a few streams and then the trail starts to climb uphill again. There’s a small meadow area with two bridges you have to cross.

At this point, the path begins to level out and there’s a brief downhill section. This downhill is short-lived as then the trail climbs up again through another series of steep switchbacks.

Around halfway through this uphill section, the trail goes from a well-maintained gravel path to one that isn’t maintained at all. There are lots of roots and rocks that will probably slow your pace down!

When the trail starts to level out and you emerge from the forest, you’ve reached the upper region of St. Mark’s Summit! To your left there’s a big rock, climbing it provides your first view from St Mark’s Summit.

There’s also another viewpoint you shouldn’t miss. After taking in the views here, head down off the rock and bear left. Look for a well-trodden path and follow it through some trees to another rock which has great views.

Saint Marks Summit Vancouver hike stats

Elevation: Gain 460m
Distance:
11km
Time:
3-5 hours return trip
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Distance from Vancouver:
30-40 minutes by car

When’s the best time to visit St Mark’s summit hikes, Vancouver?

st marks summit sunset (3 of 6)

Since it’s such a nearby hiking trail, it’s not exactly the quietest hike around, but it’s worth it and the crowds can be avoided if you go early, or late! For reference, we started a hike around 9 am and there were a few people on the trail but the summit wasn’t too busy and, when we did the sunset hike it was just us and 3 other people at the top.

In terms of the best time of year to hike St Mark’s summit, it’s one Vancouver trail that’s very dependent on the weather. When we hiked in mid-June there was still some snow on the top of the trail. Check recent reviews and Instagram posts to get more of an idea. In general, St Mark’s Summit is best in Summer & Fall; after the snow has melted and before it comes back!

If you plan to hike earlier on in the year I highly recommend buying some yak tracks. They’ll give you some extra traction on slippery sections!

For the best views in Vancouver hike up St Mark’s at sunset but don’t forget to take your 10 essentials; especially a head torch and bear spray!

You can check Cypress Mountain weather on the Cypress Mountain website which is useful since there are some webcams. If there’s any snow at the lower elevations you can be sure there’ll be some at the top of St Mark’s!

Looking for more things to do in Vancouver? Check out the following Vancouver travel guides:

Tara Cannon

Friday 5th of June 2020

We are looking at doing a Vancouver hike today. I will check to see if this is open. Thanks. :)

Hannah Kacary

Monday 8th of June 2020

Cypress opened June 1st so you'll be good. Might be snowy though!