The Best Hiking Trails on Bowen Island – From a Local’s Perspective

The Best Hiking Trails on Bowen Island – From a Local’s Perspective

We have an abundance of riches when it comes to choosing the best hiking trails on Bowen Island.

There are over 30 km of marked trails on Bowen and countless other deer trails, shoreline foot paths and old lanes crisscrossing the island.

And if you broaden your options to include swimming, kayaking and SUP , you’ll never run out of special places to explore.  

The best hiking trails on Bowen Island include some beautiful forests.
Photo by Lisa Brougham

Our visitors to Bowen Island tend to follow the same well-worn paths from Snug Cove to Killarney Lake, hiking up Mount Gardner for the stunning views (and Instagram no-filter posts), while more experienced hikers find themselves on our extensive trail network on the flanks of Mount Gardner, the connecting trails leading down to Cape Roger Curtis, and the highlands on the east side of the island. 

We’ve assembled information on some of the best hiking trails on Bowen Island, from brisk walks to secret spots (which we’ll keep secret so that you can discover them on your own). 

Ready to take your first steps?

The Best Hiking Trails on Bowen Island Trails with Unique Ecosystems

The hallmark Bowen Island hiking trails is a diversity of ecosystems and micro-climates.

So while movement and exercise is a constant companion on any hike, the lush green forests, bright meadows, streams and rivers, marshes, and seaside rock outcroppings and Arbutus trees will capture your awareness.

A hike on the north side of the island, facing a stiff Nor’wester howling down Howe Sound is a bracing walk in contrast to the rocks and grasses warmed by the sun on the south side.

You can literally never hike the same trail twice.

Highlights for experiencing special habitats include:

  • The Fairy Fen Nature Preserve
  • The windswept rocks of Cape Roger Curtis
  • Walking around Grafton lake and taking the high road
  • The meadow and marshland downstream from Killarney Lake
  • Feasting on salmon and huckleberries during the summer trails that see summer sun

And, of course, there are many more.

The view at Cape Roger Curtis, Bowen Island.
Photo by Claudia Schaefer

Best Hiking Trails on Bowen Island for Learning Local History

Bowen Island has a rich local history and an ancient one, as well.

First Nations History

While there aren’t many visible traces of the Squamish people and other First Nations who lived, camped or visited Nexwlélexwm / Bowen Island, there is some history to ponder while you walk in the forests or along the shores.

Deep Bay, Mannion Bay and Snug Cove were known to the Squamish as Kwilakm or “clam bay.” The Squamish people have harvested clams for thousands of years.

The Squamish name for Bowen Island meant “beat a fast rhythm,” possibly a reference to the large deer population and other animals, which they visited Bowen Island to hunt. [source]

Find out more about First Nations history of Bowen Island on the Bowen Island Conservancy’s Discovering Kwilakm website and Bowen Island Heritage Society.

A small stream runs through a ravine in the forest.
Photo by Claudia Schaefer

Early Settlers, Loggers and Tourists

The evidence of early European settlers is all around, including the shattered ruins of old buildings, docks, wharves, and even mines.

Many of the lowland areas of Bowen Island are covered by blackberries, vines and grasses during the summer, hidden from view on most hikes, but if you know where to look you will find mysterious remnants of days gone by:

  • The Causeway at the Lagoon
  • The Ruins in the Crippen Park Meadow
  • Bridal Veil Falls
  • Old dock pilings at Tunstall Bay, Miller’s Landing, Deep Bay and other beaches (each with their own history and fantastic tales)
  • The old mine shaft (Mt. Gardner)
  • Quarry Park
  • Giant tree stumps

Heritage Trail: 

If you are relatively new to Bowen Island and haven’t learned about the more recent history of the island, you’ll really enjoy the Heritage Trail map created by

Two hikers stand in front of a giant tree trunk on Bowen Island.
Photo by Claudia Schaefer

Best Hiking Trails on Bowen Island for Running

If you’re looking through this list of best hiking trails on Bowen Island, you’ll notice that there aren’t really that many flat trails. That’s why Bowen Islanders are generally fit and hardy folk!

There is a good network of trails around Killarney Lake and Snug Cove that work well for an easy run.

For hill work, you can also run up the western flank of Mount Gardner and then connect along its north side to Killarney Lake trail network, which is a segment of the Handloggers Trail race.

You will want to avoid trails with steep, rocky or river bed sections where your running shoes won’t be up to the task.

Best Steep Hiking Trails for a Hard Workout

Does Bowen Island have its own equivalent of the Grouse Grind? Well, no. And that’s probably a good thing. But if you’re looking to build up a burn in your legs, you can’t go wrong with some of the following routes with a high elevation change:

  • The quick sprint up Dorman Point trail
  • Mt Gardner, of course
  • The hills behind Grafton Lake

The interactive map for the Mount Gardner trail network on the Bowen Island Trail Society website provides you with an elevation change for each trail segment.

Be aware of the time of year and condition of the trails, especially after a heavy rainfall or snowfall.

Heck, if you’re really into building your fitness, you could just pick the trail with the steepest hills and do repeats!

A group of hikers ascend a steep trail on Bowen Island.
Photo by Claudia Schaefer

Best Hiking Trails on Bowen Island with Amazing Views

While the top of Mount Gardner with its panoramic views is the obvious winner, there are some honourable mentions for the title of best hiking trails on Bowen Island with stupendous views:

  • Cates Bay beach looking across to the North Shore Mountains
  • Duncan’s Hat aka Conical Hill, above Grafton Lake
  • The lookout on Bluewater Trail looking west (on the way up to Mount Gardner)
  • The view to the north from the top of Cates Hill
A hiker and her dogs look out from the top of Mount Gardner to the Coast Mountains to the east.
Even dogs enjoy the view from the top of Mt. Gardner. Photo by Lisa Brougham.

Best Secret Hiking Trails on Bowen Island

Many islanders have their own tranquil, secret hikes, which they treasure and prefer to keep away from the eager masses. Many communities with special places struggle with the dilemma of sharing or preserving them.

So we don’t want to included any secrets spots in this discussion of the best hiking trails on Bowen Island. We encourage you to find your own.

One local resident, Pete Scott, has a secret hike of his own: 

“You need to get your feet wet – and quite possibly your whole body up to your neck – to reach an amazing rock outcrop that is surrounded by a sandy “beach” of white powdered mussel shells, with views of Mt. Rainier in the distance, seals sunning themselves just nearby, and the quiet lapping of the water. Further on is a challenging hike that runs the length of the south shore of Bowen Island. I especially enjoy going there in the still warm shoulder seasons of October or March for a swim and then hiking around the headland back to a favourite beach. Where it is, I’ll never tell.” 

Lush ferns and moss-covered trees on one of Bowen Island many hiking trails.
Photo by Claudia Schaefer

Bowen Island Hiking Resources

Have an appetite for hiking on Bowen Island? Check out these resources below:

Author: devBowenOnline