A couple weeks back I posted some photos of the sunrise hike I did up to Dog Mountain on New Years Eve. I wasn’t going to blog about it because I have written about Dog Mountain before and really the pictures speak for themselves; however, a lot of people sent me messages about hiking in the dark. Most of these were looking for pointers so here we go. (these tips are little extras on top of the basic hiking safety suggestions like, tell someone where you are going and for how long!)
First of all I will say that we are very blessed in Vancouver to have trails that lead to amazing viewpoints that aren’t difficult to get to. Dog Mountain is the perfect example. In fact, Dog Mountain is easier in the winter than it is in the summer. The snow covers up most of the roots and actually levels out the terrain. It’s less than 5km round trip and is extremely well marked, making it a very popular hike in the summer and a very popular snowshoe trail in the winter… Now about Snowshoes.
Snowshoes are great when you have fresh snow. They float you and allow you to get to all kinds of amazing places; however, just because there is snow on the ground doesn’t mean you need them. Snow around Vancouver tends to be a little on the wetter side and on popular trails becomes compacted and icy very quickly, so before you throw on the old beaver tails, check to see if it has snowed recently. When I headed up to Dog Mountain it hadn’t snowed for two days. I didn’t even bother taking snowshoes and opted for my microspikes instead. Snowshoes become clunky and cause unnecessary fatigue in icy, hardpacked, conditions. Microspikes allow you to walk like you normally would while providing amazing traction.
I had quite a few questions about what was on my boots as I passed people on the trail. Microspikes are devices that you can attach to your hiking boots. They are normally a combination of a stretch rubber, chains, and metal brackets with attached spikes. The rubber stretches around your boot securing the chains that hold the bracketed spikes against the bottom of your boot. Microspikes (trail crampons) aren’t super expensive. I recommend “Hillsound” Trail crampons (https://www.hillsound.com/products/trail-crampon) they are light, comfortable, and Hillsound is a Vancouver company – $60. I also know people that use Kahtoola Microspikes (https://kahtoola.com/product/microspikes/) – $70. Both of these sets get great reviews and can be used for hiking or trail running.
Even if you have Snowshoes, pick up a pair of microspikes and throw them in your bag. They are compact and take up no room. You will be prepared for whatever conditions you hit.
Yes… I did this hike on my own, but that doesn’t mean I always do or that you have to. If you have never been hiking in the dark, take some people with you. It’s fun, gives you more confidence, if something happens you have help, there are more eyes looking for trail markers. Once you have gone out a few times with friends then maybe try the same trails on your own.
That being said, if you are doing popular trails at Seymour, Cypress or Grouse by yourself, you still aren’t really alone. You will see many other people who had the same idea as you.
You don’t actually have to hike in the dark to see the sunrise. The road to Seymour doesn’t open until 7:00am. Tomorrow the sunrise will be at 7:58am. By the time you drive up, get your gear on, and get to the lookout you will be right on time and you will have had enough light on the way out to see without a headlamp (still take one though, especially if it’s foggy). Photos below at the start of hike and about a half hour in.
If you are still feeling uneasy about doing this, for the first time, there are always people that organize group hikes for this very purpose. For example checkout
Group Hikes Near Vancouver…
It is put together by Kristine from “Hikes Near Vancouver” – Also, follow her Instagram for a little inspiration and motivation. @hikesnearvancouver. Kristine is super knowledgeable and will answer any questions you have before the hike. Worried about distance, conditions, elevation, speed that the group hikes… just ask!
If you are looking for an even bigger commitment, check out…
With CS you can sign up to make commitments to get up early for a set number of days. These guys are set up for a complete change in mindset. They went through it themselves and wanted to share the feeling.
So get a couple of friends together, grab your gear, throw on a headlamp and get out there! See Vancouver in a totally different light! (See what I did there ;))
The Walking Dad.