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15 of the Best Day Hikes in British Columbia, Canada

British Columbia is a hiker’s paradise. From the snow capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the lush forests of Vancouver Island, there are endless day hiking trails to explore across the province. 

In this post, I’m going to be sharing my all time favourite day hikes in British Columbia. I’ll also share outdoor safety advice and tips on how you can make the most of your BC hiking experience.

Back view of JR descending from ridge on dirt path, traversing the side of a slope. Huge mountains form the the backdrop
Jumbo Pass

We have explored and loved each of the following BC day hikes. These are the hiking trails that stand out the most in my memory, for spectacular views and overall hiking experience.

For reference, we live in Penticton in southern British Columbia and hike reasonably often. I have tried to showcase BC day hikes from across the province, not just those in our ‘backyard.’

Eva Lake view with shoreline trail on right and mountainous backdrop
Eva Lake

As a side note, the majority of these hiking trails can be incorporated into multi-day backpacking trips.

Here’s what to expect:

Side/back view of JR sitting down on rock looking out at views of the Macbeth Icefield on the Monica Meadows trail, one of the best BC day hikes
Monica Meadows

Published 10th February 2023. We have hiked all but one of these trails within the last two and a half years.

The majority of British Columbia is located on unceded traditional First Nations territory. is a good starting point to learn more about the First Nations where these hiking trails are situated.

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Backcountry necessities

Looking across glacier moraine towards mountains and glaciers on other side of valley, with large cascading waterfall (Takakkaw Falls) on left hand side
Iceline Trail

Best day hikes in British Columbia: Our criteria

Day hiking opportunities are easy to find across British Columbia.

For this post, however, I really wanted to share true ‘day hikes’ i.e. hiking trails that take the full day (or most of a day) to hike.

My second criteria for this list was that the hiking experience needed to be epic. By this I mean that the destination and/or journey needed to be outstandingly beautiful with multiple ‘wow’ moments.

This list features destination hiking trails that are worth planning an entire dedicated trip around. These are the type of hiking trails that will be thinking about for years afterwards.

Back view of Gemma sitting down looking out at the view of a turquoise lake at Twin Lakes in British Columbia. The lake is backdropped by a mountain
Twin Lakes

I also wanted to include a mix of hiking trails. Yes, many of the following BC day hikes finish at an alpine lake. But not all of them do.

As previously mentioned, I have also tried to incorporate BC day hikes from numerous regions across the province.

Please note that the nature of these hiking trails (day long alpine adventures) mean that they are all moderate to challenging difficulty. Some of these trails involve 10 hours of hiking

Screenshot of Google Map showing the location of the best BC day hikes
Click to view Google Map with featured hikes

Can’t spot your favourite BC day hike?

This is a list of our most loved BC day hiking trails, based on our personal hiking experience. This may mean that your favourite BC day hike is not on this list.

If you live in northern or central British Columbia, this is more likely to be true. Full disclaimer – we haven’t hiked much in these regions yet. As and when we make it further north, this list will likely expand.

JR is hiking up rocky area on Frosty Mountain Trail with endless mountain rnages in background as well as golden larch trees
Frosty Mountain

Essential safety information

Before venturing to the trailheads of any of these BC day hikes, please:

  • Thoroughly research the route, including potential and forecasted weather, local wildlife, trail conditions and difficulty
  • Objectively evaluate your experience, fitness and skills before deciding whether to go
  • Time your hike right. The majority of these trails are usually best (and most safely) hiked from mid July to mid September. Start early to finish well before dusk
  • Let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back – these trails are located in remote wilderness areas, with very limited or, in most cases, non-existent phone signal
  • Carry the 10 Essentials. These items prevent small inconveniences from turning into emergency situations
  • Bring clothing to suit all possible weather conditions. These trails are located in alpine areas where snow and freezing temperatures are possible at any time of the year
  • Know how to avoid negative wildlife encounters. This includes learning the basics of bear safety. Carry bear spray in an easily accessible holster
  • Leave No Trace of your visit. Stay on established trails, pack out everything you brought with you, use designated outhouses, be considerate of others

Read More: How to Stay Safe in the Outdoors

Side view of huge 1200m cliffs rising out of forest, with rolling farmland in background
Enderby Cliffs

British Columbia’s best day hikes: Our top picks

Without any further delay, let’s get into the main part of this post – our top picks for the best day hiking trails in British Columbia!

Again, please note that all of these trails are moderate to challenging in difficulty

Cream Lake, Strathcona Provincial Park

Distance: 24km return with 1000m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back
Need to know: The final 2km to the parking area is rough, unpaved road
More info: MB Guiding

This ambitious day hike in Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island features a trio of gorgeous alpine lakes.

The varied route keeps you on your toes, with ladders, switchbacks, steps, huge tree roots, boardwalk, bridges and rocky sections providing access to Baby Bedwell Lake and Bedwell Lake.

Blue-green-coloured Cream Lake sits at the end of the trail, with the best views seen from above. Across the valley, Della Falls (one of Canada’s highest waterfalls) is also visible in the distance.

If Cream Lake is just a little too far for your taste, Bedwell Lake is still a satisfying BC day hike destination (15km return). Alternatively, consider approaching this trail as an overnight hike instead and camp at Baby Bedwell Lake or Bedwell Lake.

Cream Lake is only one of many fantastic day hikes in Strathcona Provincial Park. I would also recommend researching Landslide Lake, the Kwai Lake Loop and Flower Ridge. Della Falls is a worthwhile backpacking trip.

Back view of JR hiking on dirt path next to reflective lake in alpine area on Cream Lake Trail in Strathcona Provincial Park
On the way to Cream Lake

Watersprite Lake near Squamish

Distance: 17km with 665m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back
Need to know: Rough access, high clearance 4X4 recommended
More info: BCMC website

Watersprite Lake may just be the most picture perfect alpine lake in British Columbia. The crystal clear turquoise water of the lake is punctuated with tiny treed islands and framed by dramatic peaks. It really has to be seen to be believed!

The trail to the lake is pretty adventurous, with a relatively long exposed boulder field section (super hot in the summer!) and plenty of elevation gain.

Most of the trail offers unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, so there is plenty to look at while hiking.

Watersprite Lake is accessed by a very rough unpaved road. Our van is high clearance with decent off road tires and we are usually fine on most unpaved industrial (logging) roads. The final 5km of the approach damaged the van’s tires.

Please note that it is strong discouraged to bring dogs on this BC day hike.

Back view of JR looking out to turquoise coloured Watersprite Lake, one of BC's best day hiking destinations
Watersprite Lake

Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi Provincial Park

Distance: 22km return with 600m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back
Need to know: Dirt road access, high clearance AWD recommended
More info: BC Parks website

Elfin Lakes is just one of many excellent day hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park near Squamish. The hike to Elfin Lakes is on the longer side but it is surprisingly achievable due to the relatively gentle overall grade of the path.

The first 5km is all uphill, with 4km of that in the shady forest.The rest of the route follows Paul Ridge, with the super wide and level path offering spectacular vistas of snow capped mountains to the west.

The beautiful Elfin Lakes finally appear, backdropped by Opal Cone and the Mamquam Icefield. Time for a swim! The larger lake is ideal for a dip – it’s not nearly as cold as other alpine lakes in British Columbia.

Be sure to take plenty of water when hiking to Elfin Lakes in summer. There is no water on the long stretch along Paul Ridge.

Looking across alpine scenery to Elfin Lakes, two lakes set into mountainous landscape
Elfin Lakes

Frosty Mountain, Manning Provincial Park

Distance: 21km with 1150m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back (but loop also possible)
Need to know: Favourable weather required for summit ridge ascent
More info: Frosty Mountain hiking guide

The Frosty Mountain Trail offers the opportunity to summit a 2408m high peak in Manning Provincial Park (located halfway between Vancouver and Osoyoos).

While best known for its display of golden larches in early autumn, Frosty Mountain is a challenging yet rewarding day hike in the summer season as well.

The total elevation gain is significant but on a clear day, it is truly worth every step to climb Frosty. The views from the summit are absolutely spectacular, with endless mountain ranges as far as the eye can see.

To reach the summit, hikers must first pick their way up a steep scree slope. This can be a bit tricky and is definitely not recommended in foggy conditions. The final ridge approach is rocky and completely exposed.

Manning Provincial Park is full of impressive day long hiking trails. Other favourites include the Heather Trail and Skyline I. The latter can be hiked as a loop.

JR and Gemma stand next to the summit marker on Mount Frosty, with endless mountain ranges around them. Mount Frosty is one of BC's best day hikes
JR and I at the Mount Frosty summit

Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park

Distance: 11km with 650m elevation gain
Type of hike: Loop
Need to know: Trailhead accessible by shuttle or day long hike only
More info: Rim Trail hiking guide

The Rim Trail is Cathedral Provincial Park‘s signature hike, showcasing impressive geological formations as well as alpine leaks and endless surrounding mountain ranges.

The name of the trail refers to the mountainous ridge along the western side of Cathedral’s core area. The entire route is situated above 2000m elevation, so the rewards come quickly. There’s a high chance of spotting mountain goats too.

Cathedral is a lesser known provincial park located near Keremeos, just a stone’s throw from the Okanagan Valley.

Aspiring Rim Trail hikers must first travel into the core area of Cathedral Provincial Park to reach the trailhead. The ‘free but slow’ method is to hike one of three strenuous trails (6 hours minimum) into the core area.

To save time and energy, most Rim Trail hikers pay to take the Cathedral Lakes Lodge shuttle bus (which is actually a 4WD vehicle) to and from the core area. It takes an hour in each direction.

Huge rock formation jutting out from mountain with hiker standing right on top
At the top of the Smokey the Bear rock formation

Enderby Cliffs (Tplaqin), Enderby Cliffs Provincial Park

Distance: 14km return with 700m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back
Need to know: Start early (before 9am) in summer
More info: Enderby Cliffs hiking guide

The trail to the top of the towering Enderby Cliffs is one of the premier day hikes in the Thompson Okanagan region.

Carved by glaciers around 50 million years ago, the 1200m high Tplaqin cliffs are a significant cultural site for the local Splatsin (pronounced spla-jeen) community.

The winding path climbs 700m from the valley floor through a shady forest to the top of the vertical cliffs, rewarding hikers with sweeping views of a patchwork of farmland as well as mountains, rivers and lakes.

Located in such a fairly temperate region, the hiking season for Enderby Cliffs is longer than the other BC day hikes mentioned. The trail is usually snow free from April to October.

Note, however, that the summer months can be very hot so be sure to start this day hike early (before 9am) and bring plenty of water.

JR stands on the edge of Enderby Cliffs, looking out at views of rolling farmland, a highway and in the distance, the city of Vernon and Okanagan Lake
Enderby Cliffs view

Twin Lakes near Cherryville

Distance: 8km return with 400m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back
Need to know: Rough access road, high clearance 4X4 vehicle recommended
More info: Twin Lakes hiking guide

There are many ‘Twin Lakes’ in BC, but my favourite is situated in the Monashee Mountains. Set into a mountain bowl, the small lakes sparkle turquoise in the sun.

The hike to Twin Lakes is approachable, with a couple of steady climbs in both directions. Most of the route is situated above the tree line, with sweeping views of surrounding valleys and mountains.

This BC day hike is on the shorter side but it is located in a relatively remote area. Cherryville is an easy 45 minute drive from Vernon. Allow another hour to reach the Twin Lakes trailhead on unpaved industrial roads.

The condition of Twin Lakes’ access roads can vary from year to year. In 2022, for example, the North Fork Forest Service Road was very rough to drive.

Another great day hike in this area is Pinnacle Lake. It was hard for me to decide which to include here!

Calm alpine lake with wildflowers in foreground and large mountain in background
Twin Lakes

Trophy Meadows Trail, Wells Gray Provincial Park

Distance: 10km return with 400m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back
Need to know: Unpaved access road, high clearance vehicle recommended
More info: Trophy Meadows hiking guide

The Trophy Meadows Trail is one of the most approachable BC day hikes on this list, with significant elevation gained on the (unpaved) drive up to the trailhead rather than on the trail itself.

The path climbs immediately from the parking lot, but soon delivers hikers into vast wildflower meadows. In early August, these meadows are a riot of colour. The wide open landscape also reveals views of rolling mountains.

The meadow traverse lasts almost 4km (!), with hikers then offered the choice to head down to pretty Sheila Lake or up to a series of viewpoints.

A small but well organised backcountry campground sits on the shore of Sheila Lake. This is an ideal first time backpacking destination, with numerous day hiking opportunities beyond the lake.

The Trophy Meadows Trail is only one of many fantastic day hikes in Wells Gray Provincial Park. I would also recommend Moul Falls and the Helmcken Falls Rim Trail – more info in our Wells Gray guide.

Yellow and purple wildflowers with rock piles on left and right, with rounded mountains in background
Trophy Meadows Trail

Gwillim Lakes, Valhalla Provincial Park

Distance: 12km return with 660m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back
Need to know: Rough approach, high clearance AWD recommended
More info: Gwillim Lakes hiking guide

Surrounded by grandiose mountains, the intricate shoreline of Gwillim Lakes is a sight to behold. The hike to reach this area is pretty extraordinary too, featuring gorgeous alpine meadows, a rock slide traverse, two lakes and more towering peaks.

The trail terminates at the eponymous lakes. One of the prettiest backcountry campgrounds in BC perches on the shoreline. If you have the time and energy, more hiking opportunities await above the lakes.

Gwillim Lakes is located in Valhalla Provincial Park near Slocan, which is about an hour’s drive from Nelson. The long, gravel road leading to the Gwillim Lakes trailhead is best attempted with a high clearance vehicle.

If you can, spend a few days in this area and hike Gimli Ridge as well (3.4km return).

Please note that dogs are not allowed on this trail, due to the amount of wildlife in this park.

Gemma sat on a rock looking out onto the landscape of Gwillim Lakes, Valhalla Provincial Park, featuring huge mountains and intricate lakes
Gwillim Lakes from above

Monica Meadows near Kaslo

Distance: 10km return with 650m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back with optional loop
Need to know: Rough approach, high clearance AWD recommended
More info: Monica Meadows hiking guide

Monica Meadows is a high alpine wonderland in the Purcell Mountains, with expansive vistas of the Macbeth Icefield, wildflower filled meadows, pristine lakes and scattered larch forests.

This BC day hike is truly one of my all time favourites. The views get even better in late September, when the larch trees turn golden.

The most challenging part of the Monica Meadows hike is the very first section. Seven switchbacks climb 300m in just 1.4km.

This impressive piece of trail building provides a sweaty but rewarding start to the hike. At the top, huge glaciers are already visible over the trees. It’s just a taste of what is to come!

Though this hike is on the shorter side, it does take some time to reach the trailhead. I described the trail as being ‘near’ Kaslo, but it’s still 60km+ away on unpaved roads. Combine the trip with the Jumbo Pass hike (below).

JR standing close to Inukshuk on rocky ridge in front of mountain range on the Monica Meadows Trail
Macbeth Icefield from Monica Meadows ridge

Jumbo Pass near Kaslo

Distance: 10km return with 800m elevation gain
Type of hike:
Out and back
Need to know: Rough approach, high clearance AWD recommended
More info: Jumbo Pass hiking guide

Jumbo Pass is situated in the Purcell Mountains, on the traditional territory of the Sinixt, Secwépemc and Ktunaxa First Nations.

The Jumbo-Toby Creek watershed is called Qat’muk by the Ktunaxa Nation and is considered to be the home of the grizzly bear spirit.

It’s easy to see why this area was once the focus of a longstanding environmental campaign. The pass itself is backdropped by huge mountains and glaciers on three sides, with a delicate meadow area providing the perfect vantage point. 

Hikers who push a little further to reach the top of the rocky ridge behind Jumbo Pass are able to enjoy unobstructed panoramas of it all. 

Of course, these rewards don’t come without any effort. The 800m total elevation gain is significant.

Like Monica Meadows, the Jumbo Pass trailhead also takes some time to reach. We have only hiked from the Kaslo side, but Jumbo Pass can also be reached from the Invermere side too.

Back view of Gemma standing and looking out to huge Horseshoe Glacier, which features multiple mountain peaks connected by icefield

Eva Lake and Jade Pass, Mount Revelstoke National Park

Distance: 17km with 444m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back with detour
Need to know: National park pass required
More info: Eva Lake hiking guide

The Meadows in the Sky Parkway transports hikers right into the alpine of Mount Revelstoke National Park (1778m). The hike to Eva Lake and Jade Pass is therefore one of the most accessible BC day hikes on this list.

The approachable trail passes through wildflower meadows and across several boulderfields as it winds down from Mount Revelstoke’s summit area. Partial views of surrounding mountains are visible through the trees.

The Jade Lakes junction is less than 1km from Eva Lake, with the side trip up to Jade Pass well worth the 3km return distance. A series of switchbacks offer viewpoints over Miller Lake as well as the first Jade Lake.

Peaceful Eva Lake awaits at the end of the main trail. The turquoise-coloured lake usually offers mirror-like reflections of its mountain backdrop.

Please note that dogs are not allowed in the summit area and backcountry of Mount Revelstoke National Park.

Looking down of Jade Lake from Jade Pass, a detour from the Eva Lake Trail. The lake is surrounded by mountains
Jade Pass views

Iceline Trail, Yoho National Park

Distance: 20.8km with 710m elevation gain
Type of hike: Loop (also possible as an out and back)
Need to know: National park pass required
More info: Iceline Trail hiking guide

The Iceline Trail is my top pick for the best British Columbia day hike in the Canadian Rockies. This 21km loop trail is simply sublime, with impressive views on offer throughout most of the hike.

The experience starts with a walk past Takakkaw Falls, Canada’s second highest waterfall. A steep uphill climb reveals views from across the valley, followed by breathtaking panoramas of numerous glaciers, azure coloured tarns and snow capped mountains.

The trail then traverses through lush subalpine meadows before descending through a forest. Even more waterfalls make an appearance.

The Iceline Trail is the ideal choice for a first time backpacking trip, with multiple campgrounds located en-route. Another great day hike in the area is the Whaleback Trail (20km loop).

Looking across glacier moraine towards mountains and glaciers on other side of valley, with large cascading waterfall (Takakkaw Falls) on left hand side
Magnificent views from the Iceline Trail (spot Takakkaw Falls!)

Walcott Quarry Burgess Shale, Yoho National Park

Distance: 22km with 825m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back
Need to know: Reservation and national park pass required
More info: Walcott Quarry hiking guide

Walcott Quarry is probably the most unusual entry on this list of amazing BC day hiking trails. For one, it can only be hiked as part of a guided tour.

Secondly, the final destination is not a lake or a spectacular view. It’s actually a fossil bed. The Burgess Shale is one of the richest fossil rock formations in the world, primarily showcasing rare soft-bodied fossils.

But this hike is not only special for the Burgess Shale connection. It’s a beautiful trail in its own right with far reaching views of numerous glaciers, mountains, blue-green lakes and Canada’s second highest waterfall (Takakkaw Falls).

Though the 22km distance may seem intimidating, the guided hike is incredibly well paced over an 11 hour period. This includes one hour at Walcott Quarry itself, during which you can actually hunt for fossils!

Leigh searches for Burgess Shale fossils at the Walcott Quarry, with a backdrop of mountains, a glacial lake and a glacier
My friend Leigh McAdam (HikeBikeTravel) searches for fossils at Walcott Quarry

Floe Lake, Kootenay National Park

Distance: 20km with 730m elevation gain
Type of hike: Out and back
Need to know: National park pass required
More info: Floe Lake hiking guide

Floe Lake is one of the most famous day hikes in British Columbia and, indeed, the Canadian Rockies as well.

Backdropped by towering peaks, the eponymous glacier-fed lake shines a bright turquoise in the sun. On calm mornings, the lake provides perfect mirror reflections of the surrounding mountains.

The views get even better throughout the hiking season. In early August, the wildflower meadows above Floe Lake come alive with colour. In late September, the scattered larch forests around the lake turn golden.

Be careful to start this BC day hike early in summer – the climb up to Floe Lake is exceptionally exposed, with very little shade. For the same reason, bring plenty of water. Note also that the final section of the hike is very steep.

As well as being a day hike destination, Floe Lake is part of the longer Rockwall Trail. It is also a popular overnight camping location, though reservations are difficult to secure.

Snowy mountain reflections on calm Floe Lake, with trees on either side
Floe Lake

Essential items to bring on every BC day hike

  • The 10 Essentials should be the first items in your backpack – these items will help prevent small inconveniences from becoming emergencies
  • All of these BC day hikes involve significant elevation gain and loss. Hiking poles can help reduce the physical impact. We love our super light pair of Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z’s
  • Weather conditions can fluctuate wildly in the alpine. Bring a waterproof jacket and warm layers
  • Bears and other large predators also roam these hiking trails. Carry bear spray in an accessible place (like a belt holster) and know how to use it
  • There is zero phone signal on the majority of these trails. A satellite communicator is very helpful to have in case of emergency. We carry an InReach device
  • Some of these trails are accessed via unpaved industrial roads. Check that your spare tire is inflated before leaving town. Bring a portable tire inflator (like this one) and a decent backroads map

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A wide dirt path leads along the side of a hill, with views of forest and snow capped mountain ranges
The trail to Elfin Lakes

You may find these other hiking posts helpful:

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park: Complete Hiking Guide

The Great Divide Trail: Canada’s Most Epic Thru Hike

Where to Find Golden Larches in British Columbia

Backpacking Gear List: Packing Guide for Multi-Day Hikes

Cape Scott Trail, Vancouver Island: Complete Hiking Guide

West Coast Trail Alternatives: Best Coastal BC Backpacking Trips

The HBC Heritage Trail (1849): Complete Hiking Guide

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