Hiking in Powell River and Surrounding Area, British Columbia, Canada
Apart from the incredible Sunshine Coast Trail, Powell River and its surrounding areas has a countless number of trails and hikes for all travellers, from forested coastal trails in the centre of town to thigh-burning slogs that leading to alpine huts deep in the endless backcountry.
For years teams of dedicated, extremely hard-working volunteers have created, enhanced, and maintained the extensive network of trails in and around the Upper Sunshine Coast. Special thanks to the BOMB Squad and PRPAWS, as well as countless unnamed individuals, mountain bikers, climbers and anonymous work crews that have selflessly contributed to these incredible community resources!
The best resource for non-SCT hikes in the area is Eagle Walz's 'Along the Edge of the Salish Sea', which can be purchased in local bookstores or online here. Below, we've selected a few of the most popular day (and multi-day) hikes to highlight here and help you plan your Powell River adventure vacation!
- Powell River Hikes
- Willingdon Beach Trail
- Valentine Mountain Trail
- Duck Lake Trail Network
- North of Powell River Hikes
- Hurtado Point Loop
- Atrevida Loop
- Backcountry and Alpine Hikes
- The Knuckleheads
- Emma Lake
Powell River Hikes
If you're staying in town, there's no need to drive deep into the backcountry or up and down the coast to find a place to hike. Powell River has multiple trail networks within city limits and in the immediate surrounding area to satisfy all guests to this beautiful area.
Willingdon Beach Trail
This one's a favourite. Easily accessible, suitable for all ages and fitness levels, and educational as well!
Starting down at Willingdon Beach campground, the trail follows the coast north along an old 1910 rail bed that was once used to carry logs to the dumping wharf at the Powell RiverCompany Mill. For this reason, as well as its popularity and use by locals, tourists, bikers, runners and dog walkers all year round, the trail is flat and wide, and has numerous points along its 1.2km length with interpretive signs that teach users about local history, flora and fauna, and the usage and usefulness of long retired logging equipment, displayed beneath old growth firs, cedars, spruce and maples at the edge of the sea.
You can access the beach at multiple points along the way, and while the official trail ends at the intersection of a forest service road, it is easy to continue your exploration through a connected network of trails that lead into the heart of Powell River's historic Townsite district, or stick to the coast and continue to beachcomb your way down to sandy Second Beach and grab a view of the hulks - the mill's floating breakwater of concrete ships that served in both world wars!
Powell River is a town with a lot of proud history waiting to be discovered, and the Willingdon Beach trail helps to bring a lot of this history to light in a beautiful setting down by the Salish Sea.
Valentine Mountain Trail
If you're looking for a bit more elevation, and a great view of Powell River from above, head to the Valentine Mountain Trail, located behind the cemetery in the Cranberry district. This is another short trail very popular with locals that climbs slowly but steadily to the foot of Cranberry Mountain, before the last short but steep climb to the summit where you are immediately greeted with an incredible view over the historic Townsite district, the still-functioning pulp and paper mill, the Strait of Georgia and Texada and Harwood Islands, and the mountains of Vancouver Island beyond.
To the south you can see the bend of the coast and the main residential district of Westview, with the ferries to Vancouver and Texada Islands coming and going throughout the day. There is a great place to rest and eat lunch here, but further exploration of the summit leads down winding trails to viewpoints that showcase the emerald blue of Powell Lake and the Shingle Mill restaurant, as well as the Coast Mountains to the east.
Duck Lake Trail Network
The Duck Lake trails are a network of trails that begin in and around the Duck Lake area, accessed up Haslam road in Cranberry (turn right at the top of the hill and follow the service road for approximately 10 minutes). Turn left when you reach the junction at the edge of the lake and well-marked trail heads start appearing with small pullouts for vehicles on both sides of the road as you continue along.
With over 50km of trails, this area has something for everyone - huge mossy old-growth forests, cascading waterfalls, very easy to quite challenging terrain, handcrafted log bridges spanning salmon bearing streams - all maintained by local volunteers and enjoyed by walkers, trail runners, mountain bikers, dog walkers and tourists alike!
Personal favourites include the Suicide Creek Loop, a 7km trail which criss-crosses the creek and gains and loses elevation to give you a bit of a workout, and the Blackwater Creek trail, which travels through incredible dense mossy forests and culminates in the gorgeous Kelly Falls, the perfect place to enjoy a packed lunch with the soft spray of the waterfall cooling you down after a hot summer hike.
North of Powell River Hikes
Many of our guests choose to stay in the beautiful Lund area north of Powell River for easy access to our site in Okeover Inlet, and they will be happy to know that there are lots of options to choose from for day and even multi-day hikes in the immediate area. Apart from easy access to the Sunshine Coast Trail, two great day hikes begin just off the highway:
Hurtado Point Loop
Beginning a couple kilometres south of Lund on the Highway 101, the Hurtado Point Loop is a beautiful, easy going hike that takes you to a series of mossy bluffs overlooking the northern Strait of Georgia, and specifically the spectacular sandy beaches of Savary Island. The location of this hike along the coast of the Malaspina Peninsula means that the scenery and flora encountered is vastly different from the areas more inland hikes, with altogether drier conditions perfect for species such as shore pines and beautiful ruddy-brown arbutus trees thriving in the harsh rocky conditions that other species just cannot endure.
If you are staying at the Dinner Rock campground this loop trail can be accessed directly through a trail that passes right through the campsite and makes for a fantastic exploratory day trip without even having to break camp.
The Atrevida Loop is accessed directly off the inland side of Highway 101 approximately 12 kilometres south of Lund, just north of Atrevida Road. The loop takes about an hour or so to complete and is relatively flat, passing through some strands of ancient firs and cedars - indeed, some of the bigger firs are estimated to be around 1000 years old!
From the Atrevida Loop, it is possible to access other trail systems including the Sunshine Coast trail and the Appleton Canyon. Bring your bikes and combine some of these trails to turn a lazy looped hike into an exploratory pedal.
Back Country and Alpine Hikes
The backcountry is endless in amongst the Coast Mountains behind Powell River, and decades of forestry activity back there has left a legacy of old and current service roads that make accessing this awe-inspiring area as simple as hopping in a 4x4 and hitting the road. For those guests to this beautiful area that are looking for some truly adventurous, off the beaten path experiences, these backcountry and alpine hikes will surely hit the spot.
Located at an elevation of between 5300-5500 feet, the Knuckleheads Recreation Area is a phenomenal, 4-season paradise, with relatively easy access using forest service roads and two volunteer built backcountry huts that make the area a great place for a multi-day hiking, snowshoeing, or ski-touring adventure.
While most see the area as a winter wonderland, during the summer the area is very popular with hikers, naturalists, and ATV users on day trips from Powell River. Access to the area is via a complex network of active forestry roads, and care should be taken to get reliable directions (forestry maps are available in town) and ensure that there is no active logging occurring in the areas you intend to travel ahead of time.
The least easily accessible - but probably the most rewarding - backcountry hike in the Powell River area is the strenuous ascent to the alpine hut at Emma Lake, nestled in amongst the peaks of the South Powell Divide. Follow Goat Main to 34 Mile and follow the Emma Lake sign to the trailhead.
The hike in ascends rapidly through a section known as the 'Stairmaster' for between 2 and 3 hours, before reaching the ridge line that overlooks the lake and descending to the cabin.
Emma lake itself is a gorgeous alpine lake that glistens turquoise and green in the summer sun, and often still contains winter ice well into July and August! From the cabin, there are many day hikes along the ridges of the surrounding peaks and the South Powell Divide itself, and many people use the cabin as a base for further exploration of this incredible area. Be sure to bring bug spray though, as they can be very aggressive up there in the summer months.