OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARehabilitating the Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT) is a legacy project from the 2010 Winter Olympics when funding was first obtained through VANOC to begin upgrading the trail. Since that time the FMCBC has worked with BC Parks on both planning and fundraising for the project. Some of the main benefits of rehabilitating the trail include:

Improving access to the backcountry for all levels of user- Improving the HSCT will provide recreation opportunities for all levels of user from novice hiker to advanced mountaineer. The improved trail will offer an easier access route to the Lions (already one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Lower Mainland) and make this hiking opportunity available to a larger number of users including novice hikers, youth and older adults.

Improving user safety – Upgrading the HSCT and improving directional signage will increase safe usage of the trail and reduce the number of users becoming lost, injured or worse. Users will feel safer and more confident on the repaired and clearly marked trail and the number of search and rescue efforts will be reduced.

HSCT Trail Section rebuilt in August 2013Providing environmental protection – By improving the condition of the trail, sensitive ecological features of the park, which were identified in the 2008 Environmetal Assessment of the proposed HSCT upgrades, will be better protected because users will be more likely to remain on the well established trail. By ensuring these sensitive ecological features are protected, the park can encourage users to experience the backcountry and its varied plant and animal wildlife. In addition, keeping users on the main trail will help to protect the area surrounding the Capilano Watershed and prevent contamination.

Offering opportunities to stay active through life-long outdoor recreation activities – The HSCT has the potential to provide ongoing and ever increasing challenges to keep users motivated and interested in accessing the backcountry. Children who do day hikes with their families when they are young have the potential to achieve great satisfaction when they are able to hike, ski or snowshoe the HSCT on their own as adults. The planned trail improvements are designed to make the trail more accessible for novice hikers, children and older adults so they can all enjoy the spectacular setting of the trail while staying physically active.

Project Updates

The following updates have been provided by Alex Wallace, Co-Chair for the Southwest BC Trails Committee

The trail crew made good progress on the Howe Sound Crest Trail in 2017, but when snow hit early on October 12th— followed by torrential rain—a decision was made to call a halt, so the season of work was shortened to less than four months this year. As well, a decision to reroute had been made by BC Parks to reduce the length of the last switchback by some 200 metres, and also to avoid the constant hiker traffic on busy days through the area under construction with machinery. However, visitors soon realized that the partly built new section of trail was more appealing than the unimproved section with boulders and roots to clamber over, so they followed the trail crew, and this cunning strategy to avoid sporadic interruptions to the work was only partly successful.

After it snowed, the trail crew was able to withdraw the equipment safely from the higher elevation during a break in the weather, and they continued in late October working to reroute the eroded section of the trail at the green water tank trailhead on the Howe Sound Crest Trail East.

  • HSCT 2016 update

Howe Sound Crest Trail upgrade: This popular trail has become twice, or perhaps three times as popular since we started rebuilding it in partnership with BC Parks. It was already a busy trail in summer, with two previous attempts to rebuild it and repair erosion over the last forty years. The difficult section up to the preliminary summit on St. Mark’s is still being tackled, which again involves excavating material that can be used to rebuild the trail. This year, the crew has had to start detouring and building new switchbacks just to get away from the crowds of hikers, as several pieces of machinery are being used to excavate and rebuild the trail. It is similar to having a construction site on Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver, where the public walks through the site intermittently all day instead of being kept out by the yellow rental fencing. (This is also why we are not in the role of contractor or project manager. We are explicitly leaving BC Parks to handle that area of responsibility, and any liability issues that may arise.)

Newly rebuilt switchback on the Howe Sound Crest Trail, September 2016. The trail was in a dire state at this location and was quite hazardous in wet conditions. It was rebuilt to withstand heavy rain and the rapidly increasing number of hikers.

Since we can’t fence off the area under construction on a long ridge in the mountains, we have had to leave sections of old trail for the public to use while upgrading is under way. This can only happen for a short section, but the trail crew was increasingly getting slowed down by hiker traffic in 2016, and this was while working weekdays. Given the usual four-month construction season each year at high elevation (the crew was pulled out in mid-October just before the torrential rainstorms), it would be good to work weekends to take advantage of any dry weather, but this is clearly only going to happen if we can get away from the crowds. In fact, the rain in October 2016 was so extremely heavy at this elevation that it washed away part of the gravel trailbed from some sections that had been rebuilt in previous years, and had withstood several winters’ runoff conditions. Luckily, the trail crew had taken steps to clear and repair any drains and culverts on their way out. As you can see in the photo, switchbacks are being rebuilt with rock to withstand both the weather and hiker numbers.

Unfortunately, the Canada 150 Grant that we secured from Ottawa last year was rescinded, as we did not meet certain criteria in the small print despite being approved under these same conditions (i.e. specifically not being the contractor, although we had been able to work around this previously as the partner or sponsor of the project). Despite direct appeals, we were unable to retain these federal funds. This was frustrating and time consuming, but fortunately BC Parks still had their matching funds in place for the 2016 work. Their experienced contractor worked an entire season on the trail, and we hope they are able to again continue in 2017 while we look for other funding sources.