9 Ways to Enjoy British Columbia’s Crowdless Summer Paradise
It's Canada’s take on California—hip coastal cities, rugged alpine terrain, and huge ocean swells—but without the tech bros and traffic jams
With its rugged coastline, world-class climbing, and dog-friendly hotels, B.C. is Canada’s answer to California, minus the crowds. Sound good? Then check out these nine summer adventures.
Ride a Wave
On western Vancouver Island’s rugged shores, storms are something to celebrate. Thirty-foot swells and gale-force winds lash the rocky coastline, putting on a spectacular show for guests at the Wickaninnish Inn, situated three miles beyond the surf mecca of Tofino. Only the hardiest paddle out in those conditions, but the lodge was designed with storm watching in mind, with unobstructed Pacific views. When the seas calm, nearby Chesterman Beach turns into one of the best beginner-friendly breaks in North America; the inn’s staff can arrange lessons. From $300; —Jen Murphy
No matter what you’re headed to do in B.C.’s backcountry, it’s worth spending a day in this cosmopolitan city when you fly in. Here’s your plan. —Anna Callaghan
9 A.M. Jog along the 17-mile seawall in Stanley Park, a thousand acres of waterfront green space located minutes from downtown.
11 A.M. Visit the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia to see its collection of First Nations culture, including massive totem poles.
1 P.M. Grab lunch at the tasting room at 33 Acres Brewing Company in East Vancouver. A rotating cast of trucks provide the food in the bright and airy space.
3 P.M. At Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, wander across seven footbridges hanging 110 feet above the forest floor.
8 P.M. Head to the Gastown neighborhood for dinner at L’Abattoir (translation: the slaughterhouse), where the industrial design is a backdrop for French-inspired fare like Pacific cod with pork sausage and brown butter.
11 P.M. Crash at the retro, dog-friendly Burrard Hotel (from $150). Cruiser bikes are on hand to roll around in the morning.
Climb the Bugaboos
In eastern B.C., these mountains are a system of jagged granite spires surrounded by enormous glaciers and deep blue lakes. The best part? Many of the scenic and wildly exposed routes up them are manageable for beginners—the 1,500-vertical-foot West Ridge of Pigeon Spire is said to be the finest 5.4 in the world. Pack your rack and crash at Conrad Kaine Hut, a 40-person cabin a moderate hike from Pigeon Spire. Want climbing instruction? The guides at the American Alpine Institute have been leading trips in the Bugs for 20 years. From $1,990 for seven days —Matt Skenazy
Crash in a Yurt
Situated on 600 acres of old-growth forest on Vancouver Island’s rocky Pacific coast, Wya Point’s 15 yurts have grills on cedar decks overlooking the ocean. An on-site surf shop rents boards and thick wetsuits. The resort has access to Fletchers Beach, an ideal spot to catch a wave, launch a kayak, or explore nearby coves. It’s worth a short drive from Wya Point to the Wild Pacific Trail, a network of short paths that ramble through forests and cliffs above the sea. Yurts from $115, cabins from $199 —J.M.
The choppers in Revelstoke aren’t just for accessing prime pow stashes in winter. They’re also the only way come summer to get to the three structures operated by Selkirk Mountain Experience in its namesake range for a trek. From $1,773 —A.C.
Prime access to climbing, from easy scrambles to the 54-pitch Innominata Ridge route.
Durrand Glacier Chalet
Modeled on a Swiss lodge, this is a plush base camp with 11 bedrooms and an on-site chef.
Empire Lake Chalet
A starkly modern structure on an exposed ridge in the middle of a web of hiking routes.
“These poles aren’t for picking up litter! This is Nordic fitness trekking, not nature hiking,” said Kirkland Shave, the director of Mountain Trek Fitness and Health Spa, while watching my technique as we marched toward the summit of 7,500-foot Idaho Peak in the Selkirk Mountains. Shave, a former Parks Canada ranger, has fierce energy and a wry sense of humor, making him the perfect leader for this intense boot camp. I’d signed on to a seven-day trip designed to detox my body and reboot my brain. But the magic of Mountain Trek is that it never felt like punishment. The program is based out of a peaceful 15-room lodge overlooking 65-mile-long Kootenay Lake. All guests adhere to a strenuous but enjoyable exercise regimen, incorporating yoga, weights, hiking, and massage. The program serves three calorie-restricted meals a day, including delicacies like wild salmon and prime cuts of organic beef, plus equally managed snacks. By the time we summited Idaho Peak, I was surprised to find that lunch, a small thermos of mushroom-barley-lentil soup, filled my belly. I wasn’t surprised that the sweeping panorama, from the Valhalla Mountains in the west to the Kokanee Glacier in the south, filled my soul. From $4,750 —Stephanie Pearson
Join the Yacht Club
Embark from the tiny town of Comox on Vancouver Island aboard a not so tiny motor-boat rented from Desolation Sound Yacht Charters. Then spend six days on a DIY exploration cruise in Princess Louisa Inlet, where cedar forests rise sharply out of the 1,000-foot-deep sound against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Buoy at the head of the inlet near Chatterbox Falls, a 120-foot waterfall, then kayak to Hamilton Island—or just sunbathe on the boat’s deck. Better yet, jump in. Minimal tidal circulation in the inlet means water temperatures can be more than 70 degrees. From $2,244 for six days —A.C.
In the 1980s, Craig and Deborah Murray founded the Nimmo Bay Resort by towing a float house to a secluded piece of wilderness in the Great Bear Rainforest. Their eight-person lodge lured obsessive anglers with helicopter trips into the surrounding 50,000 square miles. As the next generation grabbed the reins of the family business over the past five years, offerings expanded: fishing is still the star, but now guests can hike through alpine meadows, kayak to spot bears and orcas, recover in the new spa and yoga room, and cap the night with feasts of seared coho and boiled Dungeness crab. Heli-fishing packages start at $2,950, including meals, guides, and a floatplane shuttle. Or make Nimmo part of a bigger British Columbia excursion with Outside GO: its Great Canadian Safari lets travelers sample three days at Nimmo over the course of nine days in B.C. (from $9,595 for two). —J.M.
See a Grizzly
Yoho Adventures specializes in hard-to-access country, and the seven-day Coast Mountain Getaway in western B.C. takes on more emptiness than you knew existed. The trip starts with a fly-in to an isolated base cabin deep in the Chilcotin Wilderness. From there, day excursions range from easy lake paddling to a test-your–scrambling-skills ascent of 8,500-foot Wilderness Mountain. The trip then proceeds to lower elevations to visit giant cedar groves and creeks and rivers teeming with late-summer trout. Consider a grizzly sighting likely. $2,900 —Chuck Thompson