This past summer, something extremely awesome happened to the stretch of Pacific Ocean that flows between Vancouver, BC, and Squamish, BC—the outdoor recreation capital of Canada—better known as Howe Sound.
Howe Sound became home to a 40-kilometer marine trail known officially as the Sea to Sky Marine Trail. With six brand new designated wilderness campsites and more on the way, it’s now easier than ever to pop your kayak in and go for an overnighter or, even better, make it a weeklong paddle.
If you’re looking for a BC wilderness experience that’s accessible but not overrun with tourists, then the Sea to Sky Marine Trail might be right up your alley. Here’s what you need to know to plan your own trip.
One of the major perks of the Sea to Sky Marine Trail is that it’s super easy to access, with several entry points along the coast, some just outside of Vancouver.
But just because it’s close, doesn’t mean it’s easy; remember, you’re still paddling in the ocean. Wind, waves, and tides are all things that you’ll encounter. Don’t attempt to paddle this trail unless you are well equipped in terms of gear, skills, and safety knowledge.
Pick Your Entry
There are seven entry points to the trail, the southernmost being Horseshoe Bay—just outside of West Vancouver, where you can catch the ferry to Vancouver Island, Bowen Island or the Sunshine Coast—and the northernmost being right inside of Squamish.
Porteau Cove is one good option for entry, with a relatively quiet boat ramp and plenty of parking; just be sure to let the campsite folks know that you’ll be gone for a few days to avoid a ticket. The water tends to be a little less choppy here than it can sometimes be up in windy Squamish.
Take Your Time
At only 40 kilometers (25 miles), you could technically paddle the entire trail in one long, intense day, but then you’d be missing out on all the good stuff. The best part of this trail is taking your time to explore the rugged shoreline, enjoying the views of snowcapped mountains in the distance and appreciating the features and details that you’d never see from the road.
Stick to the Campsites
Six new campsites have been developed as part of this trail—Ramillies Channel, Bain Creek, Thornborough Channel, Islet View, Zorro Bay, and Tantalus Landing—and there are three provincial parks along the route, providing additional camping opportunities.
The campsites are relatively no frills, but they’re clearly marked and well laid out, with nice, flat areas to set up your tent. Feel free to pack a camping hammock to make the most of the million dollar views.
Speaking of million dollar views, much of the land along Howe Sound, including the many islands in the sound, is privately owned, even when they look like wilderness areas. Keep the neighbors happy and stick to the designated campsites.
Watch the Water
One of the best parts of kayaking Howe Sound is that you never know what you’ll see. You’re all but guaranteed to see a few playful seals frolicking around your boat; they’ll be watching you with as much interest as you’re watching them.
If you’re lucky, you may even spot a whale or a dolphin. Humpbacks and orcas have been known to occasionally make appearances, and there’s no better whale watching spot than the seat of your kayak.
Look up, too. There are a ton of bald eagles in the area.
Mind the Tide
Although Howe Sound is nice and protected, don’t forget it’s part of the Pacific Ocean, and that means that you’re going to be dealing with tides. Always bring your gear, including your kayak, well above the high tide line. Keep your paddles secure and bring a spare, to be safe.