Six Tips for Kayaking BC’s Howe Sound

©istockphoto/Kevin MillerThis 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.

Be Pre­pared
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.

©istockphoto/Kevin MillerPick 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.

©istockphoto/peterspiroStick 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.

©istockphoto/Kevin MillerWatch 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.