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Heli hiking with CMH from Bobbi Burns Lodge, near Golden | Ryan Creary

Find Yourself Among Giants: 7 Ways to Get Into the Heart of BC's Mountains

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Bridge River Valley | Blake Jorgenson

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Mountains are spiritual and sacred spaces. They can transform, mystify, and offer clarity to even the most skeptical or less spiritually-inclined. Something happens when one spends time amongst nature’s giants, an unexplainable feeling of contentment and a newfound appreciation for the here and now.

Many cultures around the world, including those of Indigenous peoples in BC, are in tune with the language of the land, navigating abundant mountainous terrain since time immemorial. When you travel through BC’s mountainous terrain, you’ll see how placing yourself in a broader landscape will help you literally and figuratively see the bigger picture, appreciating the respect and reverence these towering giants demand—and the humility and change in perspective they inspire.  

From the Canadian Rockies to the east, to the Coast Mountain Range to the west, here are 7 ways to get into the heart of BC’s mountains.

Note: This story is accurate at the time of publication; we recommend you contact businesses directly to confirm availability and familiarize yourself with their COVID policies.

1. Take in a Wider Perspective with a Flightseeing Tour

Gain a new perspective and look down upon glistening glaciers, turquoise lakes, and alpine peaks on a flightseeing tour. It’s a chance to see BC’s mountains within minutes of takeoff and admire nature’s skyscrapers up close.

Harbour Air | Tourism Vancouver

Join a trip with SKY Helicopters, based in Pitt Meadows, for a Coast Mountain Adventure tour. This 50-minute flight experience whisks guests over plunging waterfalls and the Coast Mountains before touching down for a 20-minute wilderness heli-landing in the backcountry. Take in the panoramic view of glaciated peaks, the Pacific Ocean, and Vancouver Island to put the magnitude of BC’s Coast Mountains Range into perspective.

On Vancouver Island, hop on a 45-minute Comox Glacier Tour with 49 North Helicopters to soar over the Vancouver Island Ranges towards the famous Comox Glacier. The pilot will gently land on top of a remote mountain for a chance to soak in the unique surroundings. 

In Northern BC, join a floatplane tour with Alpine Lakes Air from the outdoor adventure town of Smithers. The 3 Lakes Tour flies over the Telkwa Range and lands on Nanika Lake; relax while snow-capped peaks reflect in the perfectly calm, clear water before flying on to two more lakes, over the hanging glaciers of Atna Peak, and up to 2,740 metres (9,000 feet) for a tour of six more glaciers.

For flightseeing tours over the Bugaboo Range in the Purcell Mountains, book a Mt. Sir Donald and the Columbia Icefield tour with Kicking Horse Aviation. Soar over granite spires, majestic valleys, and vast glacial ice fields.

2. Release and Let Nature’s Forces Take the Reins

Let the earth’s gravity do the work to set you free. In a place with countless mountains, there is no shortage of ways to let elemental forces help you glide, zip, and ride down nature’s undulating terrain.

Whistler Blackcomb | Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane

Join a zipline tour with West Coast Wild and whisk through Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Traditional Territory at Ha’uukmin Tribal Park, located one hour’s drive east of Tofino on Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim. It’s the perfect place to stop for an adrenaline kick while zipping among six different platforms that thread their way through the Kennedy River Canyon.

Further north on the Island, check out Eagle’s Flight ZipTour at Mount Washington and reach speeds of up to 100 km (60 mi) per hour with panoramic views of one of the highest peaks on Vancouver Island, Mount Albert Edward.

For more gravity adventures, try The Pipe Mountain Coaster in Revelstoke and glide down 1.4 km (0.86 mi) of track and through a tunnel, gaining speeds of up to 42 km (26 mi) per hour while descending from Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

BC is also home to some of the best mountain biking in the world. There are endless alpine trails, downhill bike parks, and loamy, lush forests to get into that flow state on two wheels. In Squamish, Dialed In Cycling can show you the top trails with two-, three-, and four-hour guided tours and family rides that explore the area. Try well-known trails like Half Nelson and discover hidden gems with knowledgeable guides.

For a downhill adrenaline rush, BC’s bike parks pack a punch. With eight downhill bike parks across BC—from Vancouver Island to the Kootenay Rockies—the terrain is extensive and varied. Take the fat tires to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park to ride the iconic Top of the World Trail for a 5,000-vertical-foot descent from Whistler’s Peak Chair to valley bottom.

The Pipe Mountain Coaster at Revelstoke Mountain Resort | Kari Medig

3. Follow the Path Less Travelled on a Guided Tour

To be guided on the land, by people of the land, is a truly unique and humbling experience. Following the paths of Indigenous peoples’ to learn more about the ground our feet walk upon every day.

Nuxalk Nation, Thorsen Creek, Great Bear Rainforest | Callum Snape

At Tweedsmuir Park Lodge, in Bella Coola, learn about the local geography and history of the original inhabitants of the valley, the Nuxalk First Nations’ people. Join the First Nations and Valley Tour to visit the Petroglyph Gardens, where 5,000 to 10,000-year-old rock carvings are left intact, and learn of their significance with an experienced Nuxalk guide. The tour includes a picnic lunch at Clayton Falls Recreation Site with views of the fjord and surrounding snow-capped mountains.

Nemiah Valley Lodge is an Indigenous-owned and -operated lodge on BC’s central coast, next to Tŝ’il?oŝ Provincial Park and one of the highest alpine lakes in North America. Join a local Xeni Gwet’in guide for a hike up Cardiff Mountain to see basalt and lava columns from ancient volcanic activity.

In Northern BC, book guided mountaineering and remote hiking experiences from Burnie Glacier Chalet, located deep in the Howson Mountain Range. Or opt for guiding hiking experiences through the Northern Rockies with Northern Rockies Fitness.

For more gentle, meandering day hikes or longer, backcountry treks, join a hiking tour in Whistler and choose between valley, alpine, or backcountry experiences that range from forest frolics to glacier treks.

For a more off-the-beaten-path adventure, plan a multi-day trek along the Sunshine Coast Trail to experience one of Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking routes. To make the trip a breeze, book a guided experience with Footprint Nature Explorations based out of Powell River (direct flights available from Vancouver).

MB Guiding on Vancouver Island offers trips to lesser-known mountain ranges and routes on the Island. Treks along the Bedwell Lakes Trail, Elk River Trail, Flower Ridge Trail, and more are led by experienced guides with Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) certifications.

4. Find Inner Balance With Adrenaline Highs

For an adrenaline rush, scale the rocks on BC’s peaks, tackle the ropes of an adventure park, or test your balance on a suspension bridge.

Sea to Sky Gondola | Destination Vancouver/Sea to Sky Gondola/Paul Bride

Join Mountain Skills Academy & Adventure’s Via Ferrata tour, a unique experience that combines glacier hiking and mountain climbing. Clip into a cable and lanyard system to scale a series of iron rungs and ladders to the peak of Whistler or along the rock formations and bluffs surrounding the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish.

Further east in the Kootenay Rockies, test your fear of heights at the Golden Skybridge, Canada’s highest suspension bridges overlooking the Rocky and Purcell mountain ranges. Wander the three-kilometre nature trail, float across two suspension bridges, free-fall over a canyon on the Bungee Swing, or fly across it on a 1,000-foot zipline.

Or try BC’s newest attraction, Malahat SkyWalk on Vancouver Island, an accessible 600-m (1,970-ft) TreeWalk through the forest to a 10-story giant Spiral Tower lookout to catch a glimpse of Mount Baker and the Coast Mountains. This is a slower-paced, more immersive nature experience for adventurers of all ages.

5. Follow the Flow of BC’s Waterways

Navigate rushing waterways that cut through deep canyons to adventure through BC’s mountainous terrain. You can move with nature’s elements on a jet boat or whitewater rafting adventure.

Wedge Rafting in Whister | Wedge Raftin

Join Whistler Jet Boating to weave along the Green River to the base of Nairn Falls near Pemberton. Wildlife sightings (think: bears, eagles, and deer) are a common bonus to the adventure.

In the Thomson Okanagan, one of the best whitewater rivers in BC sits under the towering 3,959-m (12,970-foot) peak of Mount Robson. Book a tour with Mount Robson Whitewater for a three- or six-hour experience navigating Class 3 rapids.

Join a trip down the Kicking Horse River in Golden for one of the wildest and most intense whitewater trips in Canada. Navigate Class II and IV rapids with a guided experience along this rushing, glacial-fed river.

In Northern BC, book at trip with Frontier Experience for a jet boat or river float trip down the Bulkley River. Or join Wild River Adventure Tours for a jet boar tour of the impressive and spectacular Kinuseo Falls in Tumber Ridge.

In the Fraser Canyon, cruise down the mighty Fraser River flanked by thousands of feet of mountainous terrain on all-inclusive experience booked with REO Rafting Resort or Kumsheen Rafting Resort. Enjoy a riverside camping and glamping-style getaway and raft on the jade-green Nahatlatch or Thompson rivers.

6. Seek Natural Spa Healing

Sometimes we just need a good reset, a moment to hit pause on life and seek wellness and healing in nature. BC is home to many unique mountainside natural hot springs, resort spas, and retreat centres ready to soothe.

Ainsworth Hot Springs | Kari Medig

In the Kootenay Rockies, join a Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa, with sunrise yoga, daily alpine hikes, fitness routines, and healing sessions in the state-of-the-art spa with outdoor hot tub and cold plunge, infrared sauna, steam room, and massage rooms. Also near Nelson, the Ktunaxa people invite you to soak in therapeutic hot mineral waters, or nupika wu’u, meaning spirit waters, at Ainsworth Hot Spring Resort. In Kootenay National Park, visit Radium Hot Springs, located in the UNESCO Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site and open year-round, this spacious family-friendly facility welcomes visitors from around the world.

For spa therapy in the Coast Mountains of BC’s Sea to Sky region, visit newly opened AIKA Spa in the Squamish Valley for a secluded and private traditional wellness cycle of hot and cold therapy. Cycle between a wood-fired sauna, cold plunges, and indoor and outdoor relaxation spaces. Further north, near Kitimat, experience a hot springs and waterfall tour through towering fjords with Northern BC Jet Boat Tours.

Just 45-minutes away, a similar hydrotherapy experience can be found at Scandinave Spa Whistler. Soak and soothe in complete silence between saunas, hot and cold pools, relaxation and yoga rooms, and outdoor fire pits—all surrounded by the impressive 2,200 m (7,500 foot) peaks that flank the Whistler Valley.

 

7. Connect With Wilder Things

Let four legs lead the way with an adventure on horseback. It’s one of the best ways to explore the terrain in BC’s valleys and rolling mountainsides.

Horseback Riding with Muskwa-Kechika Adventures in Dune Za Keyih Provincial Park in the Stikine Region | Taylor Burk

In BC’s South Chilcotin Mountains, Tyax Adventures offers multi-day horseback trips and hut-to-hut experiences for intermediate to advanced riders. Grab the reins and explore mountain passes, sub-alpine meadows, and glacier-fed lakes in this spectacular backcountry on a three- or four-night trip.

For a farm stay where traditional Indigenous experiences are interwoven into ranch life, a trip to Big Bar Guest Ranch—owned by the tswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation and located on the traditional territory of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation—is a must. Join a one-hour, half-day, or full-day ride and spend the rest of the day canoeing, fishing, swimming, hiking, or on a cultural tour of the area.

Further east, between Banff and Glacier National Park near Cranbrook, Three Bars Ranch sits on more than 14,000 hectares and is home to over 120 horses. Overnight guests can join rides every morning and afternoon with a small group of guests, while in between you can enjoy fishing, hiking, ATVing, mountain biking, and more. Make it a road trip, or fly direct to Canadian Rockies International Airport, and make the 15-minute drive to the ranch.

In Northern BC, more vigorous travellers can join Muskwa-Kechika Adventures for a horseback expedition in some of BC’s most dramatic landscapes: the northern Rockies.

Whether you’re seeking overnight complete solace in the backcountry or a more leisurely respite with loved ones, time in BC’s mountains will let you place yourself in a landscape that lets you see the bigger picture and how you fall into it.

Start Planning Your BC Holiday

Featured Image: Glacier National Park | Photo: Ryan Creary

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