Seymour River and Lynn Creek Loop, 17 Jan 2021

Opinion:
A worthy loop when you can’t think of anything else to do, long enough to feel like a hike and wild enough to leave behind the noise of the city. Very popular with hikers, dog-walkers, runners, and cyclists (even on a dull Sunday afternoon) so don’t expect solitude.

Fact
To our amazement, the parking at the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve was almost completely full, even the overflow (which is new since our last visit back in January 2016), as well as all the smaller parking areas along the road. We found a space in the gravel overflow parking lot.

There have been other changes since our last visit: a new washroom block with everything you need.

We followed the loop clockwise, descending to the new suspension bridge over the Seymour River, south along the Fisherman’s Trail, west on the Baden-Powell Trail over the river again up and over to Lynn Creek, past Twin Falls and the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge before completing the loop back to the parking lot.

The trail was mostly in good condition and walkable in runners, its surface mostly either gravel or boardwalk for much of the way, with the exception of one section by Lynn Creek which required rock and plank hopping across mud and puddles. The Lynn Canyon suspension bridge was still closed but all other bridges were open. People were mostly okay about distancing (as good as most people get anyway) but the boardwalk sections made it difficult. Be considerate of your fellow hikers and step aside if you can, yield to uphill traffic, and slow the eff down if you’re on a bike.

Squeaky kinglets were about the only wildlife we saw heard today. The first signs of spring were just making their presence felt with green buds on a few salmonberry bushes showing up in a few places.

Distance:  8 km
Elevation gain:  320 m
Time:  2 hours
Route on AllTrails

Key moments

  • 🙂 Enjoyable hiking on good trails.
  • 🙂 A surprisingly wild-feeling landscape with canyons, waterfalls, and rapids.
  • 🙂 A cacophony of kinglets squeaking above us in the trees.
  • ☹️ Difficult to find a sense of peace with the sheer number of people out on the trails

Story
After passing up an opportunity to hike on Saturday, we knew we wanted to get out today. Alas, the weather had deteriorated and this morning we watched the heavy cloud cover with impatience, willing it to break up and show us the mountains. Our mind games with the weather failed and so we packed our bags and drove over to the North Shore with a 6-ish km forest hike in mind, something to get our legs moving, our hearts pumping, and to fill our lungs with fresh air.

Driving over to North Vancouver wasn’t too bad, and we drove up the amply speed-bumped road to the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, passing full parking lots the whole way, eventually reaching the uppermost lot. As we pulled in, it looked like we were out of luck as we saw no spaces, but we then realized that there was a large gravel overflow parking area, where, despite it, too, being almost completely full, we found a space to pull into. We paused long enough to munch a pre-hike snack of a large fig bar from Sweet Thea before pulling on our boots to begin the hike.

Except I’d forgotten to transfer the footbeds from my winter boots to my hiking boots. Thankfully I was wearing runners that would suffice for hiking this trail, and, after the usual round of setting up all the electronics, we set off on our hike.

It was cold. That damp, bone-seeping chill of Vancouver winters. Low cloud drifted in the tree-tops, rendering the sky a tedious grey rather than ethereal and atmospheric mist. In the forest it felt dull, and despite being surrounded by greenery, normally so uplifting on dull winter days, the general feeling was of a sombre colour palette. Our solution was to walk quickly, at a speed closer to walking the paved city streets. We passed a couple of groups with children and dogs, dodged some cyclists and the occasional trail runner, gradually descending towards to river. I identified a potential return trail as we made a sweeping reversal of our direction at a hairpin bend, but didn’t like the look of it for today’s hike. Maybe another day.

Kinglets squeaked in the trees overhead though we never saw a single one, our only wildlife encounter of the day. Although the air was cool – verging on chilly, even – it was a treat for our noses and lungs, the fresh air invigorating our breathing.

Rounding another bend we reached the site of the old Twin Bridge, demolished in 2016 after a rockslide dammed the Seymour River causing the water level to rise to the height of the bridge, and caught of first glimpse of the new suspension bridge, about 100 m downstream and probably 10 m higher than the original, much safer from any flooding.

We waited for the bridge to clear before walking across. I would have liked a few moments to enjoy the view but thanks to the pandemic, I’m very squirrelly around groups of people, far too many of whom seem to not give any thought to distancing when outside. Thus, as more people approached, we continued across without stopping (okay, I stopped long enough to take one photo looking downstream) and picked up the trail on the east bank of the river.

Climbing up away from the water, our attention was drawn to a beautiful waterfall cascading down the cliffs on the opposite side of the river, although obscured by too many trees to make an interesting photo. The trail was wide and easy to hike. I don’t often enjoy walking such old roads like this but today it suited my requirements perfectly. As a bonus, we were hiking a stretch of trail that neither of us had ever hiked before! After 16 years in Vancouver, it was good to know there were new trails awaiting us :-)

Now high above the river, we could see how it was enclosed by sheer canyon walls on either side. An opening on the opposite side caught our eye and we soon realized we were looking at the site of the rockslide that had dammed the river. The surface still had loose rock covering it, and it looked like more rocks fell occasionally. But where we could see the river, it was flowing deep and green. I was quite impressed by this canyon, having never realized just how wild and rugged it was along here.

As we continued south, the trail drew further away from the river, though we caught occasional glimpses and could hear it tumbling over rocks at times. The trail descended and ahead of us was a tree covered in Christmas lights. As we got nearer we realized it was in someone’s garden, and we had reached the edge of civilization (as it were). Thankfully the trail (now the Baden-Powell Trail) turned abruptly right and led us steeply down on a series of large rock steps to the narrow pipeline bridge over the river. Here the river was narrow, turbulent white water cascading through a small canyon.

The trail then climbed steeply back uphill on a metal staircase, 60 steps all told, easing slightly as it re-entered the forest, now bounded on our right by a forbidding chain-link fence, and on our left by an earthen embankment. We were a bit baffled by this. After all, there’s no reason why the fence couldn’t have been placed even a few metres off the trail. Instead, trail users are corralled onto a narrow dirt path, a situation that makes us quite uncomfortable these days. We hurried up as fast as our legs would willingly carry us, passing a family of four that graciously stepped aside (albeit at the narrowest point on the trail), emerging into more open forest where we could relax our pace and minds once again.

We crossed the Richard Juryn trail close to a power line cut in the trees, the trail now levelling off as we approached the Old Lillooet Road. Again I contemplated an alternative trail only to see it was heavily used by mountain bikers, making our decision easy. As we reached the road we checked the time, the map, and our energy levels and planned our next move. Initially I had intended to follow the road back to the parking lot, but after our time in the forest, the road seemed far too busy to be near, so we made the decision to continue on the Baden-Powell Trail and follow it north along Lynn Creek.

After a few minutes wandering through level forest, we turned right at a junction and descended steeply on sturdy wooden steps (constructed in 2013) pausing briefly to allow some upward hikers pass on the narrow boardwalk. Down and down we went, losing pretty much all the elevation we’d gained from our climb up from the Seymour River, all the way to the level of Lynn Creek. With almost every step on boardwalk, at least it was easy hiking, although we had to squeeze past several oncoming groups, which made us uncomfortable but we turned aside and I held my breath where I could.

Our luck with the boardwalk eventually ran out and we were deposited onto a muddy trail, decorated with occasional puddles. Normally, with my boots on, I’d have no issue with this but wearing only runners I had to be a little more careful with my choice of where to tread! Thankfully there were enough bits of wood, plank, and rocks to make it quite easy to keep my feet dry. We joined up with some more boardwalk for a short time, passing through a really dark part of the forest, and began to climb again away from the creek.

But the climb was short-lived and we were soon above Twin Falls. We couldn’t resist the short detour down slippery root “steps” to get the best view, which we had all to ourselves. Back on the trail, we continued our uphill climb towards the turnoff to the suspension bridge. I quite like the forest in here: it feels more mature than on some other parts of the trail, with a well-developed understory of small hemlocks filling in the gaps between the ramrod trees.

Faced with one final decision to make on our route, we opted to take the easy climb back up to the road rather than face more mud and steps along Lynn Creek. It was the right decision, and we enjoyed an easy finish to the hike, walking through open forest and emerging on the road at the entrance to the parking lot. A minute or two later and we were back at the car, sitting somewhat isolated in a now mostly empty lot. I checked the time: 4 pm, a nice little two-hour leg stretcher!

We got back into the car, snacked on some trail mix and finished off our tea and coffee before tackling the many speed bumps and then traffic on the drive home. Fortunately, the traffic wasn’t too bad and we made it home in a reasonable time. While we weren’t overly wowed by the hike itself, we were both feeling refreshed after our time outside, and were left with only one more decision to make: where to get dinner?

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