When you have only two hours of parking and need something easy to stretch your legs, the trails in Lynn Headwaters regional park are a great option. Not much to see on a rainy day, but the creek offers some open sight-lines as respite from the dense forest.
We parked near the End of the Line store on Lynn Valley Road where there is street parking for two hours. It looks like the parking inside the park is now free for the winter. Our original idea was a straight out-and-back up along the creek (via the Varley Trail) but we turned it into a loop by following the Lynn Loop, and then towards Rice Lake and back over the pipeline bridge.
The trail was in great shape, perfect for a (very) rainy day with very little mud to deal with. Quite a few puddles, of course, but none deep enough to trouble anyone wearing hiking boots.
Not a lot to report when it comes to flora and fauna – fall foliage was mostly done and most shrubs had dropped their leaves. We saw a pair of varied thrushes and heard some kinglets in the trees.
Distance: 8.5 km
Elevation gain: 275 m
- 🙂 Watching the green creek cascade over rounded boulders
- 🙂 Spotting a pair of varied thrushes
- 🙂 Enjoying the easy walking in the forest, sometimes in the mist
- ☹️ The rain: we were pretty soaked by the time we got back to the car
Yet another Plan B hike: Plan A was a walk in the snow on Black Mountain but the rain began just as we pulled up. Nope: not walking in snow in the rain, that’s just way too cold and miserable. However, it did look pretty and atmospheric from inside the car, the green of the hemlocks contrasting against the white of the snow. Seeing as we were out and about, we decided to head east to Lynn Headwaters and go for a simple leg-stretcher. After escaping the traffic we pulled in at a parking spot not far from the End of the Line store, tied on our boots, and set off in the light rain.
Just before entering the park, we took the right fork on Rice Lake Road and followed it down past a couple of houses to pick up the Varley Trail. We’d enjoyed this section of trail when we hiked the Lynn Valley Link trail back in May so looked forward to making it part of today’s little hike. It was green and peaceful among the trees, even though the creek was roaring just away to our right. A short spur led us down to the creek and we stopped awhile to take in the green water cascading over the smooth boulders. I scanned for dippers but perhaps even they were hiding from the rain today.
Back on the trail and we settled in to a steady rhythm, dodging the occasional dog walker. Normally I enjoy the scent of the forest but today the swampy mud smelled the strongest, a foul anaerobic stench that overpowered everything else. I look forward to the skunk cabbage taking over in the spring! The boardwalk was slick but not slippery, thankfully, and we soon found ourselves at the upper parking lot at the beginning of the Lynn Loop.
We passed the signboard and skirted round a slower group monopolizing the bridge to pick up the Lynn Loop trail running parallel to the creek. A quick time-check and we said that we’d see where we were in another half-hour. The trail was easy walking, broad enough for us to walk side-by-side and still have room for other groups to pass. Running water was everywhere, and we couldn’t help but notice how the rain had become heavier as we’d started walking up the valley. It’s not often we hike in the rain; if it had been raining like this at home at the time we left, we would not have ventured out, but we were already here and we wanted the fresh air and so here we were, striking out up the gradual incline and letting ourselves just enjoy being outside.
Our pace was good and we were covering ground fairly quickly. We both noticed that we were walking more quickly than usual, and it wasn’t all down to the fact that we were just seeking the exercise. The gentle nature of this hike meant that neither of us felt the need for hiking poles, and we both felt that on such simple ground, using our hiking poles would have only slowed us down. Don’t get me wrong, I love my hiking poles and find them invaluable on many hikes, but I was beginning to realize that there are situations in which they may be more of a hindrance than a help. Something to ponder.
We passed the 0.5 km marker, then the 1.0 km, and the 1.5 km – which we were going to use as our turnaround point, had we not got there in less time than expected. We walked on for a few more minutes, coming to a concrete barrier overlooking the creek. A quick check of the map showed us that we were not far from the connector trail that led uphill to the eastern half of the Lynn Loop, and Maria suggested we did that instead, partly to make a loop and – perhaps mostly – to get more shelter from the rain. I wasn’t going to argue with making a loop out of a hike. Within another couple of minutes, we came to the junction and we took the right fork again.
Within moments we reached the first set of wooden steps and began to climb, passing between a colossal pair of old cedar stumps. To our surprise we found ourselves cruising up the slope, soon passing a trio of red-jacketed hikers near the top of the first set of wooden steps. Then up some more gradual stone steps, around a couple of tight switchbacks and up one more set of steps before levelling off 100 m higher than the creek, having travelled just under half a kilometre in 10 minutes. That steep and speedy climb warmed us up to the point where our glasses steamed up – Maria stowed hers in her jacket while I peered over mine as they gradually cleared.
Now we were on a quieter path, meandering through the columnar second-growth forest. Mist hung in the trees providing a bit of atmosphere and mystery. One thing that struck us was how much darker it was up here compared with down by the creek, though that could have been a result of thicker cloud moving in. The hope of gaining more shelter from the rain seemed to have been a vain one too, the rain continuing to pour on us, especially as we passed through a couple of clearings. But no matter: the trail was easy and enjoyable to walk, the air was cool and refreshing, and the forest was blissfully quiet.
I was surprised at how many people were out hiking this trail, not all of whom seemed to be prepared for the elements. But everyone looked happy to be outside, which was great to see, and despite the rain, we smiled as we walked. The trail began to descend as we passed the junction with the route up to Lynn Peak (no views from there today!) and I was reminded of the time I hiked up there on my own way back in 2005. That was a dull misty day, too, though at least it was dry.
We checked the time and realized that we were running a little behind schedule so we decided to take a different route back to the car, walking back towards Rice Lake on the easy gravel road, and enlarging the loop further. Sure it was easy, but it went uphill for longer than I remembered, which was not so welcome! We levelled off near the lake – leaving it for another day – and passed a pair of Adirondack chairs sat overlooking a clearing in the trees. I’m sure that it would’ve been a nice place to sit on a warmer and drier day, but it couldn’t have been less appealing in today’s downpour.
From here we had a simple walk down to the footbridge over Lynn Creek, which was quite a bit higher than I remembered, the creek raging through the canyon a good 20-30 m below. Then a short but stiff climb back up to Lynn Valley Road and the last stretch to the car. We took off our backpacks, removing their rain covers and shaking off as much water as possible before putting them inside, then our dripping rain jackets so we could finally get inside out of the weather. Time to head for home to dry off and warm up!
It was only a couple of hours, but we felt energized and refreshed by the hike. It’s always good to spend time being, outdoors.