Peace of Mind

Intelligent Deterrence

Car-Free Cypress Mountain

As with the other how-tos on this site, the following is more a record of my practices than anything suitable for most people. Glean from it with caution, if at all.

Heard across a street. Highly intelligent. A bike alarm like no other! $210 CAD. Direct from manufacturer: $120 CAD.

Cypress Mountain is mainly known for its ski/snowboarding resort. It is also popular in other seasons for hiking. The Cypress Bowl area, where the resort is situated, is flanked by Hollyburn mountain, which is a shallow-gradient area particularly suited to cross-country skiing AFAIK, and Black Mountain, which includes some of the chair lifts, but is also very popular with hikers in other seasons.

Public Transit

There ain’t none!

Marine Drive is way down, by the water. Strictly speaking, it is the base of the mountain. But there is a hell of a long way, uphill, before you could reach any semblance of nature. In West Van., they never seem to cease building up the mountain!

Hiking Up

Very few people do even part of the following! Nearly everyone drives up.

The way the mountain is situated, entrance to it is blocked off by Highway 1, aka upper-levels highway. Below (and, really, above) the highway, there is West Vancouver–the low-density, high-income area with steep hills and little transit options.

I’ve used two options to get to Cypress, outside winter. One is for biking (see below), and one’s for hiking. The way I hike up to the Cypress area is by taking a bus to the bottom of Black Mountain, hiking up that, which will take me to the Black Mountain side of Cypress Bowl. then I descend the latter.

From downtown, the Horseshoe Bay bus is the one to take. (IIRC 250 is the express, which would be best, otherwise there’s gonna be a hell of a lot of stops!) For the long day ahead, the first one of the day might be it. Do note that it gets very crowded by workers. It takes you along Marine Drive.

To hike up, the best option for me has been to get off at (or IIRC near) Cranley Drive, which is close to Horseshoe Bay. That is, the bus goes till nearly the end of its route!

Trail Ventures’ North Shore Trail Map is the map I’ve used the most, for hiking in the north shore mountains. This, in combination with on-line maps (including satellite views), has helped me a lot. In this case, there is a route that goes under a highway 1 bridge, near Cranley Drive, to reach the trail network on the north side. This area is quite tricky, and under-documented.

I got lost once, when I tried to get fancy. But I used a map+compass combination to find my way out. (Yes, I know basic orienteering.) There is a bit of a maze of trails down there, in that area immediately north of the highway, east of Horseshoe Bay. And there’s little signage. And, since I reach there at very early in the morning, there is no-one else there: I had a very close run-in with an adult bear who did not expect, or want, anyone to be around. AFAIK, however, it is a popular trail network, since it neighbours a residential area.

The trail up is not simple to navigate. And, again, there is little signage. The route I take does include some scree as well to scramble/hike. Carrying skis would add to the difficulty of the latter.

It begins to flatten at Smoke Bluffs, which is a popular rest stop for hikers, most of whom come from the resort, having driven up. Great views of Howe Sound and Georgia Strait, of course.

If you’re carrying skis, you could skin through the trees from here. However, I’ve not found it to be worthwhile: too tight, too rolling, too much side-stepping or boot-packing. And, in late Spring, there is just far too much forest litter for your skins to remain unaffected by. It might be better if you’re coming from the resort side, in which case you might as well stay in the resort, or go to Hollyburn!

There is a maze of trails at the top, but the signage is fine when you reach the resort boundary. And, in summers, there are many people there during weekends.

This’d be the top of Black Mountain. Then you hike/ski/snowboard down the runs to reach the resort buildings. From here, you can go to Hollyburn, or take the route towards The Lions. Many people drive up to take the latter to reach St Mark’s peak, which is on the way to The Lions (West Lion), and has a lovely view. It’d be a hell of a hike, though, after coming from Marine Drive! Most people just drive up!

What about the trails which branch off from Cypress Bowl Road, when you’re driving up? Those are single-track trails, for downhill mountain-biking. Some of the toughest runs on the north shore, AFAIK. Not for hiking!

Biking Up (Road)

The following refers to road bikes, not single-track, downhill/enduro mountain bikes.

To bike up, the best option for me has been to get off at 30th. That is, Marine Drive, at 30th St. Then up, to Mathers, then Westmount Rd. Then I go over the bridge, to cross the highway.

Then it gets tricky. There is a works yard that is closed during weekends. It is very steep, but is a great shortcut to the Cypress Bowl Rd aka the road up the mountain.

Typically, I take the same route back, though IIRC 21st or 22nd Streets may have been options, too, albeit very long and steep!

When I get back down to Marine Drive, it is typically late in the evening, and busses are even less frequent! That means a lot of waiting!

Biking along Marine Drive is done by some cyclists, but it is not a pleasant affair for me. After decades of cycling, I simply avoid any semblance of stress–and a high-traffic, high-density street, with cars parked all along, and no separated bike-path, is simply not an option I embrace nowadays.

AFAIK, most cyclists simply take Highway 1 to get to Cypress. (Or might they drive to the bottom?!) Cycling is allowed along this highway. It’s not bad in high-visibility conditions (e.g. dry and day-light), but the noise level gets intolerable. Personally, I stuff a bit of tissue into my left ear; this way, I can hear approaching cars, but not get overwhelmed by the noise of engine after engine after engine after bloody engine passing you before the next engine after engine….

Once I reach the mountain road, the real climb begins. (The entire road to there is a climb, but it’s not as relentless.) It’s been 2-3 years since I last did it, so I don’t quite recall its gradient profile. I do know that it is not as shaded as Seymour’s road, and I prefer the latter’s elevation profile. Once you approach the resort, it gets wide and flat.

There are a few posts for locking your bike to, and there are vending machines and AFAIK toilets. The rest of the resort is closed after winter. In mid-Spring, or whenever winter operations cease, there are still staff working; so, any sneaking-in for skiing/boarding has to be done carefully. I’ve seen people drive up, to ski/ride, but that’d still involve a lot of boot-packing up the runs, of course.

The ride back down is the usual 20-minute-long wind tunnel: Pleasant, but do watch for surprise pot-holes! As on Seymour, I carry extra layers for the descent, especially on anything other than hot days.

Biking Up (MTB)

I’ve not done single-track on Cypress. I ought to, at some point, but access is difficult. It’s one thing climbing the bloody thing on a road bike; on a heavy mountain-bike, with wide, knobby tyres, it’d be much worse! And I regularly do full climbs in the Diamond Head area of Squamish–on an all-mountain bike, on the gravel road. Not for just anybody! But, Cypress has access difficulties; I haven’t yet been arsed to add an MTB to that mix! Besides, AFAIK, the runs on that mountain are too tough for me, anyway.

Typically, people seem to drive their bikes up to the various trail-heads.

At the Top

In summers, people hike to Black Mountain, or to St. Marks, which is the first peak with a view, on the way to The Lions. Black Mountain is the gentler, shorter, more popular climb; St. Mark’s is quite a climb, but quite popular never the less. If it’s not cloudy, you’ll be rewarded with a great view of Howe Sound.

I’ve not yet done Hollyburn. I expect that it’d be great for cross-country skiing or some such. There are lots of trails all around the resort area, though, not just there.

Some people continue-on after St. Mark’s, all the way to West Lion. It’s a great hike. Basically a ridge trail, and called such: the Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT). Most people, however, go to The Lions by driving to Lions Bay, which is a “village” about 10-12 km north of Horseshoe Bay. Basically, they skip the 9 km ridge trail, going straight to the end. The climb from Lions Bay ain’t easy, though.

Note: Even without skis, with only a light, summer day-pack, going from Marine Drive, up to Black Mountain, down into Cypress Bowl, up to St. Marks, then the 9 km to West Lion, and all the way back to Cypress Bowl completely depleted me in summer! I ended up begging for a ride from a driver, instead of hiking down! I’d like to think that my hydration and fueling have improved since, but that type of hike is for athletes, not me.

Winter

I’ve yet to go to Cypress in winter. The resort does have a shuttle. Its schedule might not have been bad IIRC, but it starts off from Richmond or some such, then winds its way through various stops, collecting people, until it reaches the resort. I don’t understand this, since there are public transit options everywhere except for the last leg! Why not focus on only the latter, which is going up the mountain!

The resort IIRC is the largest of the locals, with prices to match. There are good deals in the various passes. From hiking, it seems that its reputation for steeper slopes may be justified.


An old trip report for Cypress Mountain, via Black Mountain.

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