Not every great hike on the North Shore involves reaching a mountain peak. Sometimes it’s great to just go for a family (and dog-friendly) walk in the woods next to a canyon or a picturesque river surrounded by mountains and the rain forest.
The Fisherman’s Trail starts at the south end of the massive Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, which was opened to the public in 1987. Our suggested hike only covers a fraction of the total trail (which extends approximately 15 kilometres north to the Seymour Dam and reservoir), but it’s a great introduction to an area full of history and beautiful scenery.
The most direct trailhead is at the north end of Riverside Drive, which is accessed from the Mount Seymour Parkway. However, non-residents are not permitted to park near the trailhead from May through September, so during the summer it’s best to park at another access point off Hyannis Drive, which is accessed via Berkley Avenue.
The Hyannis Drive location is a popular hub for numerous, well-marked trails that head west, north and east. West follows the Baden Powell Trail to connect directly to Fisherman’s, and north gives you various options to reach the same trail via Bridle Trail or Mystery Creek. Pick whichever one you like, and use a different route on the way back.
Fisherman’s Trail is actually the remnants of an old logging road running parallel to the Seymour River. Commercial logging in the Lower Seymour finally ended in 1994. The Seymour River valley has also been a source of water for the Vancouver area since 1908, and parts of the watershed (north of our suggested hike) are strictly off-limits to dogs.
Once you join Fisherman’s, head north and look left for peeks into the deep canyon. Eventually the relatively flat trail reaches a modern bridge adorned with blue railings. This is the former site of the historic “twin bridges.”
The original bridge was finished in 1908 to carry a water main and pedestrians across the Seymour. It was dismantled in 1992 but some concrete footings are still visible. A second bridge — a steel structure — was built in 1926 for the logging road. By the turn of the 21st Century, the bridge was rusting beyond repair and was finally torn down in the fall of 2009. A small piece of rusted steel girder and rivets from the last of the “twins” has been left on display.
The Twin Bridges Trail to the left winds its way to Rice Lake, but we follow a different route and turn right to continue up-river on Fisherman’s Trail. There are numerous access points to quiet lunch spots along the river’s edge. On a hot, sunny day you might even see people taking a cool dip in shallow pools of the river.
A few minutes of easy walking brings us to another blast from the past: the entrance of a short tunnel which was blasted out of a rock wall for an old water pipeline. If you have a flashlight, you can try walking or crawling carefully through the soggy tunnel, but most people (including me) are satisfied to just look inside.
Less than a kilometre north of the tunnel is a pair of moss-covered wooden supports, which mark the entrances to former homesteads dating back to the early 1900s. Some artifacts plus remains of foundations and a chimney are still barely visible, but are mostly covered with ferns and dense brush.
Just ahead is the junction with the Homestead Trail, which rises steeply to the left towards Rice Lake. A gate also marks the upper limit for dogs on the Fisherman’s Trail. The trail continues beyond, but if it’s time to turn back, simply retrace your steps to cross the bridge, then choose a route back to your car.
If you have a few more hours and extra energy (and no dogs), you can continue along Fisherman’s Trail for another four kilometres to the Mid-Valley Viewpoint. Parts of this section can be quite muddy, and boardwalks (undergoing much-needed repairs at the time of this writing) help you avoid some especially muddy and washed-out sections of the old road.
The Mid-Valley Viewpoint is a lovely grass-covered clearing with breathtaking views of the Seymour Valley. You are surrounded by steep slopes, looking up to Mount Seymour to the east and Lynn Peak to the west. I’ve always found that this spot has its own micro-climate and usually warmer than the surrounding trails in the valley.
The viewpoint also has picnic tables and a large shelter, with a plaque listing numerous TV shows, movies and commercials that have used the area for filming. Remember MacGyver? X-Files? Happy Gilmore? They all filmed scenes near this spot.
Eventually it’s time to head back. If you’re lucky enough to have a sunny day in late fall or winter, the sun often beams through breaks in the forest canopy to brighten the way. But this is a hike that can be enjoyed rain or shine, in all four seasons.
Mike Hanafin is an avid backcountry hiker who can see the forest and the trees. Reach him at email@example.com.
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