Vancouver Big Tree Hiking Guide

This online hiking guide aims to connect you with the astonishing local forests around Vancouver, BC. You’ll find stories and clear directions for visiting exceptional old-growth forests in the Vancouver area, such as Stanley Park,  Queen Elizabeth ParkUBC and Pacific Spirit Park, Capilano Canyon, Coquitlam Watershed, and Kerrisdale Elementary School.

Vancouver is a globally significant area for big trees. The city is surrounded by lush temperate rainforest that to this day contains trees over 1300 years old and up to 86 m tall. It is reported that the tallest trees on earth once grew in the Vancouver area before logging commenced in the late 1800’s.

Of the 50 tree species native to British Columbia many of the largest, widest or tallest specimens of several species are found within Vancouver city limits. For example, there are record specimens of red alder and big leaf maple in Stanley Park. Others are nearby, including the giant black cottonwoods of Deroche, the champion amabilis fir on Black Mountain, the tallest Douglas-fir of BC in the Coquitlam Watershed, the widest western hemlock in the world in Lynn Valley, huge Pacific yews in Capilano valley, and the 65 m tall grand fir that can be easily seen above UBC.

The remarkable forests around Vancouver are woven deep within the economic, cultural, and heritage fabric of the city. Nonetheless, many urbanites have gown disconnected from the forest, and I’m on a mission to change; explained here and in the video below.

Above: Meet the author on a hike to find a massive Douglas-fir in North Vancouver called Grandpa Capilano

Please direct any questions or comments to Ira Sutherland at mountainira@gmail.com

Select Big tree hiking areas (In no particular order):

  1. UBC’s forests and biggest trees 
  2. Stanley park, Vancouver
  3. Capilano Canyon, North Vancouver
  4. Brother’s Creek, West Vancouver (video)
  5. Lynn Valley, North Vancouver
  6. Seymour Valley, North Vancouver
  7. Kerrisdale’s big trees
  8. Upper Chilliwack Valley, Chilliwack
  9. Queen Elizabeth Park
  10. Coquitlam Watershed and the Meech Creek Giant

Few people know that there is a large old-growth forest area in UBC that contains 400+ year old Douglas-fir and some of the largest grand firs in the world. Find trees such as the giant grand fir seen here with the UBC hiking guide.

Stanley park contains exceptional individual trees of many species. This big leaf maple is believed to be the largest in BC, and possibly the largest maple tree in Canada

An old-growth Douglas-fir towering above young hemlocks at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, North Vancouver. This perspective is gained from taking the canopy walkway, which hangs nearly 30m above the ground from tall Douglas-firs. Outside the private Suspension Bridge park follow this hiking route through nice forest containing much larger and older trees

Brother’s Creek Ancient Cedar Grove, West Vancouver. Some forests in this area are well over 2000 years old, many of them have no legal protection as parks.

Lynn Valley, North Vancouver reportedly once contained the tallest trees on Earth. Most of the valley bottom was clear-cut but you can hike in to see this remaining 4m wide cedar. Here is a hiking guide to visit this tree by Outdoor Vancouver . Further up valley there is more old-growth, which I am beginning to document here for a  broader overview of the valley’s big trees, and local big tree hunter Mick Bailey is also documenting his finds here.

The Temple Giant (86m) located in Seymour Valley, North Vancouver is the third tallest Douglas-fir in BC. The majority of Seymour Valley has been logged but it is a large valley with many outstanding groves remaining. Here you can read about the group hike seen above.


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Kerrisdale Elementary School has a few large Douglas-fir up to 44.4m in height (shown here), but what is more interesting is the this area’s historical big trees.

The Upper Chilliwack River is the last contiguous low elevation valley bottom old-growth forest in the Lower Mainland. In here is the world’s largest known grand fir (not shown here).

Meech Creek Giant from above - cropped

The Meech Creek Giant was Canada’s  tallest Douglas-fir tree until it died a few years back. The only way to see the dead standing giant of the Coquitlam Watershed is to book a free tour with Metro Vancouver.

6 responses to “Vancouver Big Tree Hiking Guide

  1. Hello Ira,

    Would it be all right with you if you could give me the direction of where to reach the giant cedar tree on the west slope (passing Kennedy Creek) at Lynn Valley? I have been unsuccessfully attempting to find it a few times in the past. It would be nice if my daughter and I could join your group to hike there one day?

    John Warren, Vancouver

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your question. There is an important distinction to make that make help you find the tree you are looking for. There is a single very large cedar (4m DBH) on the west slope that can be reached by following a rough but somewhat marked trail. To get there, drive up Mountain Highway, then continue up the gravel road. Have a look at the map a little ways up the gravel road and identify a trail called the Big cedar trail (or something like that- I cant recall its exact name). That trail leads to the big cedar in Randy Stoltmanns hiking guide, which you could buy off Amazon: http://www.amazon.ca/Hiking-Guide-Southwestern-British-Columbia/dp/1895123062/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396730333&sr=1-1

      The other other large cedars are much more difficult to get to. If that is the tree you are looking for then there is no need to venture past Kennedy Creek. Past Kennedy Creek there is no trail but many large cedars. They never logged past there. As far as I know nobody has mapped the large cedars past Kennedy Creek and they require a failry full-hearted adventure to explore.

      -Ira

    • In response to John Warren’s question, I recently found about this hiking guide, which gives quite specific directions to visit the large red-cedar in Lynn Valley, the one referred to in Stoltmann’s classic big tree hiking guide: http://www.outdoorvancouver.ca/hiking-big-cedar-trail-kennedy-creek-falls/

  2. TO add, The large big cedar reached via the marked trail is the one seen in the photo on this page. Sorry, we don’t have any plans to hike in there anytime soon. Ill try to let you know if we do.

  3. The ‘Lynn valley tree’ which was 415ft tall was indeed the tallest Douglas fir ever measured anywhere, but nowhere near the record, as several mountain ash trees in Victoria, Australia, were taller, and one measured on the ground after it was blown over, was 434 ft long and had a broken top where the tree was still 29 inches in diameter. One can only surmise how tall that colossal tree was, but it must have been close to 500 ft. The tree was 18 ft in diameter 5 ft up from the base.

    • Thanks for sharing this info, Peter35. It’s always fascinating to here stories of the tall Eukalyptus, Douglas-firs and redwoods that are long since chopped down. I do hope that someone eventually conducts formal scientific research into the validity of different historical tall tree measurements. I’m not sure how that could be done. I imagine, it would be possible to construct either confidence intervals around historical tree height measurements or to at least perform some form of uncertainty ranking in the reliability of historical reports. Without some robust method and various lines of evidence, the pulling together of bits and pieces of historical information will otherwise leave a lot of uncertainty for us to discuss.

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