This beautiful hike leads up to the summit of 1,716-meter Golden Ears, the eponymous peak in Golden Ears Provincial Park just west of Vancouver. Golden Ears sits at the south end of the park leading into the Fraser Valley. Most of these mountains are hidden by long, tree-covered slopes, but from the backside it is a different story; in fact, what is now Golden Ears Provincial Park began as a section of the much larger Garibaldi Park, which was later split off as its own entity due to the steep and inaccessible terrain that separates this landscape.
The West Canyon Trail leaves the parking area on a gentle gravel path and slowly climbs through a few steeper sections until it connects to the Golden Ears Trail. Another kilometer or so brings you to a wet, cool, area with small, fresh running water; this is the last fresh water available on the trail. Alder Flats is just past the streams, and this is a good place for camping that has a toilet and an emergency helipad.
The trail climbs steeply from this point and gains several hundred meters in few kilometers. You'll traverse some steep, tall steps, a dried up riverbed, and plunge into forest before you finally encounter some exposed rock cliffs. This will bring you out to the first ridge where you'll have some great views of the backside of Edge Mountain and Golden Ears as well as Mount Crickmer and Mount Robie Reid to the north.
The trail becomes a little less steep as you proceed up to Panorama Ridge for a new view of Golden Ears as well as Pitt Lake and the mountains to the west. A last scramble up a steep and rocky area brings you to the emergency shelter and backcountry camping area. There are a few small, flat areas suitable for tents that are scattered above and below the shelter. Note that the shelter itself is for emergencies only.
If you camp here you can enjoy the sunset on the ridge in addition to the sunrise on the north face of Golden Ears. The final push is a steep alpine climb up another kilometer or so, and from here the 360-degree view is spectacular in the morning sunlight. Spend some time to explore some of the small alpine lakes before you head back to Camp 1 to pack up and head down.
The trail down seems to drop quickly at first, but your legs are sure to feel the descent. Push down to Alder Flats for an opportunity to replenish your water, have some lunch, and enjoy the last views of the mountains. Once you leave the flats you are back in the forest , and the trail descends down slowly through mossy slopes and tall trees.
Most people camp on this Golden Ears Summit Hike, but it is possible to finish a there-and-back in one day on long summer days. An overnight trip gives you a chance to enjoy your surroundings and the new perspectives on surrounding mountains. Either way, this is a great hike that should be on your to-do list.