In recent years, the first major viewpoint on the Howe Sound Crest Trail, known as Saint Marks Summit, has become a hugely popular destination. The views are spectacular and have played really well on social media, so the trail quickly became an iconic local spot. Since then most of the trail has been widened, making access even easier. It's incredibly popular on a weekend day in summer. Normally it's snow free by the first or second week of July, but check the BC Parks website for trail reports. You can normally get a good sense of the snow at altitude by looking at Grouse or the Lions from town. It's generally hikable until mid-November when snowshoes and some avalanche precautions become necessary.
The trail begins by parking at the Cypress Ski Resort. There is a big billboard, and there are signs right at the gate. This is the most confusing section of the hike thanks to the warren of signs and trails in the area. Taking either the Saint Marks Trail or the Howe Sound Crest Trail west and north will get you to the same place. The more southern, treed start that wanders past the marshes is much prettier.
The trails meet on a service road of gravel and ambles along past a power station. Just beyond this the gravel trail climbs steeply, switchbacking. The alders make for a less interesting walk than the old-growth forest you just left, but you quickly find yourself once more in them. The trail forks (again, check the signs here) and heads downhill, wandering across the flanks of Mount Strachan.
Eventually a trail follows a broad wooded col and veers off of Mount Strachan. If you're here when there is snow, be warned because this is the most risky part of the hike for avalanches (see bellow). The trail evens out pleasantly before you encounter the seemingly endless switchbacks. These end abruptly, and from here it's a narrower trail that wanders steeply at first through greenery before arriving at Saint Marks.
The descent is back the way you came.
Ideally having AST 1 courses, tranceivers, and a shovel and probe is recommended for crossing terrain this steep in winter. Most people do not bother with this, but accidents have happened, and it's always good to be prepared. MEC offers rentals for $10 a day if you need anything.
In terms of risk, the main issue is crossing Strachan. In particular there is one slope near where the trail moves off Mount Strachan. It's a big wide open slope. Historically this area has seen avalanches, and there have been smaller incidents further back along the trail. The best strategy is: