British Columbia, a Jeep Rubicon with a tent topper, and a very rough itinerary. This was what Hastings Overland (in partnership with Destination BC) pitched to me, and it's the kind of trip that is right up my alley.
Based out of Vancouver, Hastings Overland rents Jeeps to travelers looking to get a bit off the beaten path in British Columbia. While they will provide a rough plan based on your preferences, they encourage you to diverge, explore, and take off down that old forest service road that looks enticing to find a camp spot for the night. Every Jeep is kitted out with a rooftop tent, camp cooking gear, cutlery, various toiletries, a cooler, a table, and even a few camp chairsand the horsepower to get you up and down any backroad that catches your eye.
Day 1 - Howe Sound
We started the trip with an overnight on a helipad in Howe Sound. In typical coastal mountain style, the trail was basically straight up -- but the 360 views at the top were worth it. You wind upwards through dense forest before topping out at the helipad -- there's just enough room for a few tents. We enjoyed our dinner and few beers with the wild views. There was a bit of haze, a result of wildfires in Northern Alberta blowing over to BC. It made for a pretty surreal sunset.
Day 2 -
After taking a water taxi back to the mainland, it was time for me to head out on my own. As expected, the epic mountain backdrops are pretty much endless in BC. My initial destination turned out to be unreachable at the moment -- after driving a significant ways up a logging road I was turned around by a series of downed trees (pretty common in the spring). I backtracked and decided to follow another road that looked promising. I was not disappointed. The Jeep camper made things easy, when I found a spot with a great view of the mountains, all I had to do was pull over and 5 minutes later the tent was fully set up and ready to go.
Day 3 - Lilooet and Fraser River Valley
I've never spent time in this area of BC, so it was great to hit the roads and explore the landscapes around the small town of Lilooet and the Fraser River Valley. There's a great short hike nearby for a view of Seton Lake, and I also wandered up the Red Rock Trail for a great view of town. There's not much going on in Lilooet, but Abundance Artisan Bakery is a great spot for a coffee and a bite.
My campsite for the night was a recommendation from the Hastings Overland team. After missing the turn (more than once) I accessed this spot via a mostly hidden 4x4 road down to the river.
Day 4 - Joffre Lakes and Pemberton
I was lucky enough to run into a friend from college who happened to be passing through BC at the same time (typical vanlifer). We grabbed some lunch in Pemberton and hiked to the iconic Joffre Lakes. Note: A free Day-Use Pass is required to hike this trail beginning June 17, 2022. The trail to Joffre Lakes is 6.2 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of 1200 ft. It's a relatively easy hike with a big payoff -- hence it's popularity.
Don't miss in Pemberton:
The Mt. Currie Coffee Company is a local spot that serves up great brews, friendly staff, great breakfast sandwiches and mountain views from the deck. If you're looking for something a bit more substantial, try Mile One Eating House, which serves up all kinds of comfort food primarily sourced locally.
In the evening I took a look at the map, found a 4x4 road in an area I thought might have great views, and started driving. It took a bit of backtracking and picking random roads, but I found an incredible spot to park, set up the tent, cook dinner and enjoy the sunset.
Day 5 - Hiking Black Tusk
I've always wanted to spend more time in the Whistler/Squamish area -- both to ski and climb. After a few suggestions from friends, I decided to tackle Black Tusk (despite relatively unknown conditions). The hike/scramble to the top of Black Tusk is approximately 18 miles round trip, with 5,700 ft of elevation gain. The best time to hike Black Tusk is typically from July - October, when the trail has less snow. Obviously, I was there before the snow had melted.
I started from the Rubble Creek trailhead, following the Garibaldi Lake trail. The switchbacks up to the lake were dry, but shortly after passing the lake on the Black Tusk/Cinder Flats trail, I hit snow. There was still a LOT of snow at higher elevations. It slowed me down a bit, but luckily it didn't get too hot and I was able to continue to make good time in my trail running shoes.
The main Black Tusk massif was mostly free of snow, which I was grateful for. The trail eventually reaches a rocky ridge line at the base of the Tusk. Most hikers will end their journey here, with magnificent views of the Tusk and the surrounding landscape. The last portion to summit the Tusk is a scramble up a steep chute that can be found by traversing the climbers trail at the base. The scramble is quite exposed, and remember, you'll have to descend the same way you came up.
The views from the top of Black Tusk are incredible. I really need to get back here in the spring with my skis. I returned via the Taylor Meadows trail, which cuts off a bit of distance but isn't nearly as scenic (you don't pass by Garibaldi Lake again). You could also reverse this "loop" and take the more direct route up to the Tusk and the scenic route down.
I wrapped up my day with a well-deserved burger and beer at Backcountry Brewing in Squamish.
Day 6 - back to Vancouver
After a big effort day, I wound down my trip with some "roadside attractions" in Squamish and Vancouver. After several days mostly solo and deep in the backroads, it was a strange experience to be around so many people on popular trails. The Sea-to-Sky highway between Pemberton and Vancouver is packed with spots to stop and explore. A few of the popular spots are Brandywine Falls, Nairn Falls, Shannon Falls, Alice Lake, and more.
All in all, a fantastic trip to BC. Even for the amount of territory I covered, it still felt like just a taste of the adventure to be had here.
I love that the mission of Hastings Overland is to give travelers the tools and confidence to *really* get off the beaten path and create their own adventures. It's great to see tour providers and destinations pushing this kind of exploratory travel -- encouraging travelers to discover the true diversity of a region like British Columbia.
For more adventures, follow me @kylefrost
And also check out Hastings Overland