The Two Lions are quite possibly the most challenging of all the climbs that I have completed. This is why I am leaving The Two Lions as my final installment of my May Hiking Series.
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-Two Lions, West Vancouver BC
-Duration 6 hours
-Pain level: Difficult
The Two Lions visible from the downtown Vancouver area; these two peaks are to the right of Cypress mountain. They are only accessible during the summer months from May until September.
The climb is very steep; rising nearly from sea level in Lions Bay, to over 1280 meters. The Two Lions tower over the North Shore mountains, with views extending all the way to the US. Mount Washington is visible from the peak on a clear day to the south. The Two Lions offer a challenging hike, and is only 45 minutes driving from the downtown core.
This hike attracts many weekend hikers, but if you’re up for an intense cardio and leg burn, this is the climb for you!
Starting in Vancouver make your way along highway 1, until Horseshoe Bay where it splits into highway 99 heading north. Take the Sea-to Sky highway until you reach the town of Lions Bay. You will see signage only 15 minutes outside Horseshoe Bay.
The trail leading up to the Lions can be difficult to find. Look for a small parking lot at the end of Sunset Drive. Parking is a challenge- especially during the peak months of July and August. So get a spot early.
Leaving the parking lot, you almost immediately find yourself on a steep gravel trail that leads around a water treatment area of West Vancouver. Continue on, and the trail turns from a wide gravel logging road to a small gravel pathway, that continues up the side of the mountain. Footing can be a challenge here, I advise wearing solid gripping hiking shoes as there’s a lot of loose gravel and debris.
Water is really lacking on this climb. You will pass a small stream roughly an hour into the hike, I definitely advise filling up if you have limited water at this point, since it’s the last chance you will have until you make the return trip. I recommend carrying a hydration system such as this one from Amazon.
Making your way further up the
mountain, after roughly 1.5 hours, the trail will reach a plateau. From here you will be able to view the back of Cypress Mountain. The twin peaks of the lions will be visible to the south, directly in front of you. This is a good chance to change out clothing or footwear if you have brought it. The terrain changes dramatically from a dense forest, to a very barren rock scramble. At this point, depending on the time of day, you will not need layers of clothing. The sun can get very hot as you make your ascent on the west side of peak 1.
The rock scramble changes in severity. At the mid-way point, you will be required to traverse very large boulders that have fallen down the side of the mountain. While they can be visually daunting, the task is very straight forward and provides you very good footing for a speedy descent on the way back. Once you have accomplished this section of the climb, the trail head will appear, and you will reach the crest located in between the two peaks. The view from here is stellar on a clear day, with Lynn Valley watershed and north Vancouver to the southeast, and a spectacular panorama view of Howe Sound and the Gulf Islands to the northwest. Take you time to recover post rock scramble and make your final ascent to the north, on top of peak 2.
Making you way to the top of the peak can be tricky, there’s a lot of loose rock and some very vertical areas. You will need to take it slow, and hand-over-hand a few areas.
You will be required to do a little freestyle rock climbing, as you make your way up the final third. This area can be particular difficult. Weather conditions are important; North Shore Search and Rescue has been called on many occasions to airlift stranded hikers, who didn’t gauge the severity of the climb at this point. Always start early in the morning and come adequately prepared.
Once you reach the peak, the north area of Cypress and Grouse Mountains come into view. As well as a 360-degree view of the aforementioned North Shore and Howe Sound. It is truly breathtaking on a clear day. The real challenge to The Two Lions, is the sheer vertical ascent of the climb. While many other hikes on the South Coast offer a mix of dense forest and rock climbs, The Two Lions really is just a vertical assault up the side of the mountain. You will get a full leg and quad workout, and the descent is almost more challenging, as you work the thigh and calf muscles to the max.
Traversing down will require a fair bit of navigation, as the rock scramble is not clearly marked. Note the route you took on the ascent, and as always, give yourself plenty of daylight to make the return trip.
The Lions is easily accessible from downtown Vancouver, and offers a peak workout, stunning views all within the confines of West Vancouver. Enjoy!