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Best Ever Guide to Golden Ears Provincial Park
Just 10km north of the ever-popular Maple Ridge lies the interestingly named Golden Ears Provincial Park. This area makes up one of British Columbia’s largest park areas, spanning over 62,000 hectares of waterways, hiking trails, and rugged beauty.
If you are still in search of adventure after visiting Golden Ears Provincial Park, you are perfectly situated – the even more massive Garibaldi Provincial Park is also connected to Golden Ears to the north!
What is now the gorgeous Golden Ears Provincial Park was once the traditional fishing and hunting grounds of both the Douglas-Lillooet and Katzie First Nations peoples. While no longer a hunting area, the fish stocks remain bountiful. The rugged coastal western Hemlock and Conifer forests continue to call themselves home to many species, including beavers, black bears, and mountain goats.
Before it was made a Provincial Park in 1967, Golden Ears and the valleys around Alouette Lake played host to British Columbia’s largest railroad logging operation throughout the 1920s. This all changed in 1931 when a devastating fire tore through the operation.
After a varied history, this place of natural splendor is now open for all the public to enjoy. There is much debate about where the name Golden Ears comes from – some say the two main mountains look like the ears themselves, while others argue that it comes from Golden Eyries, in honor of the eagles who still fly the skies there today.
The sprawling 154,500 acres of Golden Ears Provincial Park are sure to host something that appeals to every type of adventurer. The various majestic mountains and craggy valleys offer opportunities for hikes of all difficulty levels. At the same time, the calm waters and rolling beaches of Alouette Lake are perfect for fishing enthusiasts, sunbathers, swimmers, and water sports fanatics alike. There is even a wheelchair-accessible hiking route at The Spirea Universal Access Trail to ensure that nobody misses out on the beauty that the lush backcountry of Golden Ears has to offer.
Despite all its ruggedness, much of Golden Ears Provincial Park is also heavy on amenities. Across the park, you can find several different campgrounds (each with its own level of creature comforts), various day-use areas, sani-stations, boat launches, horse and bike trails, wheelchair-accessible facilities, and much more. However, if you prefer to take the rough-and-tumble approach, there are plenty of areas of the park that will allow you to make your way un-coddled.
If you are visiting during the winter months, be aware that some facilities will no longer be running. This includes the food concession stands, as well as many water points and sani-stations.
No matter what season you visit, please ensure that you:
Keep dogs on their leashes at all times.
Be responsible for your waste and leave no trace!
Store any food in your vehicle during the night to avoid bear problems.
Only make campfires in designated zones, marked by special metal fire rings.
Day-Use Passes Are Required to Visit Golden Ears Provincial Park!
A new rule put in place as of July 2021 requires everybody visiting Golden Ears Provincial Park, even if it is just for a short hike, to reserve a day-use permit before they arrive.
These permits are completely free and can be reserved online by visiting the discovercamping.ca website.
These measures were put in place to ensure that one of the crown jewels of British Columbia does not suffer from overuse and land degradation. You can find out more about how these special lands are protected for future generations by clicking here.
If you are planning on visiting Golden Ears Provincial Park, you need to book your free pass ONE DAY before you plan to visit the park.
Golden Ears Camping Options
There are many different main campgrounds located across Golden Ears Provincial Park, offering more than 400 separate sites for overnight campers.
Each of these sites has varying levels of amenities so that you can pick the perfect level of comfort/difficulty for your camping trip, goldilocks style!
Whether you fancy hiking or boating out to your campgrounds or would prefer the comfort of a warm shower, with just a little research, you can find the perfect pitch.
Alouette Lake & Gold Creek Campgrounds
These two campgrounds boast the most amenities, with hot shower buildings and flushable toilets open throughout their camping seasons. So if you want to experience the great outdoors but are not ready to go fully wild, these are the sites for you.
Gold Creek campground is open all year round, while Alouette Lake campground is usually open from early June to early September – although this may change on a year-to-year basis.
Both sites will also feature special metal rings designed to contain campfires. You are encouraged to either bring your own firewood or buy some pre-chopped wood on-site.
Rustic Marine Campgrounds
There are a number of Golden Ears camping options that are exclusively accessible by boat. This makes for a great adventure and a chance to meet many other like-minded boating enthusiasts – not to mention the gorgeous lake, creek, and riverside views that come with them!
The main sail-in campgrounds can be found on Alouette Lake at Moyer Creek, The Narrows, or on Alouette River and Pitt Lake at Raven Creek. There are also sites located on both the North and South of Osprey Creek.
As well as being only accessible by boat, these campgrounds lack flushable toilets and do not allow campfires. However, you will still be provided with well-maintained pit toilets and tent pads.
Walk-in Wilderness Campgrounds
Golden Ears Provincial Park also offers exciting opportunities for wilderness camping. This means that you can pitch your tent within the designated areas, in a barebones setting that is true to the feeling of wild camping but without any legal grey areas or chances of danger.
It should be noted that wilderness campgrounds are an authentic wild camping experience. This means that no facilities are provided for the campers, and you should come fully prepared yourself.
Wilderness campgrounds are located on Alder Flats along the West Canyon Trail and on Panorama Ridge along the Golden Ears Trail. These sites are between a 5- and 9-kilometer hike from the nearest car parking areas, respectively.
These areas can fill up quickly with campers during the high season, so pre-booking is a must to avoid disappointment.
Golden Ears Camping Options for Large Groups
If you are part of a large group, it can often be difficult to secure yourself a pitch where you can all camp together, especially when camping in British Columbia’s Provincial Parks.
Fortunately, Golden Ears Provincial Park offers two separate pitches for large groups of either friends or family, which can be reserved in advance. In order to secure a reservation, your group must be between 15 and 30 people, although allowances can often be made for even larger groups.
The two group campgrounds can be found near the West Canyon car parking lot and the boat launch at Alouette Lake, respectively.
Best Hiking Trails in Golden Ears Provincial Park
The huge and varied span of terrain at Golden Ears means that there are a massive amount of options when it comes to hiking routes.
Whether your idea of a good hike is a gentle meander through scenic vistas or a hard slog that will see you using axes, crampons, and rope to get an unparalleled view as your reward, there truly is something for everyone. There are also plenty of trails that allow mountain bikes and horses as transport options!
For a full look at the hiking opportunities provided by Golden Ears, take a look at this map. Or, read on below, where we have listed ten of our favorite hiking trails across the park.
Golden Ears Trail
Journey Length: 22km, taking an average of 8 hours and 30 minutes
Difficulty Level: Hard
Description: While not the easiest of trails, this moderately trafficked trail is widely considered one of the hiking gems of British Columbia. Covering flats, forests, and steep climbs, this delightfully varied route will give you a little bit of everything. If you are hiking during the winter months, be careful, as snow and fog can make the trail hard to follow in low visibility; make sure to keep an eye out for small stone markers and shrines left by previous hikers! You will find streams and waterfalls to refill your water bottles, as well as an excellent first-come-first-served campsite with wooden tent pads, a bathroom, and an emergency shelter.
If you would like to experience this hike but not the full force of its difficulty, we would recommend sticking to the lower portion.
East Canyon Trail to Lower Gold Creek Falls Loop
Journey Length: 5.8km, taking an average of 1 hour and 27 minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy
Description: This hike features wide spaces and mostly only gentle slopes, so it’s an excellent option for those looking for something not too demanding. However, the rocky terrain does mean that good hiking boots are highly recommended. Those looking to push themselves a little further will find optional sections in the middle of the trail that will require you to scramble over tree roots and make short, steep climbs. Either way, this trail will provide beautiful sweeping views of the river that cuts through it, as well as the mountains off to the west.
Evans Peak Trail
Journey Length: 8.9km, taking an average of 4 hours
Difficulty Level: Hard
Description: This trail is both notoriously difficult and deservedly famous for its breathtaking waterfall views on the way up and truly memorable panoramic views of the park from the summit. While the beginning forest section is easy-going, the climb soon becomes steep and unrelenting – so make sure everyone attending the hike knows what they are in for!
We would highly recommend that you have some prior hiking experience and come equipped with hiking poles, an ax, crampons, 30 meters of rope, and slings in order to safely navigate this trail – especially in the winter months when it is at its most treacherous.
Upper Gold Creek Falls via East Canyon Trail and West Canyon Trail Loop
Journey Length: 10.5km, taking an average of 3 hours 30 minutes
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Description: The majority of this hike takes place in beautiful moss-blanketed forest areas and covers most of the main non-mountain-related highlights of Golden Ears, taking you through Gold Creek Falls, East and West Canyons, and the aptly named Viewpoint Beach. The lack of major elevation changes makes this a relaxing route, complete with spectacular views of the overlooking peaks.
Lower Gold Creek Falls
Journey Length: 5.8km, taking an average of 2 hours 30 minutes
Difficulty Level: Very Easy
Description: This route is the shorter, simpler, and more accessible version of the trail listed above. This is one of Golden Ears’ most accessible hikes, and it still culminates and in a stunning waterfall view at the end of a path that takes you along a meandering creek and through lush forests. If you find yourself wanting some extra adventure once you get started, there are plenty of opportunities to divert onto other loops and scrambles for a bit more elevation.
(In our video, you can see Michelle scrambling as we continued up the connector towards East Canyon Trail just to see what it was like up there. That is not part of this trail map but a good example of how you can veer off if you like.)
Other popular Golden Ears Provincial Park Hiking Trails
Hike Name: Gold Creek Lookout
Journey Length: 7.7km, taking an average of 2 hours and 29 minutes.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Hike Name: East Canyon Trail
Journey Length: 10.3km, taking an average of 2 hours.
Difficulty Level: Easy
Helpful Tips for Visiting Golden Ears Provincial Park
No Cell Service: We had a hard time finding a signal at any place in the park. We could pick one up if we drove about 5km away from the main registration booth towards Maple Ridge.
Arrive Early for Day Use: This is a very busy park and that is why day-use passes have been implemented. Make sure to arrive early to get a parking spot at the day-use areas.
Visit Wild Play:For extra adventure, you can visit Wild Play just down the road from the park entrance.
Leave NO Trace: We were very shocked to see how much litter was on the trails. So much toilet paper! Please ensure you are abiding by LNT principles when you are wandering in these wild places.
Eat at Black Sheep Pub: Whether you are on your way in or out of the park, Black Sheep Pub is a fantastic place to stop and grab a bite to eat. We loved the food and it was priced incredibly well.
How to Get to Golden Ears Provincial Park
To get there, you can follow Highway 7 or Dewdney Trunk Road up through Maple Ridge. If you are westward bound, simply turn right onto 232nd – or turn left on 232nd if you are heading eastward. After that, all you have to do is turn right onto Fern Crescent and make your way into the park.
One of the many treats to be found inside Golden Ears Provincial Park is Alouette Lake, one of the most popular lakes in the whole Metro Vancouver area. It’s so wonderful, it deserves its own mini-guide which you can read here: Alouette Lake
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We recognize and acknowledge that we live, learn, play and work on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan people.