Where to go to experience the magic of British Columbia’s temperate rainforests? Where to go without leaving Vancouver too far behind and without having to hike too much? Golden Ears Provincial Park is your place, because it’s home to some of the most impressive rainforest trails near Vancouver. The Spirea Nature Trail is just the perfect introduction to them – and I promise, you wouldn’t want to stop (I’ve warned you).
Also, I need to confess that such an easy and straightforward nature trail as the Spirea Trail wouldn’t need a lengthy description. But I can’t stop praising it, and I absolutely love revisiting all the pictures I’ve ever taken on this trail. So allow me to show them, along with all the practical tips to make your first visit to Golden Ears pure joy.
Don’t leave your rain gear at home though. I might promise you joy, but I can’t promise you sunshine. Rainforests exist here for a reason.
How to get to the Spirea Nature Trail?
Getting to the trailhead is an hour drive from Vancouver (or a bit more in heavy traffic). Head towards Maple Ridge, then follow the signs to Golden Ears Provincial Park. Make sure to check the opening hours before passing through the gates (especially in winter time when they close early), then drive until you see the sign for the Spirea Nature Trail.
There’s a small parking lot that fits about 20 cars. You’ll also find a pit toilet and a trail map.
Visiting Golden Ears Provincial Park might require a day pass in the summer months. Check the current requirements on the official website of BC Parks. Day passes can be booked for free, but only two days before visiting. The booking system opens at 7am.
Hike the Spirea Nature Trail
This is one of the easiest and most beautiful Golden Ears hikes, with no elevation gain. It takes you through a mossy, fairy tale forest which leaves you in awe. Kids, elderly parents, non-hikers – it’s suitable for everyone. Yes, even for strollers and wheelchairs. It’s also dog-friendly, though they need to be on leash.
Spirea Nature Trail hiking info:
I have to admit that it took us a few visits to Golden Ears to stop at this trail. It’s so short that we didn’t think much of it. What a mistake. It’s a mossy wooded wonderland where trees tower above you like a majestic green cathedral. The branches and the forest floor are covered in thick moss.
If you’d like to lengthen it, continue on the Alouette Lake Trail which takes you to South Beach. You can also join the Menzies Trail for a longer forest hike.
South Beach on Alouette Lake is a nice addition
The best time to visit the Spirea Nature Trail
Just avoid summer. I know that’s when the weather is best in British Columbia, and that’s when all the families spend their time in the great outdoors. But that’s also the reason that Golden Ears becomes one of the most crowded parks near Vancouver. A day pass is required to enter the park throughout the summer season, and parking is challenging.
Spring, fall and winter are quiet seasons when you’ll likely have this fascinating forest all to yourself. You can truly experience the serenity of this place – which is definitely ruined by the summer crowds.
Also, lights are best for photography in the colder months when temperatures are just above freezing, and humidity is high. Early sun rays and mist can create a magical atmosphere in the winter forest. There won’t be any snow at this elevation though (except for a few weeks in December or January when the rest of Metro Vancouver gets a fresh dump of snow, too).
Opening hours change with the seasons. Summer hours are longer, winter hours are much shorter (just like daylight hours in the winter months). Check them when entering the park so that you won’t be locked in.
What to wear hiking in the winter?
Dress in layers:
- synthetic or wool base layer (for men, for women)
- insulating midlayer (for men, for women)
- outer layer to protect you from wind, rain and snow (for men, for women): no need for an insulated jacket for day hikes near Vancouver, as you’ll get easily overheated in ski jackets; just make sure it’s waterproof
- hiking pants (for men, for women)
- optionally, rain pants: they should be worn over your hiking pants in wet conditions, or simply to shield you from the wind and add an extra layer
- waterproof hiking boots (for men, for women) or snow boots
Cover as much of your skin as possible:
- wool socks
- gaiters: keep the snow out of your boots when hiking in deep snow
- face mask or neck gaiter