St. Mark’s Summit is part of the epic Howe Sound Crest Trail that spans 29 kilometres along the Sea to Sky Highway from the Cypress Bowl Alpine ski area to a point just south of Porteau Cove Provincial Park. The summit offers spectacular views of Howe Sound, Sunshine Coast, the Tantalus Range and even Vancouver Island.
Backpacking the entire Howe Sound Crest Trail takes a few days. Hiking Saint Mark’s Summit, the first mountain along this route, makes for a fantastic half-day trip.
St. Mark’s Summit Hike
St. Mark’s Summit hike starts from the top of Cypress Mountain, which is also home to a popular ski resort. Driving to the trailhead takes around 45-minutes from Vancouver, depending on the traffic. The stunning views and the mountain’s proximity to the city make this trail super popular and very busy during peak times.
Hike Key Facts
- Distance: 10.5 km out-and-back
- Estimated Time: 3.5-5 hours
- Elevation Gain: 587 m
- St.Marks Summit: 1370 m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Location: Cypress Provincial Park
- Best Time to Hike: July to October
- Parking: Cypress Mountain Parking Lot
Overall, this hike is not too strenuous as there are only 587 meters of elevation gain, which is one of the bonuses of starting from a ski resort parking lot. We hiked St. Marks’ Summit at the end of May, and there was still a lot of snow everywhere! Because of this, we took whichever trail had the least amount of deep snow.
It is not uncommon to see a black bear on this hike, so be aware. We did not see any, but we read many comments from people mentioning black bear sightings, especially around the ski hill.
St Mark’s Summit Hike Trail Map
On the map, you can view the out-and-back trail from Cypress Mountain Parking Lot to St.Mark’s Summit. If you have the time and energy, you can add Yew Lake and Bowen Lookout to your hike.
St Mark’s Summit Trailhead
From the Cypress Mountain parking lot, head towards the Cypress Creek Lodge; there are some large Olympic rings in front of it. Here you will find an information board and a park map for Cypress Provincial Park. The trailhead is on the right side of the board; look for the signs to Howe Sound Crest Trail or Bowen Lookout.
There are various trails at the start, and the route-finding might be confusing at the beginning. We would also like to note that the markers on the course rarely mention St. Mark’s Summit, and that is why you should follow the signs for the Howe Sound Crest Trail. We recommend downloading an offline map from an app like AllTrails.
St Mark’s Summit Trail
There are two main trails you can take to get to St. Mark’s Summit. You can hike the route as a loop via Yew Lake and Bowen Lookout, which will add an extra 1.7 km on top of the 10.5 kilometres, making it a 12.2km hike with an elevation gain of 605 meters.
The other option is to take the more direct trail to the top and hike 10.5 km with an elevation gain of 587 meters. Both routes eventually joined together at the Bowen Lookout Junction.
If you take the more direct (out-and-back) route to the top, you will not see the Yew Lake, but you will still have the option to see the Bowen lookout. We decided to take this trail because it had the least amount of snow, and everyone that we saw was taking this route.
Trail 1: Loop – Includes Yew Lake
After a short walk from the trailhead, you will come to Cypress Creek. Here you will need to go left towards Yew Lake. In no time, you will reach Yew Lake, which sits between Mount Strachan and Black Mountain.
Walk by the lake for a few hundred meters., the trail will take you through lovely subalpine meadows. Then turn right and continue on the trail through the forest. Follow the sign for the Bowen Lookout.
As you go up, the path becomes steeper with some switchbacks. When you come out, there will be a 3-way junction. Turn left here to reach the lookout; it is less than 100 metres from the intersection.
You can skip reading the ‘Trail 2: Out and Back’ and continue reading from the ‘Bowen Lookout.’
Trail 2: Out-And-Back
Start the hike at the Cypress Creek Lodge and look for the Howe Sound Crest Trail sign. Follow this path through the forest until it merges onto a ski run. Keep going up until you see a large green water tower. Just before the building, the trail splits.
You will find a marker indicating the direction for ‘Howe Sound Crest Trail West’ or ‘Howe Sound Crest Trail East.’ The paths join back together shortly after the Bowen Lookout junction. The ‘East Trail’ is a bit more difficult; it has more tree roots and rocks. The ‘West Trail’ is wider and easier to walk on.
We recommend taking the Howe Sound Crest Trail West and visiting the Bowen Lookout on the way up or down. We made it to the lookout twice. When we were returning from the summit, there was a fantastic sunset, and that is why we decided to visit the viewpoint once again.
Howe Sound Crest Trail West
To take the ‘Howe Sound Crest Trail West,’ turn to the left before the large green water tower and follow the signs. Keep going straight (passing the green water tower), and after a short hike, turn right and walk over a wooden bridge. The trail leads through the forest and narrows down.
There will be a few switchbacks going up, but the path is very well maintained. Follow the path until you come to the Bowen Lookout Junction. You will find signs pointing you straight towards St. Mark’s Summit or left towards the Bowen Lookout at the junction.
We recommend going left here and taking a short detour to the Bowen Lookout, it is an easy 700-meter walk from the intersection with a minimal elevation gain. If you prefer to keep going towards the summit, go straight uphill and continue on the Howe Sound Crest Trail. See directions below for ‘Bowen Lookout Junction to St. Mark’s Summit.
Howe Sound Crest Trail East
To take the ‘Howe Sound Crest Trail East,’ turn right before the large green water tower onto a trail and walk uphill through the trees. There are lots of tree roots and rocks on the path.
After a short hike, you will arrive at a gravel road. Go left here and continue a short distance until the road narrows and becomes the Howe Sound Crest Trail. This route will take you to St Mark’s Summit. See directions below for ‘Bowen Lookout Junction to St. Mark’s Summit.
From the Bowen lookout, you will have a partial view of the Howe Sound and the Sunshine Coast. It is similar to the scenery you will get from the St. Mark’s Summit, but it is not as stunning.
At the viewpoint, we saw some whisky jacks and a steller’s jay. Once you take in the scenery, head back along the path and walk for about 700 meters. At the junction, turn left towards the St. Mark’s Summit.
Bowen Lookout Junction to St.Mark’s Summit
From the junction, go uphill and continue walking through the forest. Soon you will come to a meeting point where the Howe Sound Crest Trail West and Hove Sound Crest Trail East meet. There is also a map of the various hikes within Cypress Provincial Park.
Follow the trail for a few kilometres; it will emerge into a small meadow where you will cross two bridges over Montizambert Creek. On your right, you will see Mount Strachan. If you do not have enough water, this is an excellent place to refill your water bottles.
After you leave the meadow, the path levels out, but a few minutes later, you will be hiking through a series of switchbacks. Eventually, you will find yourself on a ridge. It might seem like you are getting very close to the summit, but that is not the case. There was a handwritten sign on one of the trees saying ‘Not even close.’
You will get partial views of Howe Sound through some openings between the trees. On your right, you will see mountains in a far-off distance. Enjoy the flat section because as you continue, the trail climbs once again through a series of switchbacks, and they are steeper than the previous ones.
The path can get very muddy, and there are also lots of tree roots and rocks on the ground. Be careful, because they can be very slippery. This section is the most challenging part of the hike but is relatively brief.
Keep going until you reach St Mark’s Summit. You will know you are there when the trail levels out and you see a sign. St. Mark’s summit is more of a ridge than a peak. As you continue walking, you will see the Unnecessary Mountain and the Lions off in the distance.
There are a few fantastic viewpoints. If you keep going straight, you will get to a point when the trail starts descending. Go left here, and you will find the best scenic views of the area.
St.Mark’s Summit Viewpoint
From this viewpoint, you will get rewarded with breathtaking views of Howe Sound and the Islands, including the Bowen, Gambier, Keats and Anvil Islands, the Sunshine Coast and even the Vancouver Island. In the distance, you might be able to see the snow-covered Tantalus Range.
You will see the Sea to Sky Highway and Horshoe Bay to your left when you look below. We also enjoyed watching the boats sailing across the Howe Sound.
Camping on St.Mark’s Summit
Wilderness camping is allowed in the park’s northern section and along the Howe Sound Crest Trail as long as you are at higher elevations beyond the Alpine and Nordic ski areas. Specific sites are not designated, but the BC Parks recommends choosing the location carefully to avoid environmental damage.
No permit is required. There are no facilities provided, no bathrooms and no bear bins. Just keep that in mind, and pack in what you pack out. No campfires are permitted along the trail; you can only use Primus-type stoves for all your cooking.
After you enjoy the scenery and have a bite to eat, return the same way you came, back to the Cypress Mountain parking lot. Or take one of the other trails mentioned above. If you want to continue along the Howe Sound Crest Trail heading north, you will reach Mount Unnecessary and the Lions.
When Is the Best Time to Hike St. Mark’s Summit?
St. Mark’s Summit trail is extremely popular and gets very busy and super crowded on the weekends, especially during the summer. If you have the choice, we suggest going off-peak hours. If the weekend is your only option, try to get there early if you do not like crowded trails.
The best months for hiking St. Mark’s summit are July to October. We recommend wearing proper footwear because the trail can get muddy and slippery. It is better to avoid going to the St. Mark’s Summit when it is raining because of the mud.
Make sure to go on a clear day to enjoy the unobstructed views. If there is an overcast, you will very likely be disappointed because you will not see much.
We hiked the trail at the end of May, and there was still a huge amount of snow, especially after the Bowen lookout. We used spikes from about two-thirds of our journey. This helped a lot, but walking on the snow in the steep sections was still tricky and very slippery.
Many hikers who wore sneakers decided to turn around at different points because it was too difficult. In June, the snow starts to melt more rapidly, and in July, there might still be some snow left.
Can I Hike St. Mark’s Summit in the Winter?
Hiking the St. Mark’s Summit and the Howe Sound Crest Trail is not recommended during winter months due to extreme avalanche terrain. You can hike up to the Bowen Lookout, though. For more information, visit the BC Parks Website.
How Long Does It Take To Hike St. Mark’s Summit?
The hike to St. Mark’s Summit is 10.5 kilometres out-and-back, with an elevation gain of 587 meters or a 12.2-kilometre loop with an elevation gain of 605 meters. Hiking the trail takes around 3.5 to 5 hours, depending on your fitness level, plus the time spent at the summit and the Bowen Lookout.
If you hike when there is still snow on the trail, it will take you longer because the path will be hard to walk on, and the course will be slippery.
How Popular Is the St. Mark’s Summit Hike?
The hike to St. Mark’s Summit is hugely popular due to its proximity to the city, moderate difficulty and panoramic summit views. If you are visiting Vancouver and are looking for a beautiful hike, St. Mark’s Summit should be on your list for sure. It is one of our favourite Vancouver hikes.
How Hard Is the St. Mark’s Summit Hike?
St. Mark’s summit is considered a moderate hike, and it is not too challenging, but it has some steep sections with tree roots and slippery rocks. If you are going in spring or early summer, prepare for a lot of mud after the snowmelt.
Otherwise, this hike is technically relatively easy. There is no exposure and no scrambling involved, unlike on some of the other coastal mountain hikes along the Howe Sound Crest Trail. Proper footwear will help a lot, and trekking poles will come in handy, especially for the descent on the steep switchbacks.
Can I Do St. Mark’s Summit as a Multiday Hike?
The nice thing about hiking on the Howe Sound Crest Trail is that you can do multiple hikes if you have the energy and the time for it. Minor additions to the St. Mark’s Summit hike are the Yew Lake and the Bowen Lookout that I mentioned previously.
If you want to go for something more challenging, you can hike the Unnecessary Mountain, the Lions or Mount Strachan. You can also do the St. Mark’s Summit hike as an overnight trip and spend the night on the summit. Catching the sunset and sunrise here is impressive!
How Long Is the Howe Sound Crest Trail?
Howe Sound Crest Trail spans 29 kilometres along the Sea to Sky Highway from the Cypress Bowl Alpine ski area and leads north along Mount Strachan’s western slope past the Lions and Deeks Lake before descending to Hwy 99 south of Porteau Cove Provincial Park.
What to Bring On the St.Mark’s Summit Hike?
Bring at least 1.5 litres of water, food and snacks. Have some extra layers of clothing in your backpack and a rain jacket. It could be chilly at the top of St. Mark’s Summit, even on a hot day at 1371 meters.
There is a tree cover for most of the hike, which will protect you from the sun. On a scorching day, you might need to bring sunscreen. Pack a bug spray, especially if you hike during the summer. We recommend using the AllTrail app or a similar offline navigation app in case you end up going off the trail.
Should You Bring Kids and Dogs?
If your kids can walk for 10 to 12 kilometres and do not mind steep trails, you can bring them with you. Dogs are allowed in Cypress Provincial Park, but you must keep them on leash due to wildlife issues and the potential for problems with bears. Beware of the cliff sides at St Mark’s Summit Lookout.
What Kind of Wildlife Can I Spot in the Park?
Some of the larger animals that you could see are black bears, deer and coyotes. Cougars have been seen in the past only occasionally.
You will very likely see Douglas squirrels while you eat your lunch. The Cypress is home to at least 113 different bird species, including ravens, gray jays, steller’s jays, red-breasted sapsuckers, blue grouse, and pygmy owls. You might also spot treefrogs, blue-listed (vulnerable) tailed frogs, and northwestern and western redback salamanders.
We saw squirrels, gray jays and steller’s jays. All of them were interested in our lunch. Did you know that steller’s jay is a provincial bird of British Columbia? We have seen many of them on our hikes throughout BC. Their blue colour is amazing.
Directions and Parking
The hike to St. Mark’s Summit starts from the Cypress Mountain parking lot. If you are driving from Vancouver, take the Trans-Canada Highway 1 towards Whistler. Take exit 8 onto the Cypress Bowl Road towards Cypress Mountain Ski Resort, which is well signposted. The drive up to the base of the ski area is quite steep, with some long switchbacks.
Once you reach the top of the mountain, there are several places where you can park your car. The main car park gate closes at 7 pm, and that is why if you plan to return later in the evening, make sure you park in one of the parking spots outside the gates. There is no parking fee, and the park is open year-round.
If you plan to camp overnight along the Howe Sound Crest trail or go for a multiday adventure, you can park your car in parking lot 3B. On this spot, you are allowed to park overnight. Vehicles parked overnight in the non-designated areas will be towed at the vehicle owner’s expense.
There is no public transit going to Cypress Mountain. If you are visiting Vancouver, we recommend renting a car.
Things to Do Near the Cypress Provincial Park
Cypress Provincial Park has lots of great hiking trails to mountain summits. You can enjoy downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing during wintertime inside the park.
Other activities we recommend are driving to Cypress Mountain Viewpoint, taking a Howe Sound Sea Safari Cruise, visiting the Lighthouse Park and hiking to the Cypress Falls.
Drive to Cypress Mountain Viewpoint
When you drive up on Cypress Bowl Road, you will see a viewpoint on your right before one of the switchbacks. From here, you will get an uninterrupted panorama of Vancouver.
We stopped at the viewpoint after we hiked St. Mark’s Summit. The scenery in the evening was charming, with thousands of lights glowing throughout the city. There were many people taking photos and enjoying the views.
Take the Howe Sound Sea Safari Cruise
Hop aboard a high-speed boat and experience the splendour of Howe Sound, Horseshoe Bay and the Strait of Georgia.
On this 2-hour adventure Sea Safari Cruise, you will see stunning cliffs of Anvil Island, cheeky seals at Pam Rocks and the Bowen Island caves. Goggles and weather gear are included. >>Book your Howe Sound Sea Safari Cruise here
Cypress Falls Park
West Vancouver’s Cypress Falls Park is located only 20 kilometres from the Cypress Mountain parking lot. It features a beautiful canyon, 300-year-old trees and two gorgeous waterfalls.
The best time for visiting is during the spring, as the melting snow makes the waterfalls rush with water. Its low elevation makes Cypress Falls Park a good option for visiting in winter when many other trails are covered in deep snow.
READ MORE: Cypress Falls Park – Guide to Visiting
Visit the Lighthouse Park
Just a 30-minute drive from Cypress Mountain or downtown Vancouver, Lighthouse Park offers numerous easy walks full of first-growth Douglas Fir trees and Western Red Cedars that will amaze you.
The park consists of about 182 acres of rainforests, the Point Atkinson Lighthouse and various hiking trails. Some lead to bluffs with views of the coastline, while others lead you to the various coves and beaches.
Best Places to Stay Near the Cypress Provincial Park
Do you need accommodation for your trip to Vancouver and would like to stay close to Cypress Mountain and other beautiful nature spots? We suggest choosing a place in West Vancouver.
West Vancouver is home to many restaurants and shops, and the beautiful Stanley Park is nearby. It is also a quick trip to downtown Vancouver. Here are a few of our recommendations:
- Shangri-La Vancouver: Great location, close to the beach and Coal Harbour. It offers easy access to shopping and restaurants. Comfortable and luxurious rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows. The service is exceptional, and the food is fantastic. The hotel features a full-service spa, outdoor pool and a fitness centre. >>See prices and availability for Shangri-La Vancouver
- West End Guest House: Built-in 1906, this historic bed and breakfast is located 11 minutes walk from the beach and 1 km from downtown Vancouver. The rooms are spotless and are full of character; you will feel at home. During your stay, you can relax inside a private garden. A full breakfast is served each morning, and complimentary snacks and drinks are always available. >>See prices and availability for West End Guest House
- Blue Horizon Hotel: This contemporary Vancouver hotel is situated directly on Robson Street near shopping and restaurants. It features an indoor pool, a hot tub and a steam bath. The rooms are spacious and clean, and the beds are very comfortable. The top floor offers spectacular views. >>See prices and availability for Blue Horizon Hotel
Plan Your Trip to Vancouver
- Travel Insurance: Protect yourself from possible injury, theft or a cancelled trip. World Nomads offers excellent coverage and competitive rates.
- Accommodation: Our favourite hotel search engine is Booking.com. Discover savings on hotels, apartments, resorts and villas in 80,000 destinations worldwide.
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- Car Rentals: Discover Cars is an excellent site for comparing car prices and finding great deals. Book online for the best rates.
- Flights: Our favourite search engine for airline tickets is Skyscanner. Compare millions of flights and discover the best fares for standard and budget flights.
Read More Travel Guides
We hope you enjoyed our guide on hiking the St. Mark’s Summit. Let us know in the comments below. Here are a few of our favourite articles to inspire your travels around the Sea to Sky region.
- 27 Best Things to Do in Vancouver
- 40 Epic Things to Do in Whistler
- Cypress Falls Park – Guide to Visiting
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