Spring in British Columbia is the best of both worlds. There’s still enough snow for outstanding skiing and snowboarding (with fewer crowds to boot), but the warmer weather means hiking and cycling trails beckon, wildlife emerges, and waterways are ready for boats and kayaks. Here’s how to make the most of those inviting springtime months.
Hike Vancouver Island
Walking beneath towering Douglas fir, ancient cedars, and hemlocks in Englishman River Falls Provincial Park on Vancouver Island is like entering Enid Blyton’s ‘Enchanted Woods’. Your reward at the end of this magical trail is two cascading waterfalls, an awe-inspiring cacophony of thundering water as it tumbles over the rocks. Nearby Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park features a stunning sandy beach, the perfect place to unlace those hiking boots and stretch out the toes. Less than 25 miles away, MacMillan Provincial Park, is an Instagram hot spot, with its famous Cathedral Grove, adorned with ancient Douglas firs, some as old as 800 years.
Victoria, on Vancouver Island, is known as the Garden City, and for good reason. In March, the annual Flower Count begins, with every district on the Island competing to become the ‘Bloomingest Community’ of Greater Victoria. Bright pink blossoms lining the main streets of the city heralds the start of spring, and petunias, geraniums, and roses burst from the 1,600 baskets that hang from the lamp posts. For the ultimate floral immersion, head to the 100-year-old Butchart Gardens, where more than 300,000 colorful bulbs adorn the landscape during spring.
British Columbia’s majestic creatures of the Pacific Ocean, from whales and sea lions, to dolphins and seals, all come out to play once spring has sprung. Keep the camera poised for migrating gray whales during March and April, as they travel up to Alaska, and humpback whales from May onwards. Combine spring time whale watching with the breathtaking wilderness of Clayoquot Sound and Barkley Sound, where pristine beaches meet thick, ancient rainforests.
End of season festivals
With the ski season wrapping up in late April, spring is the perfect time to catch those blue-sky days on the slopes, minus the crowds. End the season on a high at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival at Whistler Blackcomb, where professionals compete on the mountains while musical acts, art exhibitions, and non-stop nightlife take over the village for 10 days. If music is more your thing, head to Snowbombing at Sun Peaks Ski Resort for the three days of dance tunes and impeccable powder. Meanwhile, at Fernie Alpine Resort, the closing weekend celebrations include a relay race of skiing, biking, paddling, and running, plus free rock concerts, crazy contests, and mandatory silly costumes.
Cycle the valley
With its glacier-fed lakes, rolling hills, vineyards, orchards, and picturesque townships, BC’s Okanagan Valley is the perfect spring time destination. Stay in Kelowna and visit its 40-plus wineries, or bunk down in nearby Penticton and check out the Penticton Farmers’ Market where you can sample the region’s delicious produce, cheeses, and treats, and hear the stories of local artists and farmers who have lived here for generations. Exploring on two wheels is one of the best ways to get around the valley, with bike rentals available from the larger towns.
From mid-March, bears begin to emerge from their dens, adorable cubs in tow. Take a photo safari tour in Whistler, where more than 60 black bears wake from their winter hibernation and come out in full view to satisfy their hunger with berries and salmon. For both grizzlies and black bears, head to the temperate North Thompson Valley in central BC, where Blue River is known as Grizzly Bear Alley. With a bit of luck, you’ll also spot eagles, deer, and moose.
Northern BC’s furry residents
Spring is the perfect season for a road trip and nowhere puts on a wildlife show like Northern BC. You’ll find literally hundreds of bald eagles near the Skeena River, not to mention white mountain goats, Dall’s sheep, moose, and deer. Watch for hitchhiking wildlife as you cruise the highway – herds of caribou and bison have been known to take over the roads!
Kayak Desolation Sound
Known the world over for its glorious vistas, kayaking Desolation Sound is nothing short of life-changing. Located 90 miles north of Vancouver, this beautiful sound, with its warm waters, towering mountains, and mysterious coves, is well worth the ferry rides to get there. The best way to explore is with a local tour guide who can show you the hidden islets along the jagged shoreline. Powell River Sea Kayak and Terracentric Coastal Adventures both offer day and multi-day trips into Desolation Sound.