Golden Ears Provincial Park
Golden Ears Provincial Park is one of my favourite parks near Vancouver! It is only a 1 hour drive from Vancouver, located in Maple Ridge. It is one of those picturesque places that you think you will only ever see in movies. It has big, beautiful pine trees, the greenest mossiest forests, a beautiful lake, waterfalls and insane mountains! If you are looking for somewhere in the outdoors to escape to, Golden Ears is an excellent choice!
Apart from its beauty, the thing that we both love about Golden Ears is that it has something for everyone! You can car or tent camp in the park and have picnics by the lake. There are LOADS of hikes that you can do ranging from super easy to extremely difficult. You can paddle board or canoe on the lake, you can chase waterfalls, the list is endless! Golden Ears is a great place to spend the weekend with family or friends and it is dog friendly!
You can even hike to the top of Golden Ears via the Golden Ears Summit Trail! This trail is absolutely awesome and has the best campsite in the entire park in our opinion.
Since moving to Vancouver, Dave and I have been back to Golden Ears multiple times and done a lot of exploring there. Now I want to share some of the best things to do in Golden Ears Provincial Park.
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Where is Golden Ears Provincial Park?
Golden Ears Provincial Park is located in Maple Ridge and is only a 1 hour drive from downtown Vancouver. For a provincial park that is wild and beautiful to be so close to the city is amazing! This is one of the many reasons that Vancouver is such an awesome place to live.
Parking in Golden Ears
There are a few different carparks in Golden Ears Provincial Park. It depends where exactly in the park you are wanting to visit. I have set out a list below of all of the carparks in the park which you will need to reserve a day pass for during Summer.
- Alouette Lake Boat Launch Parking
- Alouette Lake South Beach Day Use Parking
- Gold Creek Parking Lot
- West Canyon Trailhead Parking Lot
BC Park Permits / Golden Ears Provincial Park Day Pass
During the off season (aka Winter), you can visit Golden Ears without needing to book a permit. During Winter the park is extremely quiet and you will probably have it almost to yourself.
In Summer, however you will need a day pass to visit Golden Ears Provincial Park. You only need to book a permit to visit Golden Ears if you are visiting between 7am and 3:30pm. Outside these hours, you can come and go as you please as long as the gates are open.
The day pass is free and can be obtained from the BC Parks Reservation Website. These passes can be booked only two days before visiting and the booking system opens at 7am.
Park Opening Hours
The entrance to Golden Ears Provincial Park is Golden Ears has different opening hours depending on the season. It is open much later in the Summer and closes earlier in the Winter. You can check the current opening hours on the Golden Ears Twitter Account.
Best Time of the Year to Visit Golden Ears
Summer is the most popular time to visit Golden Ears and for good reason. The warmer weather means there is a lot more to do such as spending time out on the water and camping is much more pleasant when you are not freezing. Summer is also a great time to do some of the Golden Ears Provincial Park hikes.
During Summer the park will be much busier and you really need to ensure that you plan ahead. Know when you want to go and book a permit and campsites ahead of time.
In Winter, Golden Ears Provincial Park is extremely quiet and if you want some of the trails to yourself then definitely go for a walk through the park in Winter! It is so beautiful and peaceful. We actually visited the Spirea Trail a few times during Winter to take photos and there was barely anyone else around.
8 Fun Things to Do in Golden Ears Provincial Park
As I mentioned at the start of this article, there is something for everyone in Golden Ears! You could easily spend a full day in Golden Ears Provincial Park or you could spend an entire weekend. We have also just visited the park for a morning or afternoon which works too.
There are so many fun things to do in Golden Ears Provincial Park! In this guide, I have listed 7 things to do in the park which includes some hikes, swimming in the lake, paddle boarding or canoeing and of course camping and picnics! I will also note which carparks are best to park in for each of these activities.
1. Take a relaxing walk around the magical Spirea Nature Trail
The Spirea Nature Trail is absolutely magical and a great easy hike in Golden Ears! It is a forest trail which is the sort of forest where fairies might live. It is a very short loop trail and only 0.8km long with pretty much no elevation. The trail will only take you around 15-20 minutes to complete, unless you are like us and spend hours taking photos amongst the beautiful trees. It is also a popular trail for dog walkers and photographers and is wheelchair accessible.
To get to the Spirea trail, once you have passed the Golden Ears sign at the park gate, continue driving for around 5.8km or 6mins. You will eventually see a small carpark that fits around 20 cars on your right. There is a pit toilet at the trailhead next to the carpark.
Once you have parked your car, you will find the trail right next to the toilet. As soon as you enter the forest, you will feel as though you are in the middle of the wildness!
The Spirea Nature Trail is family friendly and great for all ages! Check out our full guide on the Spirea Nature Trail here!
TIP: If you do the Spirea Trail in Winter or Spring in the morning, you might be lucky enough to witness some magical light rays through the forest. Did we mention this trail is great for photography?!
2. Go paddle boarding or canoeing on Alouette Lake
Bring your own paddle board or rent a canoe or kayak from the kiosk at South Beach. Alouette Lake is huge and great for paddle boarding and kayaking. It is one of the best lakes for paddle boarding near Vancouver. For South Beach, make sure you park at Alouette Lake South Beach Day Use Parking. This is right next to the lake. At the lake you will also find a large picnic area with picnic tables. There are toilets located at the lake.
3. Hike to North Beach and take a dip
North Beach has the most beautiful water! It is crystal clear and bright green! To get to North Beach, you will need to park in the Gold Creek Parking Lot. From there, follow the signs for North Beach which will take you along a trail next to Gold Creek. The walk is about 2km return and pretty flat.
North Beach is another great place in Golden Ears Provincial Park for paddle boarding and swimming!
There are lots of little trails leading off the main path which you can take to get into the water, or if you prefer to walk in from the shoreline, you can continue walking until you get to the part of the creek that flows out into Alouette Lake. There is a lot more room here to set up for a few hours or the day and go in and out of the water as you please. Dogs are allowed on the North Beach trail.
4. Hike to Gold Creek Falls
There are tons of great hikes in Golden Ears Provincial Park ranging from easy to very difficult. Gold Creek Falls is a family friendly and dog friendly hike through the forest along the Lower Falls Trail. For the Gold Creek Falls hike, park in the Gold Creek Parking Lot. There are toilets located in the parking lot but none on the trail so go before.
The trail is wide so is great to do if you want to walk and chat with friends. There is minimal elevation and the hike is 5.6km return which will take you around 2 hours. At the end of the trail, you will reach the Gold Creek Lower Falls lookout. This is where the maintained trail ends and a much more confusing narrower trail continues straight up through the trees to the Upper Falls.
The best time to visit Gold Creek Falls is in the Spring, when the waterfall is raging. Be careful though, you may get wet! If you are interested in visiting Gold Creek Falls, check out our full hiking guide here!
5. Have a picnic
Golden Ears Provincial Park is the perfect place for a picnic! There are so many spots within the park’s grounds where you can picnic.
- Alouette Lake – There are quite a few picnic tables facing the lake. We recommend getting there early in Summer if you want a picnic table as they will go fairly quickly. Otherwise, you can always bring your own set up. There are toilets at Alouette Lake. For Alouette Lake, park in the Alouette Lake South Beach Day Use Parking.
- North Beach – North Beach is lovely for a picnic, and personally we prefer it to Alouette Lake as it is a little more secluded. There are also toilets at North Beach. To get to North Beach you will need to walk from the Gold Creek Parking Lot which is 1km one way.
6. Golden Ears Provincial Park Camping
Spend a night or two in the park and camp at one Golden Ear’s campgrounds! Golden Ears Provincial Park has 3 campgrounds which you can reserve during the peak season. The campgrounds are all super convenient to get to the nearby hikes and lakes. To book, head to the BC Parks Website. If you book a camping spot, you don’t need to get a day permit. The 3 drive in campgrounds are:
- Alouette Campground
- Gold Creek Campground
- North Beach Campground
In our opinion, the best campground in Golden Ears is Panorama Ridge Campground, located on the Golden Ears Summit hike. It is not an easy hike to the campground though so make sure you read our guide on everything you need to know before going.
7. Do an overnight backpacking trip
As well as the front country campgrounds which you can reserve, are the backcountry campgrounds. There are loads of amazing hikes in Golden Ears and some of these include overnight hikes! One of the most famous backpacking trips and our all time favourite in Golden Ears Provincial Park, is the Golden Ears Summit Trail.
The Golden Ears Summit trail is 26km return with an elevation gain of 1,635metres and takes you to the top of Golden Ears! The trailhead is located at the West Canyon Parking lot. You can do this hike in either 1 or 2 days with a night at Alder Flats campground or Panorama Ridge campground. (Different Panorama Ridge to the one in Garibaldi Provincial Park – don’t worry, we got confused too!)
It is not recommended to hike all the way to the summit as it is extremely technical. Instead, finish your hike at the emergency hut which is where the campground is. For more information on hiking the Golden Ears Summit trail and staying in the most beautiful campground you have ever laid your eyes on, check out our full hiking guide here!
8. Go Mountain Biking
Bring your bike and try out some of the mountain bike trails in Golden Ears provincial park! Some of the best mountain biking trails are:
- Menzies Trail
- Eric Dunning Trail
- East Canyon Trail
Are there bears in Golden Ears Provincial Park?
Golden Ears is home to many animals including black bears and cougars. If you go on any hike in the park, please ensure that you are familiar with bear safety and bring along some bear spray. Check out this article to familiarize yourself.
It is also SO SO SO important to make sure that you never leave any food unattended at your campground or picnic area and if you are camping to lock all of your food and soap items in your vehicle. There have been way too many incidents where food has been left out and a curious bear has come across it. This then leads to the bear returning to the camp area for more food, which in turn may lead to the bear becoming aggressive towards people. Unfortunately BC Parks then have to catch the bear and put him down as it is their responsibility to ensure the safety of the visitors to the park.
Please remember, leaving food out can not only affect your safety and those around you but also affect the lives of the innocent animals that live in the park.
Golden Ears Provincial Park is our favourite park near Vancouver and one that we love for paddle boarding, photography and hiking. You could easily spend a full day in Golden Ears or you could spend an entire weekend. There are so many fun things to do and it is so so beautiful!