Tunnel Bluffs Hiking Trail
Hiking to Tunnels Bluffs near Lions Bay
- Destination: Southwest British Columbia
- Season: April-November
- Difficulty: Medium
- Distance: 7 kilometers (out‑and‑back)
- Elevation Gain: 660 meters
- Duration: 4-5 hours
About Tunnel Bluffs
Tunnel Bluffs (aka Tunnel Point Trail) is a scenic hike along the Sea to Sky highway, near the town of Lions Bay. The Tunnel Point Trail up to Tunnel Bluffs is steep, with many nice viewpoints along the way to the final lookout. From Tunnel Bluffs, you have an unbeatable view of Howe Sound and its many islands.
The Tunnel Point Trail to Tunnel Bluffs sees less traffic than other nearby hikes, like The Chief or Sea to Summit trails, making it a perfect alternative on busy summer weekends. As the trail averages around a 10% grade, you get in a big workout over the 4.5 km to the bluffs, yet the entire hike can be completed in about 4 hours.
In short, this hike is challenging enough that you’ll feel tired at the end of the day, yet it’s short enough that you can sleep in and still have plenty of time to complete it. Plus, there’s the spectacular view to enjoy at the top.
Getting to the trailhead is a bit tricky for Tunnel Bluffs, as you have to park on the southbound pullout off the Sea to Sky highway. You then have to run across the highway to the trailhead on the northbound side of the highway.
Heading from Vancouver, the parking lot is about 3 km north of Lions Bay. You will cross over a small bridge over a creek marked “M”, and the parking lot is about 100 m further. However, you will need to drive about 1 km past the parking lot before you can get to a turnaround point. If you reach Porteau Cove, you’ve gone too far. Turn around when you can and pull into the parking lot. It will be marked as a rest area/ viewpoint. The lot has 24 parking spots and there are usually plenty of spaces available to park.
The trailhead for the Tunnel Point Trail is on the east side of the Sea to Sky highway, directly across from the tourist pullout parking area 3 km north of Lions Bay (full directions listed below). To start the hike to Tunnel Bluffs, you must swiftly and carefully get across the highway. Be very cautious here, for obvious reasons, as the cars are flying fast around tight corners in both directions.
Once you get across the highway, you will see some flagging in the trees. There are actually two separate trailheads here, but both will quickly join together. One of the trailheads has a signboard, with a map of the area. This trailhead is located directly across from the northernmost end of the parking lot.
Once underway, the trail is well-marked and easy to follow. You will find plenty of yellow markers in the trees, and orange spray paint on some rocks guiding you along the way. Immediately, you will begin climbing steeply uphill into old-growth forest of arbutus and Douglas fir trees. There is no respite from the climb during the first hour of the hike. If you have trekking poles, it is not a bad idea to use them for this hike – especially on the way back down.
Take your time and settle into the climb. After about 15 minutes, you will come a to viewpoint just off to the side of the trail. You can see the highway below you, and a nice view of Howe Sound and Anvil Island. All told, there are about a half-dozen or so lookouts on the way to the top of Tunnel Bluffs. For these viewpoints, you will find green ‘View’ triangular markers posted to trees below the yellow markers. Not all of them are obvious, so you may pass by a few of them without noticing. But the viewpoints are worth the quick detours, to enjoy the scenery and catch your breath. You might notice some on your way back down that you missed on the way up. Don’t worry about missing any of the viewpoints, however, as none of them beat what’s waiting for you at the top.
Moving on from the first viewpoint, the trail continues to be steep and rooty. You will come to section with a thick yellow rope is in place to assist your climb. Following the trail, at 2 km, you will reach another viewpoint at roughly 580 m elevation, looking onto Brunswick Mountain.
Soon after, at about 600 m elevation, you will come to another steep section with a rope to assist your climb. Shortly after the rope, the trail levels and you emerge onto the remnants of an old logging road which is slowly being reclaimed by the forest. This is a peaceful and scenic part of the hike, with magnificent trees all around. Here the grade becomes much flatter, and the trail much smoother. All the hardest climbing is behind you, but another 45 minutes or so of hiking remains.
There are a few small stream crossings once you are on the flat section of trail. Depending on the time of year, only one small stream may actually have any water flowing, and this is your only opportunity to refill on water during this hike.
Shortly past the creek, you will reach a major junction. Go left. This junction is clearly marked, and going right takes you on the trail towards Brunswick Mountain (an incredible hike, but not our objective today). The trail here continues to be nice and flat.
You will soon come to another junction, again clearly marked with a map and markers. Go left at this junction (going right takes you along to Hat Peak, another 6 km away).
Tunnel Bluffs, to the left, is only 500 m away. There is some loose scree to scramble over during the final stretch of trail. The trail climbs and dips a bit during the final few dozen meters, but soon you will emerge from the trees to an incredible sight.
You will reach the large, open outcrop of Tunnel Bluffs and be rewarded with an expansive view of Howe Sound. You can see Bowen (Mount Gardner), Gambier, Anvil and Vancouver islands (to name a few). On a sunny day, the shimmering water is remarkable, and you can see the BC ferries making their way to and from Horseshoe Bay. There is plenty of room on Tunnel Bluffs to stretch out, have lunch, and soak up the views.
The Tunnel Point Trail is not a B.C. Parks trail and is maintained by volunteers. If you come across branches or rocks on the trail, you are requested to remove them (if possible). I’ve also been warned that some large owls live along the trail, and those hiking with small dogs should be cautious.
- Dogs Allowed
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