saint marks summit viewpoint with girl walking across the cliff ledge with tent set up

Hiking Saint Marks Summit (Top Hike in Vancouver, BC)

The Saint Marks Summit hike is one of the most rewarding trails in Vancouver that brings you to a scenic lookout over the Howe Sound. This popular view begins at Cypress Mountain and ends at the edge of a cliff looking out towards the Islands and is a must-see while you’re in Vancouver. Saint Marks Summit is a super accessible hike because of how easy it is to get to from Vancouver and if there’s one hike you don’t want to miss, it’s this one!

Saint Marks Summit is a 10.5KM out-and-back trail that should take you about 4-5 hours to complete. It is not a beginner hike but it’s possible to complete this route at most skill levels. This trail takes you through the forests, up and over plenty of roots and rocks, and along some breathtaking cliff drops. It’s an enjoyable hike and the reward is so worth it, making Saint Marks Summit one of our favourite hikes in Vancouver. This is a popular day-hike for Vancouverites and if this sounds like the perfect adventure for you, keep reading!

How to get to Cypress Mountain

CLICK HERE to view the full map on Google Maps!

If you’re coming from Downtown Vancouver, you’ll need to take the Trans-Canada highway (Highway 1) towards Whistler. You’ll use Exit 8 for Cypress Bowl road towards Cypress Mountain Ski Resort and there will be plenty of signs to guide you the right way. The drive up the ski hill will be slightly long with lots of switchbacks and views along the way. Make sure you’re not speeding on this road because the RCMP are often speed patrolling here on busy weekends.

There is a look-out on the way up the mountain that is worth stopping called Cypress Lookout and it’s hard to miss. There is a large-sized parking lot with plenty of spots available but it fills up quickly on a nice day. It’s very accessible as you simply get out of your car and you’re facing the view. There are picnic tables, outhouses, and plenty of places to look out over the view. You’ll enjoy views of Vancouver over the water, and it’s an incredibly easy sunset spot in Vancouver.

Saint Marks Summit Parking & Trailhead

saint marks summit sunset with guy walking on the cliff

You’ll eventually arrive at Cypress Mountain Ski Resort after driving about 15 minutes and you will notice that there are 3 main parking lots. You’ll park in one of these 3 depending on your trip. If you’re doing Saint Marks Summit as a day-hike you are in luck, you get to park at the top of the mountain at the main parking lot beside the resort. There are plenty of parking spots here and you’ll be expected to pay $10 to park here for the day, and there are washrooms available beside the parking lot. Not sure what to bring on your day hike? Check out our 2022 day-hiking gear guide!

If you’re going to be hiking for sunset, you’ll need to park at one of the two lower parking lots. The gates to Cypress Mountain close at 8PM and you will most likely not be able to make it down the mountain in time after the sunset. You can park in the second large parking lot just past the gates, and this is also a good option if you do not want to pay for parking at the resort. Finally, if you’re planning an overnight hike you will need to park at the farthest parking lot 3B which is the first parking lot you drive past on your way up the mountain. This is designated for overnight camping and you will not need to pay here either.

The trailhead for Saint Marks Summit begins past the ski lodge at the base of the ski hills. You will find signage with information and maps of the area, along with directions to begin your hike. You will be following signs for the Howe Sound Crest Trail and walking along the ski hills for the beginning of your hike. Once you begin to head towards the large water tower, your trail will take a right into the forest until you reach a gravel road. You’ll turn left onto the gravel road and you are now officially on the Howe Sound Crest trail!

Saint Marks Summit Hike

The Howe Sound Crest Trail will take you to Saint Marks Summit and the majority of your hike will be spent in the forest with the trees. As I mentioned earlier, this hike is full of roots and rocks and can be slippery and muddy depending on the season. We’ve completed this hike in July 2 years in a row, and we found snow at higher elevations both years. You’ll be following the trail along the cliffside and you’ll catch some really great views along the way. Make sure you’re bear-prepared with your bear spray as they’ve been known to hangout on these trails!

Bowen Lookout

A notable stop on the trail to Saint Marks Summit is for Bowen Lookout which is one of our favourite easy, local hikes in Vancouver. It is about 30-minutes off of the trail to Saint Marks Summit and if you haven’t seen it before, it’s definitely worth stopping. Bowen Lookout would be a great spot to have some snacks or lunch, and a nice place to take a break while taking in the views. You will reach the junction where you’ll find signs and a map to let you know where to turn off the main trail for Bowen Lookout.

After Bowen Lookout, you’ll find yourself reaching Strachan Meadows in the middle of your hike and you’ll cross 2 bridges in this area. The trail will start to get steep as you approach a series of switchbacks. You get a short break of hiking downhill before another steep set of switchbacks that are tougher than the first. The trail will start to level out as you reach the upper section of Saint Marks Summit and you’ll start to see views of Unnecessary Mountain and The Lions in the distance. It is around here that you’ll turn left towards the first viewpoint.

Saint Marks Summit Viewpoint

There are 2 epic viewpoints at the end of Saint Marks Summit trail. The first viewpoint is at a higher cliff and it’s the first viewpoint off of the trail. This scenic viewpoint gives you incredible views of the Howe Sound, Tantalus Range, Vancouver Island, and the Sunshine Coast. This lookout is from the edge of a cliff with an extremely far drop so make sure to keep your pets on a leash and be careful! It is a small space but there is plenty of room to take off your packs, have some lunch, and enjoy the view.

The second lookout spot is our FAVOURITE, and you can see it from the first lookout (try to see if you can spot Jake in the first photo above, it looks like he’s standing on the cliff edge below). You’ll follow the main trail a little bit further down and to the left. I personally think that the cliff edge, the rocks, and the surrounding trees make this spot even more photogenic. This is also where we pitched our tent, and there’s room for 2 tents here while still leaving space for others to enjoy the view.

Camping on the Howe Sound Crest Trail

You are allowed to camp anywhere on the Howe Sound Crest Trail as long as it is above the Nordic Ski areas and Cypress Alpine. There is no official campsite at Saint Marks Summit and it should be noted that it is not included on BC Parks website as a recommended campsite on the Howe Sound Crest Trail. With that said, I’ve done my own research and we still chose to camp at Saint Marks Summit but we have been told by others that it is not permitted. You can find information on BC Parks website and make your own informed decision about staying here! When you’re choosing a spot, however, it is asked that you camp in spots that are obviously used for camping. Fires are not permitted here.

You do not have to reserve a spot, pay any fees, or register for camping here. It is going to be first-come-first-serve and you’ll want to head out early to ensure you get a spot for your tent! It can be busy on weekends and you’ll want to make sure you have enough room for your tent while allowing day-hikers to enjoy the view, too. We set up our tent at the lower viewpoint and it was perfect with room for 2 tents. If you’re camping here, MAKE SURE YOU ARE LEAVING NO TRACE! We found toilet paper and food wrappers around our site, so we packed it up to take with us. Make sure you are going to the bathroom and cooking/storing food away from your site!

When is the Best Time to Visit?

Saint Marks Summit is a hike that I would honestly only recommend in the summer. Since you’re hike begins at a high elevation already at Cypress Mountain, you can expect that your hike is going to have some snow. This is one of the few hikes that we’ve done that has snow in July. Our most recent trip included some snowy sections along the cliff which can be difficult for those who are underprepared or do not have experience winter hiking.

Make sure you’re prepared with proper hiking boots or hiking shoes, make sure you have enough snacks and water, and check trail conditions before you go. It might be worth your while to pack your micro spikes with you for certain parts of the trail, and my hiking poles were especially useful for snowy, slippery sections. I’ve linked my hiking poles here for you!

Final Thoughts

Saint Marks Summit is an absolute gem of Vancouver and one of our top favourite hikes in the area. It is extremely easy to get to Cypress Mountain from Vancouver and Saint Marks Summit is one of the most rewarding trails for the incredible view you get. I will always recommend this spot to our friends and I hope you’re inspired to check out this amazing trail! This was our first backcountry camping experience at Saint Marks Summit and I’ll never forget the sunset, the stars, and waking up to fresh coffee here.

As always, make sure to respect the outdoors and the locals of this area, dispose of your trash properly by packing out what you bring in, and support local businesses! Please feel free to leave me a comment if you’ve done this hike, if you’ve added it to your list, or if you’d recommend it to a friend! I’m always happy to answer questions and comments below!

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