Mount Bishop Hike Summary
Distance: 36km* (The trail itself from Spur 4 Road trailhead is only about 8km return)
Elevation Gain: 1270m
Highest Point: 1509m
Time Needed: 10+ hours
Season: Late Summer
Mount Bishop is a little-traveled, and very challenging hike located near the northern edge of Mount Seymour Provincial Park in North Vancouver. Mount Bishop can also be accessed via the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. Given the distance of the overall trip, I recommend doing this one as a bike and hike from Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. You can view a map of the park and trails here. The trail for Mount Bishop is not highlighted on the park map, but you can see Vicar Lake and the different options you have for accessing the trailhead off Spur 4 Road near the hatchery.The BC Parks map is here. There are many different routes you can take to get to the trailhead itself. A few examples:
1. Bike the Seymour Valley Trailway to the Hydraulic Connector, over Spur 4 Bridge onto Spur 4 service road, to the trailhead.
2. Bike the Seymour Valley Trailway all the way to Coho Trail.
—— 2a. Find a safe place to cross the Seymour River and find your way onto Spur 4 Road, to the trailhead.
—— 2b. Carry on through to the hatchery and the Bear Island Bridge, connecting to Spur 4 Road, to the trailhead.
3. Bike the Twin Bridges Trail to Fisherman’s trail. Cross Spur 4 Bridge onto Spur 4 Road, to the trailhead.
4. Start at Mount Seymour, hike to Elsay Mountain, Runner Peak, and then carry on to Mount Bishop (expert only).
*Option 1 above is the route I took, and the stats at the top of this guide and the following description reflect taking this route.
This is a very challenging hike, with steep climbs and many technical sections. Be well prepared on this hike. Some like to camp overnight and backcountry camping is permitted within Mount Seymour Provincial Park (ie, Vicar Lake or Mount Bishop summit area).
Regarding biking – a mountain bike is ideal. I have a hybrid (cyclo-cross) bike with fairly thin tires and it was hard to negotiate on the Hyrdaulic Connector, and my bike couldn’t even handle some of the steeper hills of Spur 4 Road without the tires spinning-out underneath me. You can, of course, do the entire route without a bicycle. But, given the distance and relatively flat terrain before the actual trailhead, biking is a good way to go (and fun!).
Cool fact: “The mountain was named in honour of Joseph Charles Bishop, the first president of the British Columbia Mountaineering Club (BCMC), who died in 1913 after falling into a crevasse whilst climbing on Mount Baker” (Wikipedia).
Starting your hike from Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve
Start at the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve parking lot, and get onto the paved Seymour Valley Trailway. Given the paved road, you’ll be flying along, enjoying the beautiful ride until you reach the 5km mark. Just passed the 5km mark of the road you’ll cross a small bridge going over Hyrdaulic Creek, and on your right there will be a small pull-out area with map and two out-houses. Take the trail down, a within about 1km you will be on the Spur 4 Bridge. Cross the bridge, and you’ll come to a junction where you can go straight (up a trail marked Suicide Branch) or left. Go left, following the wide, Spur 4 gravel road.
Carry on along the road and follow the large, blue kilometer markers.
You will pass two turnoffs for Lost Lake (south and north trails) at about 6.5km and 8km. Keep on Spur 4 Road until you reach the 12km marker. Then, keep a keen eye out for the trailhead on your right, near the 12.5km point. There should be some flagging, and a slight opening in the trees. When I went, there was lots of flagging all along the right side of the road, so it can be easy to miss, but there will be one tree with an orange marker. Once you find the trailhead stash your bike somewhere, and get ready for the workout.
Within a few minutes of your climbing, you’ll come across a humongous old growth cedar tree. I mean HUMONGOUS. This amazing tree is called ‘The General’, and ‘The General’s Wife’ sits beside it.
The trail is very well flagged and marked, so staying on route should be easy. There trail is narrow and tight, but surprisingly well maintained. There is some large deadfall, but nothing that poses too much of a problem. The trail climbs up relentlessly to Vicar Lake. Although the Vicar Lake is only about 2km from the trailhead, it will take some time given the steep and challenging nature of the trail. The most difficult sections have been roped to assist your climb.
You’ll come out to a flat clearing, and two small ponds (or perhaps earlier in the year, 1 larger pond) at a marshy area. Follow the flagging up through the ponds and you’ll come to another, larger pond. Skirt the pond, and you’ll quickly be at Vicar Lake (elevation 1030m).
Go around to the left if Vicar Lake, and you’ll see where the trail carries on. There are a few markers on a tree:
From the lake, the trail continues back uphill. It becomes steep and technical again, but this upper section trail seems to be a bit easier going than the lower section. The trail from this point has less flagging, but is still easy to follow. The are some shrubs and bushy sections, so pants may be a good idea to protect from cuts and the off-chance of ticks.
You’ll zig-zag your way up into the alpine, with a few nice views along the way. Nearing the top, there will be one stream from a snowfield that will provide some fresh water if needed.
As you approach the summit, the flagging will stop but there may be a few inukshuks. The top is all open and exposed so you can essentially choose your preferred route to scramble up to the top. When I went, there was a partial cloud cover, so I only had a narrow view to the northeast. I imagine the view would be spectacular on a clear day.
To return, just retrace your steps. GPS coordinates are available here.
Driving Directions and Parking
To get to the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, take the Mount Seymour Parkway exit off Hwy 1 (exit #22A), and head north up Lillooet Rd. Carry on passed Capilano University and the cemetery and eventually you’ll hit the gravel parking lot.