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Western Bureau Report #2: New Legends: A Trail Report from Way Out
By:  Tom McCarthy   (2003/10/08)

Trail Name: Baden Powell Trail
Trail Length: 50k
Trail Location: Vancouver's North Shore, from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove
Difficulty (XC Zone scale)
Technical: 2/10-10/10 (Depending on section)
Cardio: 9.5/10

One of the coolest things about living in a new place is finding all the trails to play on, the ones that are revered by those who have lived there before. In Ottawa, we like to introduce newcomers to trails like King Mountain, Skyline, Wolf Trail, Burma, the FireTower, etc. During my short time in Vancouver, it has been my mission to seek out these legendary footpaths of the West Coast. Fortunately, people on the West Coast are very forthcoming, and it hasn't been hard to find people to run with and wring information from.

The best trail I have found so far is one of Vancouver's oldest and best-known. It is the Baden-Powell trail. In effect, the Baden-Powell trail is basically the North Shore's equivalent of Ridge Road- it is the spine of the massive trail system that exists all along the North Shore. For those of you not familiar with Vancouver, the North Shore is Vancouver's outdoor playground. It is the ridge of mountains closest to Vancouver, and lies just north of Downtown, across the Burrard Inlet. Three major mountains, Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour, make up the North Shore. It is a comparable drive from downtown as the Gatineau Park is from Ottawa, although the North Shore is much more integrated into the city; it forms the northern boundary to development in Greater Vancouver, where the Gatineau Park is an arrowhead jutting into downtown Gatineau.

The Baden-Powell Trail runs the length of the North Shore mountains on the south side. It was built in 1971 by Boy Scouts to celebrate Vancouver's centennial. The trail is 50k long, and varies in difficulty all along its length. It is very well signed, and although it snakes through a couple of subdivisions, requiring some running pavement, it for the most part remains a wilderness trail. Because of its continual proximity to town, there are endless trailheads, making for many combinations of epic runs on its length.

I have had two epic runs on the Baden-Powell trail. The first was a zone 3 workout. I hadn't run the trail I planned to do z3 on, but I figured it must be similar to the section of trail preceding it- fun singletrack, mildly technical, but mountain-bike-able. It wasn't It soon turned into a series of steep, lung-searing uphills and foot-snagging downhills, all on a trail not exceeding 2 feet in width with a steep drop on one side. I was on the slopes of Grouse Mountain at this point, and the trail changed elevations drastically from kilometer to kilometer. My planned z3 run turned into a z3/4 scramble/ski-walk/run.

My second epic run was a 2 hour zone 1 workout. I had planned on rollerskiing, but this was during the insane rain Vancouver experienced last week, and the road to the rollerski facility was washed out and closed. The B-P came close by, so I chose to run instead. Again, I had chosen a new section of the B-P. I was drenched immediately upon starting to run. I ran over the Seymour River, which had turned into a raging torrent flowing through a deep canyon. The majority of the B-P was also washed out and had turned into raging little creeks. I ran uphill for an hour before turning around and running back downhill- this turned out to be the approach to Mt. Seymour. Despite being so close to town, I saw no one for the entire two hour duration of the run. This section of the B-P is less well maintained than others, so I had to be mindful of rotten log bridges, sloping bridges made slippery by the rain, and all manner of other obstacles. I haven't had a run like that in a long time.

The best thing about the trail is the KneeKnacker, a race which travels the entire 50-k length of the Baden-Powell. I hope to enter it next summer and discover the true meaning of the word "trail-run".

Check out the Baden-Powell Trail the next time you're in Vancouver!

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