Big trees, cushions of bright green moss, the solitude and a fantastic view at the end – the Tunnel Bluffs trail is grossly underrated, my dear friends. Why is this hike not even listed in the bible of local hiking, the “103 Hikes” guidebook? For that or whatever the reason, you will not be running into other people on this trail and you can have all the wonderful lookout points to yourself. You’re welcome. So lets’ just dive in: there is a number of good route descriptions to follow, however, and read this carefully, I found some of the instructions confusing so here are my own notes and ad addendums:
Finding the parking lot, which is on the west side of the highway 99 and therefore not easily accessible if driving from Vancouver, is a little tricky. Drive past the village of Lion’s Bay (heading towards Squamish), note the creeks that the highways is crossing. One of the first ones after Lion’s Bay is “M” creek. Shortly after the “M” creek look across the highway – you’ll see a rest area with a small gazebo with a roof in the shape of a Haida hat. This is where you want to park. However, you cannot just swerve and turn around right here because of the highway divider. Continue driving further north, crossing Loggers Creek and Deeks Creek. A safe and legal U-turn route is past Deeks Creek. Turn here and drive back to the rest area with the Haida hat.
Another excitement is crossing the highway. Yep, there are 2 lanes of fast driving cars between you and the trail head. But no worries, give it enough time for a large gap between the cars to appear and the crossing doesn’t have to be laden with adrenalin.
Once across the highway look for a large yellow diamond shaped marker and enter the forest here. This is where we made a mistake – a few feet away from this trail head proper is a piece of pink and white flagging and we started following that. After 20 minutes of some seriously rough forest path we realized we must be off route and had to backtrack.
But, if you hit the right trail from the beginning, following it to the bluffs is super easy. Now, make no mistake, this is a fairly steep trail so do yourself a favour and bring proper footwear but the trail itself is superbly marked and easy to follow. As a reward for the grunt up that hill you’ll be marveling at the size of the trees, the lushness of the vegetation, not mentioning the final reward of the fine views across Howe Sound. Enjoy!
Interesting add-ons: for the fit and burly ones there is a worthwhile addition to the trip where, after checking out the bluffs, you can backtrack a little on the same trail but continue up and connect with a trail to Hat Mountain (there is a marker and a little schematic map so that you’ll know where to turn off once you’re there) for a total of 1,600 m of knee-busting elevation gain in one day. Clubtread.com, a local hiking forum community used to have a good description on how to get to Hat Mountain from Tunnel Bluffs trail but since the Clubtread site was sold to commercial interests many resources that used to be free are no longer available or accessible.
Another interesting thing about the Hat Pass extension of the Tunnel Bluffs outing is that apparently there is a hut somewhere in there that someone decided to renovate and bring back to a usable and useful condition. There used to be a wordpress site with updates on the progress (https://hathilton.wordpress.com/about/) but is no longer active. Maybe the cabin still exists but is in a secret spot??