Since the pandemic started, we’ve tried to get out nearly every day for a family walk. The fresh air, exercise, and excitement about exploring have helped us stay sane during these crazy times. Sometimes we just wander trails in our neighbourhood (we’re blessed to live near an undeveloped ridge of land) and sometimes we head further out to local regional or provincial parks. Minnekhada Regional Park, near Port Coquitlam, is becoming one of our favourite places to hike.
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Getting to Minnekhada Park
Minnekhada Regional Park is about an hour from Vancouver itself. There are two different access points to the trails in the park and several trail options. The park does close at 9 pm currently (and gates lock!) so you’ll want to make sure that you have time to finish your hike before then. This park boasts old-growth forests, marsh, and rocky outcropping, so there’s plenty of terrain changes and interesting scenery.
Coquitlam’s Minnekhada Regional Park is a family-friendly jewel that’s little known out of the Tri-Cities. If you hike to High Knoll, this Metro Vancouver park will make you work up a sweat. ~ Stephen Hui, 105 Hikes in and around Southwestern British Columbia
The area is also home to abundant wildlife. On our three hikes there, we’ve seen black bears, beaver, frogs, slugs, Canada geese and ducks. You’ll want to pay attention to area signage and follow wildlife safety tips. Dogs must be leashed at all times.
There are signs throughout the park with distances and maps, so it’s fairly easy to follow the trails. You can also download a one-page map (click the image below) and print before going on your hike. We like having the kids look at the map and help us figure out which way to go when we hit an intersection in the trail. (Intersections also mean that any hikers stop and wait for the entire group to gather before we keep hiking.) Stephen Hui’s guidebook also has a good map.
Addington Lookout Trail
Addington Lookout is a 2.6 km hike (round-trip) from the Minnekhada Lodge parking lot to the lookout and back. The road the lodge is narrow and one-way (so watch for oncoming traffic) and the parking lot is small. Fern Trail is fairly wide and well-packed gravel, making it suitable for wheelchairs or strollers. However, the trail from there to Addington Lookout is narrow, rocky and rooty, and more hilly.
From Addington Lookout, you get a beautiful view of the surrounding farmland and the mountains in the distance. You can then return to the parking lot via Fern Trail. Of, if you want to make it a loop, you can climb down from the lookout to the dike and follow that to Oliver Road, which is closed to traffic past the turnoff to Minnekhada Lodge.
We were returning via Oliver Road at about 8 pm when we saw a mama black bear and two cubs in the marsh (right about the bottom left corner of the “Be Bear Aware” notice on the map above). The bears were a good distance away and munching happily at the edge of the marsh, so we kept the kids close and kept an eye on the bears and kept hiking. They didn’t seem to notice us.
Low Knoll Trail
The Low Knoll Trail is about a 2.5-km loop through the centre of Minnekhada Regional Park. We parked at the Lodge again and started off on Lodge Trail, then took the causeway between the marshes to the Knoll. After a quick glance at the scenery, we continued our loop towards Addington Lookout and took Fern Trail back to the parking lot.
Circling the marsh gave us plenty of time to check for wildlife. The girls were very excited to spot a large frog just off the trail. That frog disappeared under the water when the younger kids came running back to see it, but we spotted another frog just a bit further along. Both frogs were about the size of my hand.
Further on, we saw a Canada goose family. I jokingly asked the girls why they couldn’t follow Daddy and I in single-file as nicely as the goslings did.
The trail is wide and easy next to the marsh, then heads into the trees and becomes more up-and-down with lots of rocks and roots. The girls actually prefer this sort of hiking, and were soon running ahead. Even four-year-old Pearl likes clambering down rocky portions and pointing out the “easy way down” to my husband and I.
High Knoll Trail
The last trail we hiked at Minnekhada Regional Park was the High Knoll Trail. We parked at the Quarry Road entrance and then stayed left onto the Quarry Trail, following it around to the High Knoll Trail. We returned via the Low Marsh Trail over the causeway and onto Log Walk Trail back to the parking lot.
Because we hiked this trail on a Sunday afternoon, it was a bit busier. There were times when we had the trail to ourselves, and times when we passed (or were passed by) other groups. The trail to and from the High Knoll was the busiest, as we all had to go in and back on the same trail (instead of making a loop). There was lots of space at the top of the knoll for us to sit apart from other groups and admire the scenery.
I’m hoping to get out overnight backpacking with Sunshine (age 12) and Lily (age 10) this year. We recently got them each small ladies’ packs, so they decided to bring their packs along on this hike for a “trial run.” They had only water, snacks and coats in their packs. The younger three wanted backpacks as well. Joey almost always brings his monkey backpack on hikes, so he carries his own diapers, wipes and water bottle. Jade (age 7) and Pearl (age 4) also had their own backpacks with snacks and water. Nobody fought over who had to carry the backpack when they all had one!
All three of these trails in Minnekhada Park work well for kids because they have an obvious “destination” or turn-around point. Pearl in particular likes having a viewpoint to head for when hiking (don’t ask me why—she’s just set on a viewpoint these days). The viewpoint is a good place to pull out the snacks, and a way to motivate them to keep hiking: “We’ll have your oat bars at the viewpoint!” The girls often hike faster on the way back because they know the trail and somehow feel more motivated knowing that it’s half done.
When we got back to the marsh on this trip, the girls started counting the beaver lodges. Then one of them exclaimed, “There’s a beaver there!” Glancing out at the marsh, I was dubious that they could see a beaver that far away. When the shape beside the beaver lodge moved, I said, “That’s not a beaver… that’s a… bear!” Sure enough, a black bear was snooping around the beaver lodge.
As we hiked down the last of the trail and onto the causeway, the bear continued to explore the beaver lodge. Then in the water, we saw a small black head moving swiftly towards the causeway. The beaver began circling in the water near the causeway, perhaps caught between the hikers on the causeway (another group besides us) and the bear behind him. As we crossed the marshes, the beaver continued swimming in circles while the bear continued snooping.
The kids had a lot of fun watching the bear and the beaver. Even Joey got into it, saying, “Dat da bear!” I wished I had my better camera, because my smartphone wasn’t really capturing the bear way on the other side of the marsh. All my pictures show a black dot on a brown bump in the marsh.
The final excitement on our hike (for a bug-loving two-year-old boy) was the slugs. We hadn’t noticed many slugs when we started our hike, but when we finished our hike (later in the evening), the slugs were coming out. Every five steps, there was another slug at the edge of the trail. Joey wanted to stop and watch all of them. We managed to keep him moving forward with a bit by saying, “Let’s find another slug!”
Then, just before the trailhead, we found a slug eating a flower. It was a fascinating process; I’ve never seen a slug eating before and wasn’t even sure what they ate. This slug was very slowly and methodically chomping a yellow flower, oblivious to Joey and I (the girls had run ahead to find more exciting things than slugs eating).
More about Minnekhada Regional Park
Minnekhada Regional Park was opened in 1981 and lies in Katzi First Nation territory. “Minnekhada” means “beside running waters,” which is a bit ironic because most of the water in the park is in the still marshes. Minnekhada Lodge was built in the 1930s and is open to visitors for limited hours on the weekends (check before going). Volunteers from the Minnekhada Park Associate take care of the park’s environmental and historical heritage.
Stephen Hui suggests a longer, 7.5 km hike that hits both knolls and the Addington Lookout in his trail guide, 105 Hikes in and around Southwestern British Columbia. He rates it a three-star trail (great views for the effort required) that’s easy (minimal distance and elevation gain on well-marked trails). He suggests three hours for the hike; our kids are currently hiking at a pace of about two km per hour, so if you’re going as a family, I’d give yourself more time, depending on which route you pick.
Have you hiked any of these trails? What’s your favourite part of Minnekhada Regional Park?
Do you enjoy hiking as a family in the lower mainland? Check out my list of 12+ Family-Friendly Hikes around Greater Vancouver!