Anvil Island’s Leading Peak: A Vancouver Day Hike that’s Worth the Effort

If you’re looking for an unspoiled day hike from Vancouver to the top of a mountain with 360-degree views, Leading Peak on Anvil Island is perfect. It’s worth the effort to get to and hike up. This guide will show you how.

The Harder to Get To, The Better the Hike

Going for a scenic, secluded day hike near Vancouver isn’t as easy as it used to be. Thanks in large part to Instagram, most of the “top” trails are teeming with selfie-seekers.

You have two options to get away from the selfie seekers and have a beautiful day hike to yourself: A) Go when it’s raining, or B) Put in the extra effort to find and get to a less-Insta-famous hike.

If you choose B), the hike to Leading Peak on Anvil Island should be near the top of your list.

Anvil Island’s Leading Peak (viewed from Porteau Cove) looks ripe for the climbing!

What and Where Is Anvil Island?

Anvil Island is the neglected little brother of Bowen and Gambier Islands. Unlike those other two big Howe Sound islands, it has no permanent residents and most Vancouver residents haven’t heard of it.

But they’ve seen it.

Anvil Island is less than two kilometers offshore from the famous Sea-to-Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler. Between Lions Bay and Porteau Cove, you can’t help but see the cone-shaped island with Leading Peak at its apex, 765 meters (2,500 feet) above sea level.

The only permanent establishment on Anvil Island is Daybreak Point Bible Camp. While researching for this post, I discovered you can rent the whole camp or the main lodge! If you can assemble a group of friends—the lodge accommodates 8-18 people and has a minimum bill of a very reasonable $250 a night—it could be an unforgettable experience.

Anvil Island Location and Leading Peak Hike Waypoints

Click here for easy instructions on how to download this map and these points onto your phone.

becca waiting to be picked up for anvil island hike
Waiting at Porteau Cove to be picked up by our friends’ boat to motor over to Anvil Island.

How to Get To Anvil Island

What keeps the Leading Peak hike from being overcrowded is that there are no public boats to get there. This leaves you with three options:

  1. Swim. A friend of a friend legendarily cycled from UBC on a BMX bike (!), stripped naked, swam over to Anvil Island, hiked to the top of Leading Peak au natural, then returned the way he came. We advise against this option.
  2. Kayak. The beach and trailhead of the Leading Peak hike is only a five-kilometer paddle from Porteau Cove. If you’re looking to rent a kayak, the nearest places to do so are on Bowen Island or Squamish.
  3. Boat. You can either befriend someone who owns a boat (as we did) or hire a water taxi.
    • Cormorant Marine (604.250.2630. Website): Departs from Lions Bay, Horseshoe Bay, or Sunset Marina. Minimum cost $220 each way. $30 per person after 7 people.
    • Mercury Transport (604.921.7451 Ext #2, Website): Departs from Horseshoe Bay. Minimum $190 each way. $35 per person after 7 people.
Chris’ brother (Captain) Adrian has his sights set on Anvil Island.

The Two Trailheads

You can choose between two trailheads to hike up to Leading Peak. One starts from the bible camp on the south of Anvil Island. The other, which we did, is at a cove on the east side of the island. It’s shorter but steeper. Both are marked on the map above.

If you leave from the bible camp, you’ll need to call them in advance, pay a fee (around $25) for permission to use their dock, and sign a waiver.

You’re also supposed to call the camp for permission to start from the other trailhead, but most people do not since they’re not going near the camp. If you’re going to spend the night up top, though (see: Camping below), you should let them know.

to the peak sign and jeff climbing up the top of anvil island
To the peak!

The Leading Peak Hike

This information relates to doing the hike from the trailhead on the eastern side of the island. For specific info on the hike from the bible camp, see the links to other hike guides below.

Quick Info

  • Elevation Gain: 765 meters
  • Hike Duration: Our group took 1.75 hours to get up and the same amount to get back down. We went at a steady pace and didn’t take any breaks.
  • Trail Style: Out and back.
  • Difficulty: Medium. It’s steep and there’s the odd scramble near the top, but there’s no part that requires technical climbing skills.
  • Route: While the trail is generally well-marked, we recommend downloading the Gaia GPS App. It’s free, so there’s no reason not to. 

The Beginning

Once you’ve arrived at the cove, look for the big sign saying “Private Property. No Trespassing.” That’s where the trail starts.

trailhead no trespassing sign adrian and rebecca are ready to hike to the top of anvil island
The trailhead is conveniently (and somewhat ironically) marked with this No Trespassing sign.

Keep an eye out for pink tape. At least when we went, in August 2018, the whole trail was well-marked.

group following pink tape to the peak of anvil island
There were fallen trees to navigate, but the pink tape showed us the way all the way up.

The Climb

The first half-hour to forty-five minutes a steep climb directly due west through the forest. The trail is similar to what the Grouse Grind was ten years ago before it became “Nature’s Stairmaster,” steep but with plenty of roots and rocks for footing.

group stopping to see how far they have left to reach top of anvil island
“See way up there? That’s the top!”

After you’ve gained about 450 meters in elevation, the trail levels off into a gentle incline and turns north towards Leading Peak. You’ll intersect with the trail from the bible camp after about twenty minutes.

jeff overlooking the other side of anvil island
Take a quick breather and admire the view before heading on towards the peak.

As you approach Leading Peak, its intimidatingly steep south face looks impossible to climb unless you have full climbing gear or a death wish. Fortunately, you don’t have to have either.

trail levelling off on the way to the top of anvil island
Around here, the trail levels off for a while.

The trail is mostly level as it skirts around the steep western edge of the peak.

group scrambling to the top on the last leg of the hike up anvil island
As you approach the top, there’s a bit of scrambling to be done and a couple ropes to help you up.

Approaching from the north, the incline is much less intimidating. At a couple of points, there are ropes to help you get up, and there are a handful of other spots where you’ll need to use your hands to hoist yourself up onto some rocks. For the most part, though, it’s not even as steep as the first section of the hike.

jeff is almost at the top of anvil island
Getting closer…

As you approach the peak, the trees start to thin out and the views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains open up.

The Reward

On Leading Peak there’s a helicopter pad that’s perfect for camping, a couple of tanks, and a somewhat creepy, somewhat sexy (ok, maybe not) golden upside-down lower torso of a mannequin. Oh, and absolutely awesome views in every direction.

rebecca sitting on edge of heli pad anvil island
The helicopter pad’s a sweet reward.

Chill out, take photos, hydrate and refuel.

rebecca playing with bronze torso
Even an upside down golden torso deserves some decency.

Have Some Decency

Just because you’re alone in the wild doesn’t give you the right to act like an animal.

In the comments, Ben from Blackcomb Helicopters reports hikers have been defacing and destroying the helipad, defecating on their work areas, chopping down tress, and stealing from their cache.

Please have some decency so that you and others can continue to enjoy this hike.

The Return

Head back the same way you came. If you came from the eastern trailhead, be careful not to miss the turnoff. Since the most popular trail goes to the bible camp, it can be easy to miss. (We did so, and had to backtrack a few hundred meters.)

jeff grasps moss for padded balance on the way down from anvil island's peak
Nature was kind enough to make some padded hand rests for balance on the way down

As is always the case, the descent is trickier and more treacherous than going up. We had the odd, minor slide and spill. Be cautious and expect it to take the same amount of time to go down as it took you to get up.

group hiking down while adrian in front plays on phone
Unsurprisingly, the dumbass in front looking at his phone is the one who stumbled a few times going down. Be careful.

Back at your boat, go for a quick dip if the weather’s nice, then return to civilization to brag to your friends about your Anvil Island adventure.

boat waiting while we hike to the top of anvil island
Phew! The boat’s still there.
driving along sea to sky hwy back to vancouver after hiking anvil island
Back to reality…

Camping On the Peak

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more exclusive and picturesque camping site than the wooden helicopter pad on Leading Peak.

Call Daybreak Point Bible Camp in advance (604.764.8569, to let them know your plans, get their permission and, most importantly, ensure nobody else is planning on being there that same night.

kelly standing on heli pad on top of anvil island
We didn’t camp atop Leading Peak, but this helicopter pad would definitely be an amazing spot.

Other Online Accounts of Hiking Anvil Island

The Adventure Continues

For another less-traveled but more-than-worth-exploring hike on the Sea-to-Sky corridor, check out our guide to hiking Brandywine Meadows and Moutain. You won’t need a boat this time, but you might want a solid SUV.

And if you’re looking for things to do back in Vancouver, you’ve come to the right spot. Kim and I are proud, born-and-raised Vancouverites, so we want you to have an unforgettable visit to Vancouver. And we have lots and lots of tips to share to help you do so:

If you still have a question after reading all of these posts, please ask us in the comments below. If you had a blog, you’d appreciate getting comments, questions, and feedback from your readers too, so do us a favor and leave us a note.

Disclosure: Whenever possible, we use links that earn us a cut if you pay for stuff we recommend. It costs you nothing, so we’d be crazy not to. Read our affiliate policy here.

Chris and Kim

Kim and Chris are on a mission to eradicate boringness by feeding their curiosity and fighting complacency. Discover the extraordinary and join thousands of others every month with The Unconventional Monthly.

6 thoughts on “Anvil Island’s Leading Peak: A Vancouver Day Hike that’s Worth the Effort”

    • You’re the person behind the mystery mannequin legs!? I’d love to hear the story behind that and what other, um, artwork you may be responsible for.

  1. I see that you have an article describing a hike to the peak on Anvil island. Please advise your readers that the Helipad on top is a private, registered helipad that requires access at all times during daylight. Our equipment cache has been opened and item used, parts of the helipad have been cut up and burned, the very slow growing trees there have also been cut and used as firewood. We have discovered piles of human faeces around the work area at the summit. The radio equipment there emits much harmful, high frequency radiation which occurs both day and night.
    Please include this information on your website, promote responsible backcountry usage.
    Thank you,
    Ben Hawkins, Blackcomb Helicopters, Squamish 604 898 1067

    • I’m really sorry to hear this, Ben. I’ve updated this post to specify that people have some respect, which obviously should be common sense but unfortunately doesn’t seem to always be the case.

      • Thank you for adding the information to your site. We recognise that we cannot stop people accessing the site, but wherever you go in the back country, be respectful of the flora, fauna and any infrastructure that is there. The anvil site site also acts as a radio repeater for Lions Bay Search and rescue.
        Ben Hawkins

        • I have been up once a year for the past three years. We always inform the bible camp caretaker and have received a warm welcome from their staff, who appreciate that we follow their rules. At the summit, it does seem like there has been some vandalism of the equipment and helipad. That’s a huge shame. Influencers have been giving this quiet place a little too much attention, IMHO. Pack out what you pack in – and that includes your waste. Just bring a pack of dog poo bags and you’re all set.


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