Located about an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver, Coquitlam‘s Minnekhada Regional Park is a large park with hiking trails and marshland.
Coquitlam’s Minnekhada Park
About 500 acres in size, Minnekhada Park is comprised of marshy areas, dense forest, hills and a few rocky lookout points. Popular activities at the park include leisurely walks along the trails, nature watching and more serious hikes. The place is also home to Minnekhada Lodge which is a 1930’s estate that’s used today for event rentals.
The park is a nice place to visit pretty much any time of the year. Most of the trees in the area are deciduous, which means they don’t lose their leaves. As a result, you won’t find the park full of vibrant autumn colours like in some parts of the Lower Mainland, but it’s still very nice in fall. The park is beautiful in winter too (when some other parks have barren-looking trees). In colder months though, there can occasionally be snow on the ground, which is pretty, but not so easy for walking.
The park is a great place for people with a wide range of interests. It has easy places to walk along as well as more strenuous hiking trails. The park is a nature sanctuary, so full of wildlife. It’s popular with both bird watchers and photographers. Chances are you’ll see at least one beaver dam if you look carefully while you’re there, and maybe even one of its owners if you’re very lucky. You might also see a turtle.
Where is the Park?
Minnekhada Regional Park can be found in the northeastern part of Coquitlam about an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver. The Pitt River borders the eastern side of the park while Pinecone Burke Provincial Park lies to its northwest.
On the other side of the Pitt River from the park lies the Swaneset Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, and just north of that is the Pitt-Addington Marshland and Pitt Lake. To get to these other places though, you have to drive about 9 km down to the Pitt River Bridge and then back up on the other side of the river. So although close as a bird flies, to get to the golf course is about a half-hour drive.
There are a couple of entrances to the park. There is small parking lot a short distance from Minnekhada Lodge which is located at 4455 Oliver Road. From there it’s just a short walk down the hill to the Lodge Trail and Fern Trail.
There is also the larger main parking lot at the entrance to the park at 4000 Quarry Road. From there to the main trails and marsh-like lakes there is a nice level dirt pathway.
Minnekhada Park Video
To give you an idea of what to expect at the park, check out the following video. It was taken in early December. As you’ll see, it’s a pretty place any time of the year, including in winter. Most of the trees are evergreens, so the trees don’t lose their leaves.
In the video you’ll see Minnekhada Lodge at the beginning (which you can learn more about later in this article). You’ll also see what the park looks like from the Lodge Trail and Mid-Marsh Trail.
Hiking at Minnekhada Park
There are about 10 kilometres of hiking trails within Minnekhada Regional Park. Dogs are allowed on the trails, although they do have to be on a leash. The trails are also popular for nature lovers and bird-watching.
Many of the trails are flat with hard-packed gravel surfaces. However, some trails do have some elevation gain and obstacles such as protruding roots and rocks. Many of the trails are not suitable for those with mobility issues, but others are. In total, the more advanced trails have over 650 feet of total elevation gain.
The four main easier trails within the park are the Lodge Trail, Meadow Trail, Log Walk and the Quarry Trail. Of these, Quarry Trail is the longest. More strenuous trails in the park include ones going up the hill to Low Knoll and High Knoll (like Fern Trail and High Knoll Trail, plus Quarry Trail to a degree). For a layout of all the different routes, click Minnekhada Trails for a map of the park.
The Lodge Trail is made of loose gravel and has a couple of slight slopes, but is mostly flat and accessible. It connects the two parking lots. Meadow Trail is similar, although this one also has some roots and other path obstructions. It’s not a difficult path to walk along. It’s just more rugged.
The Log Walk and the Quarry Trail are both narrower trails made of packed dirt. The Log Trail is short and connects with the Mid-Marsh Trail that goes along the dyke separating the Upper Marsh from the Lower Marsh and then up into the hills. The Quarry Trail is a longer one that goes around the northern side of the Upper Marsh.
Fern Trail is a slightly more challenging and strenuous trail (although still not an overly difficult one by any means). It can be accesses from the picnic area at the bottom of the hill near Minnekhada Lodge. It heads up and around into the hills towards the Minnekhada Lookout.
At the park there are two fairly large lake-like bodies of water. They are marshes, but look like small lakes (or at least they do when they are full of water). Separating the two is a dyke with a path you can take to walk from one side to the other between them. The path itself is flat and easy to walk along. Getting to the path though involves a tiny bit of rougher terrain. Consequently, the area is easy to get to for most people, but not everyone.
You can walk around the two marshy lakes, or cut across along the path in the middle. The hilly parts of the park are primarily on the eastern side of the Upper Marsh and Lower Marsh. That’s where you’ll find the Upper Knoll Lookout and Minnekhada Lookout.
Minnekhada Lodge is a former 1930’s country estate located in Minnekhada Park at 4455 Oliver Road. The place is open to the public on the first Sunday of the month (although not in late 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic). The venue can also be rented for private functions including for weddings, receptions, meetings, corporate events and dinners.
There is a small parking lot by the lodge and a tiny Oriental-style garden. From the parking lot, it’s just a short walk down to the water and main trails in the park.
If accessing the park via the Minnekhada Lodge entrance, be prepared for a very long and narrow road. Oliver Road looks like something you might see on an estate, back in years when there was little traffic and mostly just the occasional tractor. The road is long, and just wide enough for one vehicle at a time for much of the way (although there are places where you can pull over to the side to let larger oncoming traffic pass).
Tips and Advice
Below are some suggestions and extra bits of information to help you make the most out of your visit to the park.
TIP #1: If you like older homes and heritage buildings, go on a Sunday when the Lodge is open and you can have a look inside (recognizing though that the place isn’t open to the public on Sundays as of 2020 because of COVID-19).
TIP #2: In winter the park gets dark early (with the sun going down earliest on the western side of the marshes). Give yourself lots of time to get back to your car.
TIP #3: Make a note of when the gates to the parking lots close (so you don’t get locked in overnight). When we went in December the gates closed at 5 pm. In the summer they are open until much later.
TIP #4: A lot of the trails are fairly level, although slightly sloped in parts. There are also rougher trails too with rocks and roots, and slightly more serious hikes when you start getting into the hills. Choose your route accordingly, based on the abilities of your group and the amount of time you have. Expect to stay for anywhere between 30 minutes and three hours depending on how far you go.
TIP #5: Dogs are permitted when on leash. Bikes are not allowed on the trails, but they are along Oliver Road, the driveway leading up to the lodge, and along the nearby Pitt River dykes.
TIP #6: The more rugged trails especially can get muddy and slippery in parts after periods of rain, so watch your step and wear appropriate footwear when needed. After heavy rains, boots can be good when going up into the hills.
TIP #7: There are outhouses at the Quarry Road parking lot and just down the hill from the parking lot at Minnekhada Lodge. They aren’t flush toilets though, and there is no running water.
TIP #8: Black bears are occasionally spotted in the area. The same as in many similar Lower Mainland parks, to prevent running into a bear and surprising it, talk or make other noises while hiking. Also, keep your dog on a leash and don’t let children run too far ahead. If you do encounter a bear, don’t be foolish and approach it, give it food or run. Instead, give it lots of space and back away slowly.
Note about Accessibility – Minnekhada Lodge is an older building, so not so wheelchair-friendly. The ground floor of the building is accessible to people in wheelchairs, but the restrooms are not. Nor is the pit toilet by the start of the trails at the bottom of the hill. The outhouse at the Quarry Road parking lot is itself wheelchair accessible, but the path to get there can be a bit challenging. Some of the trails around the park are flat and accessible, but many are not.
If you like Minnekhada Park, other comparable places you’ll probably like too include the following:
- Pitt-Addington Marshland & Pitt Lake in Pitt Meadows
- Kanaka Creek in Maple Ridge
- Rice Lake in North Vancouver
- Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver
- Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chilliwack
- Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta
The Lower Mainland is full of dozens of other beautiful parks too, both more urban and more rugged. For a comprehensive list of places to check out, see our articles about Best Places in Nature and Best Hiking Trails.