If you’re searching for things to do in Vancouver, a helicopter kayaking adventure to a glacier lake so needs to be at the top of your list. This is such an unforgettable trip, and the views you’ll experience are out of this world. Surprisingly, the location of the glacier lake is only thirty minutes outside Vancouver (albeit by helicopter). I may be biased, but the helicopter ride is one of the best parts of the whole experience. Combine that with kayaking and ice caves, and it becomes the outdoors adventure of a lifetime. Plus you get a birds eye view of one of the best places to visit in BC.
I’ve explored a lot of the outdoor activities in the area. Trust me when I say, these glacier caves are definitely some of the best places to visit in BC.
Sure, you could just go on a hike at some nearby mountain, or go for a run in your neighbourhood trail. But where’s the sense of carpe diem in that? Why not do something extraordinary—for instance, kayaking through a glacier lake and exploring blue ice caves?
Yes, it’s just as amazing as it sounds. The bonus is that you get to find out why this is one of the best places to visit in BC.
What is Helicopter kayaking?
If you do wish to venture outside the norm and into nature, you should look into a helicopter kayaking tour. But what exactly happens on such an excursion?
First, you board a helicopter and take a ride through the Coast Mountains. It flies you over heavenly waterfalls and pristine wilderness to land near a dreamy glacier lake. The guide gives you a little debrief to ensure safety measures are understood.
Then, you play. This perfect little slice of nature essentially becomes your playground for the next four hours. You kayak to your heart’s content.
Explore incredible, extremely photogenic blue ice caves. Feast your eyes on deep glacier crevices visible from above the crystal water. To be honest, it’s all picturesque. Those who have taken this day trip have the breath-taking Instagram photos to prove it.
I love helicopter rides, so I was sold on that on its own. Throw that in with hours of outdoor fun was the epitome of a perfect summer day.
What Makes Kayaking in Glacier Meltwater so Special?
Most of the glacier lakes in the area don’t even have names because it’s so remote. In addition, much of the surrounding landscape has seldom been explored by humanity. That’s a part of the beauty in these tours—how untouched it all really is.
You get to venture where very few others have before compared to anywhere else you’ve ever likely been. It’s pretty amazing. You’ll have that realization fully sweep over you when you hear just how quiet and peaceful it is out there.
As a bonus, you might be able to have an ice cave adventure. You can explore inside the bizarre formations and take all the photos you want. This add-on is possible only from August through the 8th of October, by the way. This is one of the best activities and places to visit in BC.
Have you seen a Glacier Cave?
This excursion marked my first time going inside a glacier cave. As you can imagine, it was pretty cold! The glacial blue colour and shape was amazing, and it was an experience I won’t forget. It’s one of those things you just have to see for yourself.
Although the pictures come out amazingly, they don’t do the real-life views justice. That’s how it always is with mother nature, isn’t it?
Another thing that makes this tour so unique is the paradox of kayaking amidst an icy wonderland. Most people simply don’t associate one with the other. You typically imagine kayaking in a hot summer’s day in some river or creek. You don’t usually picture yourself in the middle of meltwater from a glacier in Western Canada.
That’s exactly what makes this excursion so special. I think I might speak for all who’ve experienced this day trip in saying we’re delighted it was created. It’s definitely found its way to lots of “bucket lists” the last few years, as well.
Who Does the Summer Helicopter Kayaking Tours?
So, how is this possible? Well, Nick Drader began Compass Heli Tours in 2016 and has been giving people this amazing experience ever since. And let me just say, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of. Since then, he had taken many locals and tourists on a helicopter ride in Vancouver.
The inspiration came from his background in wildfire suppression in the forest industry, during which he was a pilot for 13 years. He also worked in seed collection. Having spent so much time flying around the remote wilderness of Western Canada, Nick has a deep respect for nature. Now, he enjoys showing others the beauty and serenity he’s been able to experience himself.
Nick is passionate about balancing niche tourism with ecosystem sustainability, and that’s a very important notion to consider. It made me that much happier knowing we were being guided by someone who truly cares about BC’s environment.
His goals are to leave as little impact on nature as possible while giving people the adventure of a lifetime. It’s important to him to work toward the sustainability of natural resources. Without it, he says, we cannot endeavour to continue wilderness excursions anyway.
Helicopter Ride in Vancouver with Compass Heli Tours
Besides his affinity for nature, he’s also great with people. He knows how to provide a pleasant excursion experience. As a part of the day trip, he arranges a gourmet picnic lunch to be enjoyed up at the glacier lake. The meal is delicious. It was just so relaxing to sit in the sun with the amazing views to stare at in awe.
Nick also happens to be a photographer, and having photos taken throughout your jaw-dropping journey is always an option. For anyone not bringing their own personal photographer-friend, this would be an excellent choice to have! Even if you are bringing a photographer, it’s always great to have extra in case. These rare moments should certainly be captured on film and in photos. Plus, there are always other angles to be caught.
To top it all off, these excursions he offers are actually very customizable. He takes pride in letting his clients choose the places they’d like to explore on BC’s map. It’s all in the spirit of pure exploration and discovery.
Overall, Nick ensures everything on the itinerary makes for a top-notch experience in this magical place we call British Columbia.
Why in the British Columbia Backcountry?
So much beauty awaits the travellers who venture to British Columbia’s mystical backcountry. It’s one of the most picturesque Canadian provinces to explore by far.
Each spring season, its frozen lakes start thawing out, eventually unveiling brilliant aquamarine waters. This makes for a unique, yet wondrous experience for kayakers.
It may surprise you to learn that there are actually lots of glacier lakes throughout BC, but they’re often hidden. This is due to the lack of access there is to these unspoilt little bodies of water. In fact, the only way you can reach these hidden mountain gems is by helicopter ride. What an exciting way to see one of the best places to visit in BC.
Of course, this is a huge part of the fascination, and the reason the experience is that much more special. The fact that these lakes can only be accessed by helicopter does give it a very elite feel. What’s more, Nick is the only licensed person to fly a helicopter in this area. He’s also the only person with a license to bring kayakers to these glacial lakes.
The reason it’s such a great area to explore is because there are so many paths yet to be trodden. The expanse of remote wilderness is simply mind-blowing. It’s no wonder Nick wanted to share it with the rest of us. You kind of have to see it to believe it!
If you’re keen to experience a helicopter ride Vancouver really is the place to try it out. It’s a quick flight over to the majestic Coast Mountains, where nature awaits to be admired. You just can’t beat helicopter kayaking!
When to go Summer Glacier Heli Kayaking
We did this tour in August, which is supposed to be the one of the best times of the year. Firstly, the glacier is most visible in August.
It’s also wildflower season which just adds an extra layer of beauty to the whole experience. It certainly made for some incredible photos!
June is a popular time to go glacier kayaking because of the blue colour of the meltwater. However, the glacier is covered in three metres of snow in that time. So you see, it really comes down to what you’d prefer.
During August, the unnamed glacier lake was a mesmerizing blue-green colour. This is also when icebergs fill the water. Come September, most of that ice has melted. By the end of the month though, the water begins freezing over once more. It’s truly a beautiful process when you think about it.
Kayaking in Glacial Blue Water
If your heart is set on seeing the vibrant blue colour, you have to book sometime during May through June. Early July is sometimes a possibility for this, too. July through September is the time when you can actually see the glacier, waterfalls, wildflowers and sandy beaches.
We lucked out with perfect weather the day we went, although it does get pretty cool at the high elevation. You’ll want to dress accordingly (layering up is the best way to do it)! Just remember that even though it’s cool up there, the sun still beats down on you. Therefore, you should probably bring sunscreen.
Also, keep in mind that Nick tends to be booked out in advance. It honestly is something to commit to as soon as possible so the wait isn’t too long. The hardest part will be to wait patiently for your tour day to arrive!
On the bright side, it’s a wonderful thing to have in the calendar to look forward to.
Who Can you go Helicopter Kayaking With?
A helicopter tour seats a total of four people, although larger groups can usually take a second helicopter if needed. Make sure to talk to the company about the specifics of your excursion to fine-tune the planning details.
This is a great activity to find a few friends who would be down to split the cost. Only the realest friends explore glacier lakes together! It’s truly a bonding experience.
If you don’t live in Vancouver, you can even make a road trip out of the journey to the helicopter base. Everyone knows road trips are good for the soul.
Of course, it’d also make for an incredible experience for couples—maybe even a “pop the question” kind of day? The scenery is certainly very-well suited for romance, especially if you both share a passion for the outdoors.
Whatever you decide to make of this amazing trip, it’ll be special and memorable for sure.
In my case, my friend Joel Schat came along to help document the adventure. His photos and videos are always amazing. You can follow him on Instagram to see his work.
Watch my glacier helicopter kayaking video on YouTube for better quality.
You should also check out my spring glacier kayaking post, too!
This was my first time in a glacier cave. As you can imagine it was cold! The glacier blue was amazing, and it was an experience I won’t forget.
Nick also arranged a picnic lunch up at the glacier lake. It was delicious and it was so relaxing to sit in the sun with the amazing views in front of us.
Plan a Summer Helicopter Glacier Meltwater Kayak Tour
Imagine you’re flying above cascading waterfalls and canyons, jagged snowy peaks surrounding you as you make your way farther into the wilderness. Finally, you reach the pristine water and bask in the hours you get to make memories in an area so untouched.
It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Sometimes I still can’t believe what a breath-taking experience it was.
If you’re considering the helicopter kayaking tour, here are a few of the main things to remember:
- Nick, owner of Compass Heli Tours, has been a pilot for over 13 years.
- Take off is from the base at Abbotsford Airport, but for an additional cost you can be picked up in Vancouver.
- Price includes the use of kayaks or paddle boards, 4 hours at the location, trip photos, and a gourmet picnic lunch from Lepp Farm Market.
- Book in advance—the wait time can be months to years!
- Usually a handful of people are allowed, but you can send an inquiry for custom packages.
Have a great day and let me know if you ever go helicopter kayaking! Thanks for watching my video and subscribe to my channel.
Bella Bucchiotti is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for food, dogs, fitness, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.