I’ve said many times that I live in the most beautiful place on earth…and I stand firmly by that statement! Canada has so many natural wonders to gawk at that it almost seems unfair! BC residents are especially spoiled, that’s for sure. It’s certainly one of the best places to go kayaking—especially if you’re a nature-lover like I am. Spring glacier kayaking can be considered one of the premier Vancouver outdoor activities. If you are planning to take a trip to go kayaking in Canada, this helicopter kayaking adventure should be on your list!
Why not go kayaking in glacial meltwater, though? And yes, BC has this, too. In June, I went helicopter kayaking with Compass Helicopter Tours. This tour takes you on a thrilling helicopter ride into the Coast Mountains to go spring glacier kayaking. If you’re looking for kayaking in Vancouver, this is definitely the place to do it. Look at the colour of this water!
It’s almost unreal, isn’t it!? Yet again, BC has managed to leave me breathless.
Last year I went on a similar helicopter tour in August. I made a mental note that I really wanted to go in June this year when the ice was just starting to melt.
The Helicopter Ride
So, what happens before the glacier kayaking fun begins? First, you take off on a helicopter from the Abbotsford base. You can also pay a little extra to be picked up from the Vancouver heli-port instead.
The helicopter ride in itself is so exciting. You fly past waterfalls and mountains the whole way, and the views are incredible. This is your first chance at some amazing photos and videos. However, know that you’re headed for much more epic scenery. If in doubt, save your camera battery for the landing—trust me on this.
The Blue Glacial Meltwater
Eventually, you land at the glacier. If you opt to take this tour sometime in June, you’ll be blown away by the beautiful blue colour of the meltwater streams. Those streams are to be your little kayak “roadways” for the next four hours or so!
Last year, I went on a similar helicopter tour in August. It was beautiful because the wildflowers were in bloom, but I knew I wanted to come back for that blue-coloured water I’d heard about. I am convinced that this is one of the best places to go kayaking in Canada.
While August unveils a glacial lake with a very pretty turquoise colour, it isn’t that electric baby blue that many people yearn to see.
Suffice it to say, I made a mental note that I really wanted to go glacier kayaking in June this year. My goal was to take the helicopter tour when the ice was just starting to melt.
What Causes that Blue Colour?
So why does the water look that vividly blue, and why does this only happen around June time?
Every year in the springtime, snow keeps the glaciers in BC pretty covered. Starting around late May, the warmer temperatures of summer start to melt the glaciers, creating streams of glacial meltwater.
The water takes on the light blue colour because of the ice below it. That’s why by late summer the colour is no longer blue—most of the ice has all melted.
From the spring meltwater, there are little “rivers” that are formed. These rivers are perfect for spring glacier kayaking, allowing you to navigate through the icy wonderland around you and at your own blissful pace.
However, the timeframe for enjoying those rivers is limited. Within weeks, the rivers will have turned to the lakes I saw last year.
Glacier Kayaking in June vs. August
There are some major differences in the glacier kayaking experience, which are dependent upon the time of year you go. August can be nice because it’s when the glacier is the most visible. It’s also when the wildflowers start to bloom. This pic below is from a trip in August.
Wildflowers plus a glacier equals some pretty amazing photos, for sure. However, you may have seen popular photos with people kayaking that bright blue-tinged water. For that experience, you must go in June! How do you choose between these amazing Vancouver outdoor activities?!?
So, When Should you Go Glacier Kayaking?
Think about what you’d rather see the most, and decide from there. If you really want to see the glacier and wouldn’t mind having a nice background of springtime flowers within your view, August would be better for you. If you want to see the stark contrast of blue water against white ice and snow, then it’s June for the win. Either way, you get to experience one of the best places to go kayaking in Canada.
Or, if you have bad enough FOMO, you can go for both. That way, you miss out on nothing!
If you are like me, and always on the lookout for another adventure, I would love to head to Alaska for some glacier adventures one day. This adventure biking to Knik glacier on a fat-tire bike is on my glacier experience bucket list.
Here is one of Joel’s videos from Instagram
About Compass Heli Tours
I’m very glad to know Nick from Compass Helicopter Tours, who let me in on the best time of year to go. The tours he offers are truly a once in a lifetime experience. This is because the area he flies people out to are so remote and untouched. Most of us don’t get the pleasure of going anywhere so scarcely visited by other humans.
Nick has, though. He’s lived a life of adventure flying around in these largely uninhabited—but pristinely beautiful—areas of BC. He calls these wondrous back country sights the “Super Natural” of Canada.
The reason he’s spent so much time flying around BC is because of his background in seed collection and wildfire suppression, during which he was a professional pilot for 13 years. He knows Vancouver outdoor activities!
His experiences flying around remote Canada has given him a profound respect for nature and wildlife. Luckily for us, it also sparked an idea which turned into a passion. That passion is showing us regular people the beauty and wonders of British Columbia’s mountains and glaciers. He has brought kayaking in Canada to the official bucket list!
Balancing Environmental Impact and Ecotourism
One of Nick’s goals while providing these tours is to leave very little impact on the environment. He cares a lot about ecosystem sustainability, which I loved hearing. Another one of his goals is to give people the adventure of a lifetime, which it’s safe to say he has already achieved.
Another thing I really like about Nick’s company is how important it is for him that we work toward the sustainability of natural resources. Without it, he says, we wouldn’t be able to continue wilderness excursions at all.
Exploring the untouched natural beauty served as a reminder on how essential that mission is.
Other Details of the Day Glacier Kayaking Helicopter Tour
Nick is also great with people and has figured out how to create a very enjoyable experience for his passengers. He even arranges a gourmet picnic lunch as a part of the day trip, which you get to enjoy up at the glacier. You can’t find any better Vancouver outdoor activities.
The meal is catered by Lepp Farm Market and is so yummy. It was also incredibly rejuvenating to sit in the sun and eat with such lovely views all around us. It’s like dinner and a show in one, but picnic style.
Nick is also a skilled photographer, which can come in handy with such amazing scenery. He offers photographs as a part of the package if you want them. And who wouldn’t want this jaw-dropping day trip photographed? Especially when there are so many angles to capture.
The excursions Nick offers are quite customizable, which is another thing that sets Compass Heli Tours apart. He takes great pride this aspect. He essentially allows his clients to point their finger on a map of BC, and he takes them there. Wherever they want to go, he brings them to explore it. This is part of what embodies the true spirit of adventure.
Nick makes sure that everything on the itinerary sums up to an absolutely perfect experience in the mountains of BC. You will agree that this is one of the best places to go kayaking in Canada.
What Should you Wear on the Helicopter Kayaking Adventure?
If you’re going in June, it should be summer temperatures, right?
Nope—it actually is pretty cold in the Coast Mountains of BC, even in the summer! Remember to dress accordingly. I would definitely suggest wearing pants so you don’t get cold. I wore my sneakers, but boots or even hiking boots would likely have been a better choice if you want to walk in the snow at all.
Dressing in layers would be the best idea, so you can take off a layer or add one as needed throughout the day. Anyone that frequents Vancouver outdoor activities knows that weather can change quickly, so wear layers and be prepared.
What Should you Bring on the Glacier Kayaking Tour?
There are always extras you should bring along with you on a day trip. In this case, you might want to bring a few snacks in case you get hungry before it’s time to enjoy your picnic lunch.
Another tip I can share is to bring a pair of sunglasses (DON’T FORGET THESE!). It can get very bright out there—especially with all that ice for the sun to reflect off of.
Lastly, make sure you bring along a bathing suit if you’re enough of a dare devil. 🙂 People do it, as crazy as it might sound. And no, I didn’t jump in this time. Maybe next year!
Who Should you go Helicopter Kayaking With?
When deciding who you want to go with, consider the cost first. It is a pretty pricey trip, although worth every penny. Needless to say, it can make this trip a lot more realistic to make it into a group activity.
Find your most adventurous friends and see who would be down to join in on a booking with you. You can take up to four people for one helicopter, so the cost of the day trip you choose can then be split into four. This makes it a lot more do-able for everyone. Alternatively, you could make this a romantic getaway for a day. Take your partner for a special occasion, a wild date, or even a special place to propose to your loved one. What better time and place than in the magical nature of British Columbia, in between helicopter rides, and on a glacier lake?!
The Spring Glacier Kayaking Adventure Vlog
This year I put together a vlog to show you the beauty of this experience. I hope you enjoy it!
Also, if you haven’t seen my other summer glacier kayaking blog post from last August, you should probably read it next. You will soon see why this is one of the best places to go kayaking in Canada.
One of the Best Places to go Kayaking in Vancouver
Glacier kayaking is definitely one of the top Vancouver outdoor activities available. It’s the ultimate adventure that takes the path much less travelled! Compass Heli Tours offers a one in a lifetime opportunity to see the wild backcountry Nick has lovingly dubbed as Canada’s “Super Natural”. This adventure takes you to one of the best places to go kayaking in Canada!
If anything, this trip reemphasized how beautiful my home really is. It never gets old roaming around the beauty the Vancouver area has to offer. There’s so much beautiful nature and so many endless outdoor activities to enjoy. If you’re wanting to go kayaking in Canada, don’t miss out on this unique experience.
If you’re considering the helicopter kayaking tour, here are a few of the main things to remember:
- Book in advance—the wait time can be months to years!
- Nick, owner of Compass Heli Tours, has been a pilot for over 13 years.
- 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.
- A handful of people are typically allowed, but you can send Compass Heli Tours an inquiry for custom packages.
- Take off is from the base at Abbotsford Airport, but for an additional cost you can be picked up in Vancouver.
Here is one last video snippet for you.
I hope you enjoyed this spring glacier kayaking post. Let me know if you ever try helicopter kayaking. If you ask me, this is one of the best places to go kayaking and one of the premier Vancouver outdoor activities.
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.