Our First Retreat: Summiting Mount Gardner on Bowen Island

Photo Credit: Whitney Palmer

On Sunday, August 25, we hosted our first retreat: a one-day retreat to Mount Gardner on Bowen Island. Here is a look inside the day.


The retreat began at the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal in West Vancouver. The 9 womxn started arriving bright and early. Most womxn came on their own and despite having just met they quickly found common ground with each other. The conversations didn’t stop all day!

Ferry tickets, lunches, and snacks were passed around - a quinoa bowl for lunch with roasted chickpeas and lemon tahini dressing and NuIT Almond Butter, Larabars, and Zimt Chocolate for snacks.

Shortly after 9:00 am, we excitedly boarded the small ferry to Snug Cove on Bowen Island.

Photo Credit: Joy Yiu

Photo Credit: Joy Yiu


Twenty minutes later we arrived on Bowen Island and were greeted with sunshine! We started our hike - and our watches - a short walk away from the ferry terminal in Crippen Regional Park. Within minutes, meaningful conversations were shared and deeper connections were formed between the womxn.

We enjoyed 30-40 minutes of gentle walking on rolling terrain in the park as we made our way toward Killarney Lake, stopping for photos and taking in the views along the way.

climbing to the summit

After a short stop at Killarney Lake - the last outhouse on the out-and-back trail - we continued partway around the lake to the Mount Gardner Road trailhead. Then the climbing began! The hike to the summit of Mount Gardner is 18 km roundtrip with an elevation gain of 720 metres, slightly less than Vancouver’s Grouse Grind.

While the start of the climb is a bit of a slog along a gravel road, that doesn’t last for long. And as our founder Danielle will tell you, there’s always a flat section coming up! We spent the next several kilometres climbing up and down in the forest. The womxn worked together, encouraged each other, and stopped along the way for water and snack breaks.

Photo Credit: Joy Yiu

Photo Credit: Joy Yiu

reaching the top of mount gardner

Close to three hours later we reached the top of Mount Gardner together: the highest point on Bowen Island. The clouds cleared, the sun was shining, and we were treated to panoramic views of the Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound, Burrard Inlet, and West Vancouver. We could all agree: it was worth the climb.

We enjoyed a nourishing lunch sitting on one of the helicopter pads, taking in the views, laughing and chatting, and soaking up the sunshine. There was of course also time for a mountaintop photoshoot!

Danielle was very warm and welcoming. It was as if Danielle had carried us all up the mountain - yet we were all walking on our own two feet - because she took care of everything and made it so easy!


What goes up must come down. Despite our efforts to hitch a ride down on the mountain bikes nearby! 45 minutes later we began our descent down Mount Gardner. Fortunately the time flies when you have a group of womxn to distract you - and tacos and ice cream waiting for you at the end.

We arrived back in Snug Harbour with 20 minutes to spare before the next ferry ride: just enough time to stop at Tell Your Friends Cafe for Elysian Coffee and Branch on Bowen for Earnest Ice Cream and fresh tacos. Is there any other way to end a hike!


We boarded the 5:10 pm ferry and started our trip back to Horseshoe Bay. The group sat on the upper outside deck, sharing our favourite moments from the day, and revelling in what we accomplished. Danielle was left smiling from ear-to-ear as guests shared how relaxed, and yes how renewed they felt!

Thank you for such an amazing experience. The retreat was exactly what I needed and the womxn in the group were so strong and like-minded.
— Joy

Photo Credit: Joy Yiu

Photo Credit: Joy Yiu

saying our goodbyes

We said our goodbyes in Horseshoe Bay with womxn exchanging Instagram handles, phone numbers, and promises to see each other again soon! We couldn’t let anyone leave empty handed - goodie bags were a must. Guests went home with WOASH Tea, Organika Health collagen, Outdoor Wipes, and cold 52 North Birch Water.


When you bring a group of womxn together for a day away from the city and into the forest, magic happens. Thank you to the 9 incredible womxn who made our first retreat so special and so much fun! To share this day and our love for the outdoors with you is truly a privilege. We can’t wait do it all over again.

There was nothing I would change about the hike - except maybe more time for tacos! The retreat exceeded my expectations. Danielle had so many wonderful little touches. The food was great. The swag bags were a lovely surprise. The pre-hike information was helpful and appreciated!
— Tamara

Group of womxn hikers at the top of Mount Gardner

Join us on our next retreat: September 15

New to hiking and not sure how or where to start? Our next retreat is designed just for you.

Learn to hike safely and with confidence at Renew Retreats half-day holistic hiking retreat for beginner womxn hikers: Sunday, September 15 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm in Lighthouse Park. Included in your registration: Hiking 101 workshop on Wednesday, September 11 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm in Vancouver.

No prior hiking experience necessary. Learn more and register here.

Located along the shores of West Vancouver, Lighthouse Park is the perfect place to begin your hiking journey without skimping on the views. Enjoy a 2-hour guided hike with Renew Retreats founder Danielle Leroux and a group of like-minded womxn. Light snacks, event photography, and more also included.