The best time of the year to attempt to climb Golden Ears is in the summer months once the majority of the snow has had time to melt away. Although it is possible to climb year round it's advised that only experienced climbers with a knowledge of the mountain trail attempt the feat in other seasons. Even in the summer months the final leg to the summit can be completely covered in snow, so be ready. The hike is easily divided into four legs and each leg takes roughly 2 hours to complete.
The hike starts off easy and gradually increases in difficulty as the trail progresses so the type of equipment you will need will depend on how far you are planning on going and whether you are planning on camping overnight. If you are camping overnight be sure to pack your tent and don't forget a flashlight with some extra batteries!
The first leg of the hike is very easy and just requires that you have a good pair of hiking boots and a backpack to carry your snacks and nic-nacs in. Theres plenty of good lookout points and great scenery along the way in the first leg so bring your camera along with you. If you're looking to have a relaxing walk through nature this first leg is a perfect day hike. Theres always plenty of other hikers along the route and the trail is clearly marked and maintained. The first leg end at a plateauing campgrounds called the Alder Flats (marked on trailhead map). Theres a river that quietly runs along beside the flats and you can usually find a few people camping in secluded off trail sites. Be sure to check the conditions if you plan on having a campfire.
If you choose to continue on past the Alder Flats you will enter into what I classify as the second leg. The second leg begins with a lengthy hike along a riverbed. In the summer months the riverbed is usually dry but it has been known to occasionally have water running down it, so be prepared to maybe get a foot wet. Proper hiking boots is essential here as your footing will be tested with loose and sometimes slippery stones. It would also be wise to bring an extra pair of socks along because hiking with a wet foot is no fun at all. At the end of the river bed you reach roughly a half way point (both in distance travelled as well as altitude). There's a helipad area with a great view both of the valley below and the peaks and ridge above so again you'll want a nice digital camera to capture the moment. After relishing the view continue up the staircase that climbs the mountain. This is where the hiking gets a little more strenuous and the second leg merges into the third.
The exact point at where the third leg starts varies depending on the person. The third leg start when the muscles in your leg start to really burn (trust me, this will happen) I'm not sure who built these stairs but although a great idea, I've often thought they must have been built by a person who was about 9 or 10 feet tall.
The third leg is an alpine hike from small peak to small peak up to the main ridge of the mountain. As the leg rises into the alpine it is advisable that hikers have proper clothing to weather the.. ..weather! It can get quite brisk and there may in fact be some snow areas to cover so bring a wool sweater and prehaps some gloves and a hat. Although when you are hiking you can get quite warm, when you stop you may find yourself quite cold and thankful you packed that sweater along. There are also sections in the third leg that require minor rock climbing. You don't need a rope or any professional climbing gear but be careful because the rocks are sometimes rough or jagged and slipping on them would not result in fun. The most difficult rock climb in leg three is roughly a 30 foot slab of granite with an easy slope and quite a lot of roots/trees/other rocks to hold onto while climbing. Granite is a rock that is known for its sturdiness so is the easiest rock to climb on, also look for small alpine trees to help hoist you up steeper areas ( use them as a crutch but just don't put all your weight behind them, they are just small trees after all and are easily damaged). There is another ideal flat area set up for camping near the end of the third leg. This camping area is ideal to use as a base camp to spend the night at and then pursue the summit in the morning while leaving your heavier gear at camp.
Continue on past the camp area towards the end of the third leg and you will find the Golden Ears Emergency Shelter. The shelter is an A-framed structure and the door is always open. There are minimal supplies in the shelter and can sleep 4-6 people. The shelter should only be used in emergency situations but hikers are notorious for using it as a cabin. Although there is plenty of open space around the shelter, if you decided to spend the night inside it just leave it clean and in the condition you found it (also, get there early as someone else will probably be planning on using it as a cabin as well. ) Planning on using the shelter as a cabin to camp it is not a good idea, because you may find it to be occupied.
The last leg of the hike includes the area leading up to the cabin and stretches all the way to the peak. In the last leg you will hike over the exposed granite for roughly 2 hours. This area can be hazardous in the best conditions. Even in mid summer this last leg may be fully covered in a snow cap, while at the same time next year only the small glacier remains in the middle and the path is totally clear of snow. It may be worth your while to come equipped for the worse by packing crampons, heavy gloves, ice axes and wool clothing. It can also get quite foggy and the path is not always clearly marked. It's recommended that if there is heavy snow only experienced hikers with a knowledge of the mountain continue to the summit. When climbing to the peak the marked trail curves up along a ridge on the left most side. *DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CLIMB THE GLACIER. Although it looks to be the most direct route to the peak, there is a 10 foot wide crevice and the top (not sure on its depth) and across it is a steep rock wall that would rate about a 5'12 as far as mountain climbing goes. This fourth leg of the hike is the most treacherous. Clambering along rock ledges and up granite slabs is the norm. If the sky is clear you can get phenomenal photos of the coastal mountain range to your back and excellent shots of the nearby surrounding lakes and rivers. Upon reaching the peak besides feeling the sense of accomplishment, you will also feel humbled by your magnificent surrounding as you look down on the world around you.
Good Luck! :)