Vancouver hikes are well-known for their amazing natural beauty, sitting as it does between the beautiful Coast Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Nature and hiking enthusiasts are drawn to the beauty of this region and with good reason! Our short winter and long hiking season is a natural fit for the many outdoorsy folks living in and visiting Vancouver.
Despite having lived in Vancouver most of my life, I had spent little time in the local back-country until recently. After repeatedly hearing about how being in nature would benefit my health, happiness and general well-being, I succumbed and finally learned what everyone else has known for years: hiking in Vancouver is awesome!
As someone pretty new to hiking, I initially looked with trepidation at the many guidebooks and hiking maps available for the Vancouver area as they seemed filled with long and difficult hikes. I wanted to start off with the easier trails that offered the best pay-off in views and scenery. If you’re a serious hiker there are plenty of arduous hikes in the Vancouver area, but I’ve discovered a lot of beautiful trails more suited to inexperienced hikers like me that are really beautiful too!
Getting ready for Vancouver hiking trails
None of the hikes I’m going to talk about require specialized equipment of any kind but still, you’ll need to be prepared.
I’ve found that a good pair of hiking shoes or boots are a must, even on the easiest trails. This is particularly important if like me, you have weak ankles that tend to twist easily. You don’t have to spend a lot and if you only have a good pair of walking shoes, that will do nicely most of the time. I use a moderately-priced pair of walking boots that cover my ankles. They make me feel steadier on uneven trails and jutting rocks.
Bring along some water or your liquid of choice. It can get pretty hot in the summer around Vancouver and you’ll want to make sure you stay hydrated. If your hike is longer than 2 hours, you might want to bring some snacks as well. Raisins and nuts are a good choice and keep well!
Dress for the weather and use layers. The weather can change quickly if you’re in the mountains, even in the mountains local to Vancouver. Bring a foldable rain jacket if there’s the slightest chance of rain – you won’t regret it!
Some of the local hiking areas have full cellular phone service but some do not. Bring your mobile phone with you in any event, just in case.
Always make sure you tell someone else that’s not hiking with you where you’ll be and what time you’re expected back. Lastly, follow the golden rule of hiking and leave no trace. Pack out what you pack in and respect nature as you find it.
Onto the day hikes around Vancouver!
Stanley Park Seawall
This lovely feature in the middle of Vancouver isn’t necessarily a hike, but it’s certainly a good walk! The seawall circumnavigates Stanley Park and is a popular choice for native Vancouverites and tourists alike. Expect to see many people walking as well as cyclists, roller-bladers and all sorts of other forms of transportation.
The seawall is a 6-kilometer loop but you can make it longer or shorter with the different trail options within the park. The scenery is spectacular. You can expect to see First Nation’s totem poles, wildlife, mounted police officers, and even some pretty good restaurants if you get hungry!
The Stanley Park seawall is open year-round and is an easy two-hour walk that almost anyone can accomplish. It’s an excellent starting point for your foray into the great hikes of Vancouver!
Burnaby Lake Park
Located just 30 minutes east of Vancouver, Burnaby Lake is the largest lake in the Lower Mainland of beautiful British Columbia. Burnaby Lake is home to a lot of different animals, birdlife and marine mammals including beaver, deer, and a large variety of ducks and geese.
The Burnaby Lake loop is approximately 10 kilometers long and is an easy two-hour hike. There are several access points with some having plenty of parking for cars.
There is little elevation gain on this hike, but plenty to please your visual senses. Burnaby Lake is home to a rowing club and you may see rowers out on the lake. You’ll also see the North Shore mountains and may come across the horseback riders that also frequent this trail.
The Burnaby Lake loop is a great hike for bird watchers and nature photography lovers. The trail has several viewing platforms for bird watching that also provide for excellent views of the lake from east to west.
This hike is open year-round and is also dog-friendly.
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Pacific Spirit Park
Pacific Spirit Regional Park is located near the University of British Columbia on the western edge of Vancouver. It comprises more than 750 hectares of rainforest and is very popular for hiking and walking.
The trails in Pacific Spirit Park are well-marked with some having been specially adapted for wheelchair users. Most trails are packed gravel with a semi-firm surface.
There are 3 great trails, all with minimal slope – Heron Trail, Imperial Trail, and Cleveland Trail. All are accessible at different points in the park but can be linked together for a longer hike. There is a total of 55 kilometers of trails in the park for hiking along with extensive trails for horseback riding and cycling.
Pacific Spirit Park features forests, creeks, beaches, cliffs, and bogs and is home to a wide variety of plant life and animals. The park is well-used by Vancouverites and is especially popular with dog-walkers.
The Park is open year-round.
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park
This hike is outside of Vancouver proper but is worth the drive if breathtaking scenery is what you’re after. About three hours outside of Vancouver, Joffre Lakes is a very popular location in the summer months so I would suggest trying this hike in the slower Spring and Fall months.
This hike is definitely a day-hike at 10 kilometers long but many choose to camp overnight overlooking one of the gorgeous lake views. There are 3 deep-green glacier-fed lakes; Lower, Middle and Upper Joffre Lake. You’ll be treated to excellent scenery all along the way including waterfalls and great views of the local mountain ranges.
The trails have been recently groomed and are dirt paths with steps in some sections. The hike is rated as moderate difficulty. My experience of this hike aligns well with this rating! The elevation gain is 1240 meters, and I felt every centimeter of it! The views were well worth it though. Look for the waterfall just after the Middle Lake.
There is a large parking lot at the trailhead, but it is often full during busier times. Joffre Lakes can be accessed via the Sea to Sky Highway. Keep going past Whistler and turn onto the Duffy Lake Road. The entrance to the park is 21 kilometers from the turn-off.
The Buntzen Lake recreation area is located 40 minutes east of Vancouver in Anmore. There are a lot of different hikes in this park for varying levels of ability.
Buntzen Lake is a man-made lake popular with families for swimming in the summer months.
The most popular hike at Buntzen Lake is the Diez Vistas Trail. This route is recommended for experienced and fit hikers only. It offers spectacular views of Burrard Inlet, Indian Arm, the North Shore mountains and Eagle Ridge. There’s a significant climb near the beginning of the trail and series of switchbacks before the first viewpoint.
A more forgiving trail at Buntzen Lake is the Lakeview Trail, comprising 10.5 kilometers of less hilly terrain. Beginners can expect to hike this trail in 4-5 hours and will see an elevation gain of 145 meters. This trail is also used by mountain bikers and horseback riders. This is a great trail for a longish day hike if you’re a beginner like me.
There are several other longer hikes at Buntzen Lake including the Halvor Lunden Trail (13 kilometers with a 1000 meter elevation gain), the Swan Falls Loop (16 kilometers and 1100 meter elevation gain) and the Dilly Dally Loop (22 kilometers and 1125 meter elevation gain). These routes are for very fit and experienced hikers only. I hope to one day try these routes myself!
Buntzen Lake is open year-round for hiking. Dogs are also welcome.
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Lynn Canyon is a municipal park in North Vancouver, approximately 40 minutes from Vancouver. There are a large variety of hiking trails ranging from short, flat walks for novices and longer hikes with elevation change for more experienced folks.
Lynn Canyon is part of the greater Lynn Valley area, encompassing a large part of North Vancouver. The vegetation is temperate rainforest, similar to what can be found in other forested regions of the Vancouver area.
This area is well-known for its wildlife and black bear sightings are not uncommon! You might also see elk, deer, squirrels and a variety of birdlife such as hawks, Steller’s Jays and woodpeckers.
The highlight of the hiking in Lynn Canyon has to be the 50 meter-high Lynn Canyon suspension bridge. Unlike the nearby Capilano Suspension Bridge, it is free to cross. It is definitely wobbly and not for those who might suffer from a fear of heights! The bridge connects to many hiking trails on both sides of the canyon. The best known and most used is the Baden Powell Trail. The Lynn Loop is a great trail for beginners and is my favorite trail in the park. Total distance is 5.1 kilometers with an elevation gain of only 160 meters.
If you’re hiking in Lynn Canyon in the warmer months, check out the 30 Foot Pool. It’s located approximately 10 minutes after crossing the suspension bridge. This is a popular swimming spot on hot summer days, although tourists might find it a bit cool!
Looking for a challenge? If you’re fit, do not leave Vancouver without climbing the Grouse Grind – aka Mother’s Nature Stairmaster – a 2.9-kilometer trail, 2830 steps and 853 meters of elevation that goes from the base to the top of the Grouse Mountain.
Which Vancouver hiking trails are on your list?