Trip Ideas

Vancouver Outdoor Adventures

Vancouverites are some of the most active people anywhere, and they’re proud of their easy-going lifestyles and environmental values. It’s no wonder, since the city’s surroundings are so naturally enticing. From hiking in the mountains to windsurfing in English Bay or kayaking in saltwater inlets, there’s more than enough to fill the appetite of any outdoor adventurer.


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MAP LEGEND
  1. North Vancouver
  2. Cypress Provincial Park
  3. False Creek
  4. Deep Cove
  5. Lighthouse Park
  6. Granville Island
  7. Kitsilano
  8. Grouse Mountain
     

Hiking and Walking

Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver. Photo Credit: Rich Wheater  / All Canada Photos

Cross the Lions Gate Bridge and tackle the trail to Eagle Bluff in Cypress Provincial Park. It’s a first-hand look at the rugged Coast Range environment – pass through stands of cedar and hemlock and take in views of the ocean far below.

For more of a workout, run or hike up the thigh-burning Grouse Grind. It’s an essential Vancouver experience, as is comparing finishing times over a drink at the mountaintop Altitudes Bistro. If you prefer slow strolls try a walk along the sand flats at Spanish Banks. This long series of beaches near the western edge of the city is where Vancouver’s harbour meets the open waters of the Strait of Georgia.

North Shore Biking

Mountain Biking in North Vancouver. Photo Credit: Marlene Ford

Rent a bike, head for the hills and become part of North Vancouver’s legendary mountain biking scene. Known as the birthplace of freeriding, the Shore, as riders call it, is laced with winding steep trails, complete with wooden bridges, boulders, teeter-totters and ladder bridges. Top spots include Mount Seymour, Mount Fromme, and Cypress Mountain.

The North Shore Mountain Bike Association maintains trails and promotes sustainable riding. For rentals, try Different Bikes; their four locations include two in North Vancouver.

Windsurfing and Kayaking

Windsurfing, skim boarding or stand up paddling can all be done on one of Vancouver’s downtown beaches. You will find plenty of outfitters (try Windsure Adventure Watersports windsurfing school in Kitsilano) to get you out on the water.

For a more meditative sort of adventure, rent a kayak and take a paddle-powered tour of Vancouver. Explore the calm waters of False Creek, where seals are often spotted, or head to Deep Cove and discover the wilderness of Indian Arm; Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak has everything you need for a day on the water, while Lotus Land Tours pick up from downtown hotels.

Unique Outdoor Options

Cyclists on the Stanley Park Seawall. Photo Credit: Canadian Tourism Commission

Vancouver has some truly unique pursuits as well: chalk up for the climbing routes at Lighthouse Park, or jog, bike or just walk the scenic Stanley Park seawall – you can even try it on rollerblades. A more Zen option? Stretch out with open-air yoga at Kitsilano Beach.

Places to Eat

Who needs trail mix? Vancouver’s thriving, multi-cultural food scene puts a whole new spin on picnics and post-hike dining. From local markets to gourmet plates here are some top picks for lovers of the great outdoors.

  • Indulge in the fresh food on Granville Island: grab some breakfast or fill your picnic basket with smoked salmon, fresh baguettes, artisan cheeses and more at the Granville Island Public Market.
  • Need a caffeine fix? Stop in at one of the city’s much-loved coffee shops. Independent cafés like 49th Parallel and Bean Around the World are bastions of Vancouver’s barista culture. Or prep for your paddling adventure with a maple glazed treat at Honey Doughnuts & Goodies in Deep Cove.
  • Top a day on the water with a beer, burger and sweeping ocean views at The Galley Patio & Grill at the Jericho Sailing Centre, or enjoy a patio lunch at one of the myriad pubs and cafés lining Kitsilano’s Yew Street.
  • Celebrate your outdoorsy accomplishments with an evening at one of the North Shore’s view-blessed fine dining spots. Try the creative  fare at the highly elegant Fraîche in West Vancouver, or ride the Skyride (an aerial tramway) to the aptly named The Observatory atop Grouse Mountain.

Local Secrets

Known as “MEC Alley,” the area around Mountain Equipment Co-op (close to downtown on West Broadway) features numerous stores for outdoor gear and advice. Some even offer rentals. Pick up the book 103 Hikes in Southwestern British Columbia for maps and details about the area’s many scenic trails.

The historic fishing village of Steveston, south of Vancouver at the mouth of the Fraser River, is a great place for a run or a ride. For one of the area’s best photo ops, visit the suspension bridge in Lynn Canyon Park, which swings 50m/164ft above Lynn Creek’s thickly forested mountain gorge.

For a different side of the city, check out the indie culture of Main Street and Commercial Drive. Find eclectic shops, galleries and cafés. The Cuban-inspired restaurant Havana (on Commercial) has a great patio for sipping mojitos in the afternoon.

Accommodation

Savour the stunning mountain views at the waterfront Pan Pacific Vancouver; relax in the heated saltwater outdoor pool or treat yourself to world-class dining at Five Sails Restaurant. The Westin Bayshore, in the heart of downtown Vancouver, offers a relaxing resort experience. Looking for an "art-full" experience? Check out the Listel Hotel in the trendy Robson Street shopping district. Each guestroom features work by a notable artist.

 

Transportation

When flying in to Vancouver, book a window seat – the approach offers great views of the mountains, the Fraser River and distant Vancouver Island. Vancouver International Airport is just a short drive from downtown, or ride the rapid rail Canada Line from the airport to the city centre. The city is also accessible by bus, train or floatplane. A full range of taxi, transit, car and bike rental options are also available.