Just being in British Columbia, whether you’re a resident or a visitor, means proximity to nature. Always. No matter where in the province you are. Even deep in our urban centres, the natural environment has a profound impact on the people who call BC home. One of the easiest ways to connect with the power of nature is to lace up your favourite trainers and explore some of the cities’ urban trails.
In Vancouver, nature touches everything. Whether you’re sipping a latte in Gastown, admiring a piece of art in a tucked-away gallery, or shopping for treasures along Robson Street, mountain and ocean views are within throwing distance. And while you’re never far from green spaces, the city’s undeniable crown jewel is Stanley Park. The park is on every visitor’s checklist, and locals are equally enchanted. Take a post-lunch stroll along the 10-kilometre (6-mile) paved seawall path that encircles the 400-hectare (1,000-acre) park, or explore lush rainforest along intersecting dirt trails. Learn about Vancouver’s ocean environment at the renowned Vancouver Aquarium, play nine holes at the Stanley Park Pitch & Putt, or feel the sand squish between your toes as you gaze out toward the Pacific, all within steps of a vibrant city centre.
The multicultural city of Richmond—situated on Lulu Island and surrounded by the Fraser River and the Strait of Georgia—is the place to enjoy some of the best Chinese food outside of China. You can also learn about the role of Japanese-Canadians in the city’s late-19th-century commercial fishery, or shop at one of the Asian malls in the Golden Village. While there’s plenty to see and do in the city’s bustling downtown, time by the water is essential. Richmond’s West Dyke and South Dyke trails are nice and flat, making them perfect for a low-impact stroll or bike ride with views of the surrounding waterways and the Coast Mountains. Start in Terra Nova, across from the Vancouver International Airport, to watch the seaplanes come and go, then head south toward historic Steveston Village and reward yourself with a fresh-off-the-boat seafood feast.
BC’s capital city embodies a seamless mix of the old and the new, with a stunning ocean backdrop. The picturesque downtown, with its late-1800s architecture, has a manicured appearance—floral displays are everywhere, and there are many well-tended parks and gardens to explore. The Royal BC Museum is a must, as is the waterfront promenade along the Inner Harbour, a busy waterway that is home to private boats, water taxis, whale-watching vessels, seaplane terminals, and more. Victoria residents tend to be quite active, with the nation’s highest concentration of commuter cyclists. One of the city’s most popular trails is the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, a former railway line that starts among urban backstreets in downtown Victoria. Along its 55-kilometre (34-mile) length it passes through landscapes ranging from farmland to rugged wilderness. “The Goose” is part of The Great Trail, a multi-use trail that crosses Canada from coast to coast to coast.
While it’s known internationally as North America’s top ski destination, Whistler has a ton to offer year round. Fabulous dining experiences, high-end shopping, energetic nightlife, and a surprising number of art galleries are surrounded by outdoor experiences that include canoeing, whitewater rafting, bear viewing, ziplining…the list goes on. To make your way around the Village and adjacent Whistler neighbourhoods, access the Valley Trail—on foot or on wheels—and start exploring. Fuel your adventure with a freshly baked treat from Purebread in funky Function Junction, and follow the trail north toward laid-back Creekside and beyond.
With its lakeside location in the heart of BC’s wine country, Kelowna is the place to go for fresh, local food and some of the province’s best wines. In the summer months, the city’s beaches and waterfront parks are bustling, and colourful, fragrant orchards are a treat for the senses. For a commanding view of Kelowna, Okanagan Lake, local vineyards, and the surrounding mountains, head to Knox Mountain and make your way to the summit, 300 metres (985 feet) above the lake.
Kamloops sits at the intersection of the north and south Thompson rivers in BC’s desert-like interior. While the city centre offers all the urban conveniences, the main draw here is the open outdoors. Kamloops is surrounded by grasslands, hills covered in sagebrush, and sandstone canyons. There are more than 100 lakes nearby, including long, narrow Kamloops Lake, and hoodoos dot the landscape. On the north side of the lake is Battle Bluff, a moderately challenging hike of about 90 minutes that culminates in a sweeping view of Kamloops Lake and the surrounding grasslands. Don’t forget your camera!
Remember to respect the terrain, environment, and other users while you are enjoying the trails. Follow the three Ts—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials. AdventureSmart and Leave No Trace are great resources to help you get informed before heading outdoors.
Originally published in September, 2018.
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