As the Earth tilts a little farther from the sun and the couch beckons at the prospect of summer’s end, here’s a little nugget to help nudge you back outside: It turns out that a weekly two-hour “dose” of nature is all it takes to significantly improve overall health and well-being. According to an article published this year by Yale University’s School of the Environment, a recent study has confirmed it takes “precisely 120 minutes…either all at once or spaced over several visits” to reap the substantial physical, mental, and emotional benefits of time in nature.
So, what are you waiting for? Metro Vancouver is full of green zones—brimming with trees, bees, birds, and bike trails—and there’s never been a better time to seek out “fewer faces and bigger spaces” close to home. Take advantage of gentle fall weather with this prescription for eight active getaways guaranteed to top up your nature reserves and vanquish the viral blues.
Check in to the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier, a boutique property just steps from the Seabus terminal, and borrow one of the hotel’s bicycles—or rent an e-bike (at preferred rates) from nearby Reckless Shipyards. Pick up some picnic fare from Lonsdale Quay Market and then chase the spectacular city, mountain, and waterfront views along the new North Shore Spirit Trail—a fully accessible 35-km greenway that will eventually extend all the way from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. For now, the trail travels through popular destinations such as Lonsdale Quay, The Shipyards Brewery District, and Moodyville Park, and Ambleside Park in West Vancouver (where you’ll definitely want to rehydrate on The Boat shed’s pretty outdoor patio).
Sometimes there’s disagreement about what constitutes an “active” getaway. When one party wants to get sweaty and the other would prefer to stroll-with-a-glow, look to Burnaby for the solution. Adrenaline junkies of all ages and abilities can head to the Mountain Air Bike Skills Park—the world’s largest and only outdoor wood pump track that is free to the public. (Afterwards, they can clean up both bike and body at the cycle-friendly Accent Inn, which offers safe storage, a bike-wash, and a tuning station and tools.) There’s a quieter rush to be found on the dozens of walking trails that criss-cross the almost 600 hectares of beautiful Burnaby Mountain; the dramatic mountain and city views demand an indulgent sunset picnic from Sopra Sotto. And if you want to meet somewhere in the middle? Try a gentle paddle around Deer Lake in a family-friendly pedal boat, canoe, or kayak from Deer Lake Boat Rentals.
Until October 15, pick up a Picnic + Cruise Kit—a chef-curated picnic pack from the Fairmont Vancouver Airport—and head off on two wheels to explore the long, wide dyke that protects low-lying Richmond from the mighty Fraser River. (You can bring your own bike on the Canada Line, or rent one from the hotel. Better yet, plan an overnight stay: bike use is complimentary for hotel guests.) From the tranquil beaches of Iona Island, to the kid-and-adult-friendly Adventure Playground of Terra Nova Rural Park, to the bustling docks of historic Steveston Village, the bike route is smooth and scenic, and birdlife is abundant. Finish the day with a paper-wrapped picnic of fish and chips from Pajo’s or Dave’s, and watch the sunset from Garry Point. Not quite ready to leave? Extend your stay with a night at the quaint-and-quirky (and newly renovated) Steveston Hotel, just a short walk from the park.
Whether you’re pushing a baby stroller or your heart rate, the Boundary Bay Dyke Trail accommodates hikers and bikers of all ages and stages. The flat, scenic gravel trail stretches 20 km between Ladner and Beach Grove in Tsawwassen (where the charming Beach Grove Café makes a natural rest stop). Want to go farther? Connect into the Boundary Bay Regional Park Trail and ride all the way to Mud Bay in South Surrey. Enjoy ocean vistas, rolling farmland, and great birdwatching along the Pacific Flyway: look for hawks, eagles, snow geese, owls, herons, and other migratory birds. Make a weekend of it with an overnight at the recently modernized Coast Tsawwassen Inn, and treat the family to a visit to the pumpkin patch at Schoolhouse Farm (until October 28).
Nature and history intersect in New Westminster—along with a number of regional bike routes. Follow the Central Valley Greenway or the BC Parkway all the way from Vancouver to the “Royal City” that was once BC’s capital and the start of the Gold Rush Trail. Roll through the historic downtown district along Columbia Street, then connect to the riverfront via Begbie Street for magnificent Fraser River views near the Quay. (You can learn more about the role of this important waterway and local history at the family-friendly Fraser River Discovery Centre.) Stop for snacks at the River Market eateries or toast a good day’s ride at Steel & Oak Brewing Co.—and if the tipple leaves you tired, consider bunking in for the night at the waterfront Inn at the Quay (offering great rates for locals, bike parking, and skyline and water views).
Wheel your bike onto Translink’s appropriately named Evergreen Line, and head for the Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station where you can roll right on to the popular Pinetree Way/Lougheed Highway Cycle Route. You’ll find easy access to multiple parks including Town Centre Park (where you can pick up picnic fare from the nearby Glen Drive restaurants), and Colony Farm Regional Park, whose lush hedgerows and wetlands are a favourite hangout for more than 200 bird species. Come fall, a ride or hike along the Hoy Creek Trail rewards with views of salmon swimming upstream to spawn. Consider turning a day trip into a mini-break with an overnight at the Executive Plaza Hotel located near Lougheed Town Centre station and offering free secure bike parking on request.
Whether you bike ‘em or drive ‘em, the backroads of Maple Ridge reward visitors with beautiful views of nature’s bounty: blueberry farms, cranberry fields, and pumpkin patches abound in the fertile farmland of the Lower Fraser Valley. There’s a new route map available for cyclists but during the fall harvest try the Humble Roots Cranberry Loop with a stop at the charming Humble Roots Café & Deli, featuring delicious farm-to-table fare. Rest up in peace and quiet at one of the many local B&Bs such as Anna’s Home (or pitch a tent in Golden Ears Provincial Park) and take home a souvenir Halloween pumpkin from one of the Laity Pumpkin Patches, or a bottle of something refreshing from one of the four local breweries along the Maple Ridge Ale Trail.
In Langley City, enjoy the all-ages ease of the scenic Nicomekl Bike Loop which begins at the Nicomekl flood plains and winds through Sendall Botanical Gardens, Portage Park, Penzer Action Park, and Brydon Lagoon—a popular birding destination. You can rent an electric bike from Langley E-Bikes by the hour or day, and when it’s time to fuel up, Leef and Stem in Downtown Langley City offers healthy vegan meal options sourced from local ingredients. Make a weekend out of it with an overnight at the Best Western Langley Inn, close to downtown shopping and dining.
Header image: Cycling in Richmond | Tourism Richmond
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