If you need a little motivation to get outside when the couch beckons, here’s a little nugget to help give you a nudge: 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 by Yale University’s School of the Environment, studies have confirmed that 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—to top up your nature reserves and vanquish the 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 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.
On two wheels is the best way to explore the long, wide dyke trail that protects low-lying Richmond from the mighty Fraser River. From the tranquil beaches of Iona Beach Regional Park, 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 Park. Not quite ready to leave? Extend your stay with a night at the quaint-and-quirky Steveston Hotel, just a short walk from the park. Bike rentals are available at Steveston’s Village Bikes.
Whether you’re pushing a baby stroller or your heart rate, the Boundary Bay 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 Coast Tsawwassen Inn.
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 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. Here are some cycling maps to help guide you. 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). In fall, take home a souvenir Halloween pumpkin from the Laity Pumpkin Patch, and at any time of year, pick up 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.
Originally published in September, 2020.
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