On the Edge of Wilderness: 6 Soothing Forest Walks near Vancouver

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Vancouver is a city uniquely situated between the Pacific Ocean and Coast Mountains, offering endless opportunities—and excuses— to escape and replace worldly amusements for raw, natural wilderness experiences. The sheer accessibility of nature from this urban hub never ceases to amaze, as the mountains beckon you from your hotel window and the lush greenery below, like a Siren, seems to call out to you—come out, come out, wherever you are

Research has proven the benefits of taking yourself off the (city) grid, with as little as a one-hour walk boosting memory by as much as 20%and just 60 seconds of looking up at towering trees making us kinder to each other. With benefits like this, and with big nature just a short drive away, here are the top places near Vancouver to retreat into nature for some forest bathing. (You can thank us later, but first, thank yourself for following our advice!) 

Serpentine Fen | @cyka_privet

Serpentine Fen

Serpentine Fen is a 150-hectare (371-acre) bird sanctuary located on King George Boulevard in Surrey, less than an hour’s drive from Vancouver. A 3.5 kilometre (2.2-mile) loop trail encircles this wetland, which over 130 species of birds call home. As a part of the Pacific Flyway, the fen is an important stop for migratory birds travelling along the coast to rest, nest and feed. With three observation towers to take in views, you’ll have multiple opportunities to pause and tune into the meditative space that comes from climbing up so high.

Deer Lake Park | Burnaby Tours & Charters

Deer Lake Park

Practice your mindfulness and equanimity as you take in the sights and sounds of Deer Lake Park in Burnaby, east of Vancouver. Walk through tunnels of dense tree cover, follow boardwalks, and sit on the shores of the lake, brimming with gratitude for all that surrounds you. While the summer months bring music festivals to the park’s Festival Lawn stage, spring and fall are a wonderfully quiet seasons in which to enjoy the natural bounty of this lush city park.

Diez Vistas Trail | @carlakiefer

Diez Vistas

Diez Vistas is named for the ten viewpoints that are your reward for tackling this Tri-Cities trail. The 15-kilometre (9.3-mile) loop is about an hour’s drive from Vancouver. It encircles Buntzen Lake and takes about seven hours to complete. The trail is listed as moderate or intermediate, starting with a steep incline through the forest to the first lookout point before going into a series of switchbacks that lead you around the lake—and through two separate provincial parks. Take your time and approach each view as its own unique meditation, whether taking in sweeping views of Indian Arm and Bedwell Bay (or earnestly looking through dense tree growth of an obstructed view), nodding to nature’s beautiful tenacity. Spring offers comfortable temperatures for this forest walk, when the brave may also want to consider a full nature immersion: with a cold water plunge in Buntzen Lake to cap off their completion of the loop.

Kamui Mintara/Playground of the Gods | @davidgmayers

Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area

The Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area is located in the city of Burnaby, about half an hour’s drive east of Vancouver. The 576-hectare (1,423-acre) mountain ecosystem offers 28 kilometres worth of multi-use trails that crisscross up and around Burnaby Mountain. Take in splendid views of Belcarra and Deep Cove from the 366-metre (1,200-foot) summit. (Since many of the trails intersect, make sure that you take a trail map with you.) If you time it right, catch the sunset from the top and bathe in the soft glow of another day’s gentle close.

Bridal Veil Falls | @NonStopDest

Bridal Veil Falls

Follow the Trans-Canada Highway east from Vancouver for about an hour and a half to the Chilliwack, where you’ll cross fertile farmlands nestled between the Chilliwack and Fraser rivers. Enjoy springtime sights of blooming flower fields and sweeping fruit farms as you approach the scenic day-use area of Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park. As the weather warms up and snows melt, expect a gushing waterfall that cascades like a “veil” over the rockface, 60 metres (197 feet) above. While the falls are quite accessible—a short 15-minute walk from the parking lot—make sure you take your time to absorb the surroundings both on the viewing platform itself (breathe in that misty air!) and along your walk through the temperate rainforest.

Killarney Lake | @mischaozols

Crippen Park on Bowen Island

Consider a short island hop to Bowen, a quaint forest hideaway perfect for those seeking gentle quietude and the pace of island time. You can complete the journey to Bowen Island in as little as just over an hour from Downtown Vancouver—even without a car. To avoid car traffic, take public transit to Horseshoe Bay (there’s a direct bus line near the Granville and Burrard SkyTrain stations) and simply walk onto the ferry. The trip across is about 20 minutes, ending at Snug Cove, the laid-back hub of Bowen Island, lined with shops and cozy spots to have a meal. Walk west of the ferry terminal for about half an hour, to Killarney Lake, and traverse the picturesque wetlands over boardwalks to the 4-kilometre (2.5-mile) loop trail around the lake. Take in iconic BC scenery, from flora to wildlife, all in that rich soothing Pacific Northwest colour palette of deep greens and browns.

Know Before You Go

No matter what outdoor activity you are planning, you must be prepared. Remember to follow the three Ts—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials. AdventureSmart is a great resource to get informed before heading outdoors.

Road work and wildfires can affect travel plans during the summer. Check DriveBC and BC Wildfire Service before you go to plan your journey.

 

 

Header image: Vancouver. Photo: Tourism Vancouver

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Retreat into the Rainforest

Here’s a handy map of our top picks for forest bathing near Vancouver.