British Columbia is hiking territory – and ocean-fringed Vancouver boasts some of the best of them. It’s not so much a question of how to find a good stroll, but which one to choose. From breathtaking oceanside walks to heart-stopping suspension bridges, we’ve rounded up seven of the best walks in Vancouver.
The Most Scenic Walks in Vancouver
Vancouver’s most beloved park sprawls across a whopping 1,000 acres and encompasses beaches, playgrounds, pools, botanical gardens, an aquarium and 17 tennis courts. Find your bearings by taking in the views on a leisurely 5.5 mile (7 km) loop around its perimeter. The trail mostly meanders through lush greenery, but sections of the trail run across the beach too. If you’re walking in the late afternoon, join the Vancouverites at Third Beach for the best sunset views.
For some serious mileage, you can always hike the whole of Seawall. The 17.5 miles (28 km) route, which connects the Vancouver Convention Centre to the Spanish Banks beaches, is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront park.
For serious sweats, hardcore hikers should hotfoot to Grouse Mountain – the Peak of Vancouver. Soaring 2,800 ft (850 metres) high, it takes around 1.5–2 hours to complete the hike. The Grouse Grind – or aptly nicknamed ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’ – is 1.8 miles (2.9 km) long but it requires a hefty hike up 2,830 steps to reach the finish line. It’s well worth the extra effort for the sparkling seaside views alone but if you need more incentive there’s plenty to keep you occupied once you’ve completed the hike, from ziplining to snowshoeing to grizzly bear visits.
This is a spring-to-fall hike only; snow+ice+steep steps is no fun for anyone.
For a walk on the wild side (literally) the heart-stopping Capilano Suspension Bridge is a must. Opened in 2011, the suspended walkways take you through the rainforest and along the granite cliff face above the Capilano River for unobstructed views over the landscape. It’s not for the faint of heart though; at points, the walkway is all that separates you from the ground 230 ft (70 metres) below. It’s one of the world’s longest and highest suspension bridges. There’s also a treetop adventure, Living Forest exhibit and nature tours for those who want to learn more about the local wildlife.
Located near UBC on the west side of Vancouver, Pacific Spirit Regional Park offers up 55 km (34 miles) of hiking trails across 750 hectares of Hemlock, Cedar and Maple Leaf forest. There are dozens of trails to choose from and there’s no ‘right way’ to explore the park, but one of the most popular routes kicks off at the gate on 16th Avenue and follows the Imperial Trail, Hemlock Trail, Clinton Trail and Salish Trail. It’s roughly 6 miles (10 km) long and takes around three minutes to complete. As well as dense forest, the trail also meanders through an ecological reserve, wetlands, babbling brooks and secluded sandy stretches.
Home to some of the region’s oldest trees, there are over 13 km (8 miles) of hiking trails crisscrossing the 75-hectare park. None of the routes is too strenuous as the elevation gain is minimal, making it the perfect option for those looking for shimmering views without breaking a sweat. Pack a picnic and stop off at Starboat Cove for sweeping views from the Lions Gate Bridge to the University of British Columbia out on Vancouver Island. It takes around 30 minutes to get here from the city centre and buses run regularly. Four-legged companions are allowed off the leash too.
If you’ve had your fill of snow-capped peaks and sparkling sea views, this urban walk on Granville Island will provide some respite. Once a waterfront industrial site, the entire island underwent a huge-scale overhaul in the 1970s and now boasts markets, food shops, artist studios and lots of green space. It’s easy to get to the island by acquabus, but we recommend the scenic seaside trail along False Creek Inlet. To make more of a dent in your pedometer, take the False Creek Olympic Village 1.8 mile (2.9 km) walking route, featuring the 2010 Olympic Aboriginal Welcome Work, indigenous murals and the Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremonies site. It’s a popular bike trail too, so watch out for speed-seeking cyclists.
7. Cypress National Park, Vancouver
Just 30 minutes from Downtown Vancouver, the Cypress National Park is best known for Cypress Mountain – a popular mountain resort with 53 runs, cross-country ski access and family-friendly snow-tubing. But when the snow melts, it’s all about the hiking. There’s a range of hiking routes for every ability. For beginners, there’s the 1.2 mile (2km)Yew Lake Train that cuts through the sub-alpine meadows and old-growth forest. For more confident ramblers, there are the 29 km (18 miles) Howe Sound Crest Trail. The 4.9 miles (8-km) Eagles Bluff trail via Baden Powell is a good ‘in-between’ option that offers sparkling views that only require a bit of scrambling at the end.