The Best of Vancouver: Hiking and Walking
Vancouver: a city that boasts a harmonious mix of city life and mountainous serenity, lush temperate rain forest and ocean coastlines; it’s simply hard not to fall in love with.
When visiting the greater Vancouver area, it is a wise idea to come prepared with a lengthy bucket list containing some the city’s top culinary creations, noteworthy sights, and adventurous outings, but above all, you will want to make sure you leave ample time to explore the city’s numerous hiking and walking trails. Here are ten of Vancouver’s best hikes and walks (among many others), ranked from more difficult to easier.
Garibaldi Lake is located roughly an hour and a half outside of Vancouver, just before Whistler Mountain. There are clearly marked signs off the highway to guide you to the trailhead as well as free parking once you arrive. The hike itself is 3-5 hours long—depending on athletic ability–and 18km round trip. If you are up for an even bigger adventure, you can continue on the trail to Panorama Ridge (30km round trip), or alternatively, you can choose to spend the night at Garibaldi Lake and complete the trip to Panorama Ridge the next morning.
Joffre Lakes is a bit further from Vancouver—about three hours to be exact—but there is a very good reason this hike is one of the most photographed in BC on Instagram. On your way up the trail you will come across three lakes: Lower, Middle and Upper Joffre Lake. All three have stunning blue water, so get your #nofilter hashtag ready. Be wary, however, because these lakes are blue for a reason. They are glacier fed and are often bone chilling in temperature even in the summertime. This hike is roughly 11km round trip, and is an optimal outing for your first overnight hike if this is something you have never tried before. Be forewarned: Joffre Lakes will be crazy busy in the summer, so leave early to beat the crowds.
St. Mark’s Summit
This is a gorgeous 11km (roundtrip), 3-5 hour hike that is a part of the Howe Sound Crest Trail, and will take you on top of the world—almost literally. You can start your journey by parking in the Cypress Mountain Parking lot, and from there, you can follow signs to the start of the marked trailhead. Once you reach the top, you will be overwhelmed with stunning views of the neighbouring islands just off the coast of Vancouver as you stand above the Sea to Sky Highway.
Lynn Peak is not a particularly well known trail, but the ratio of hard work to reward (in the form of a view) is incredibly well proportioned. You can find the trail head for this hike in North Vancouver’s Lynn Headwaters Regional Park near Lynn Valley. The total distance is only 9km, but do not let this fool you—the climb is steep and the terrain will have you thinking you’ve reached the summit more than once when in fact you’ve only made it 3/4 of the way. But don’t worry, the incredible view of North Vancouver at the top will remedy your sore muscles in no time.
Less of a walk and more of a scramble, Brandywine Falls is another destination near Whistler that has become Insta-famous in the last 8 months. What many tourists don’t know, however, is that the secure lookout that you come across after walking five minutes from the parking lot is only the beginning of the adventure. Walk past the lookout and around the end of the fence to start your descend to the bottom of the falls. There will most likely be other tourists attempting to use the same unmarked trail, so there is no need to fear getting lost. Once you reach the bottom, you will be rewarded with the powerful roar and gentle spray of the towering falls above you. Tip: bring appropriate shoes (i.e. runners or hiking shoes), as the terrain is a rugged mix of boulders, rocks, forest, and roots.
This is an enjoyable and leisurely walk that meanders through numerous trails in the lush temperate rainforest. Park in the parking lot just before Grouse Mountain (on the left side of the road as you head toward Grouse) and start your adventure by heading over the Dam walkway. From there, you can choose one of many paths by reading the marked trail maps. These paths will take you to either Park Royal Mall (longer), the Fish Hatchery (shorter), and even West Vancouver.
Baden Powell Trail:
The Baden Powell Trail is a lengthy 48km trail that spans the entire distance between Deep Cove and Horseshoe Bay with rugged terrain and an overhead canopy of trees. Luckily for you, this trail can be conquered in sections and therefore, offers a wide variety of hikes/walks for beginners and advanced long-distance hikers. Do your research before you go and decide which portion of the trail to complete. Ensure that you follow the trail markings (the orange triangles) along the way, as it can be quite easy to make one wrong turn and get lost.
Quarry Rock is a North Vancouver classic, but despite being well travelled by both locals and tourists, the view of Deep Cove at the end of the trail never seems gets old. The hike is a mere 3.8km and is perfect for those who are looking for an easier trail with a rewarding view at the top.
There may not be a view at the end of this trail, but there is a beautiful, serene lake that is often swimmable in the summer. There is a free parking lot for you to park in at the start of the trailhead and the entire hike is only 6km roundtrip and moderate in difficulty.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed, paved trail and a casual stroll, the Spirit Trail is the walk for you. Once fully developed, this trail will span from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay, but for now, it has 17 sections that wind along Vancouver’s scenic waterfront. Walk half of it, or the entire 6.5 km; the choice is yours and the diversity of views will make this one of the more enjoyable walks you will find in Vancouver.
This article was originally written for The College Tourist.