The beaten path: 7 great hikes in and around Vancouver

November 8, 2016

by Mike Archibald

From challenging to casual, Vancouver’s numerous nearby hiking trails show off the scenic beauty of the Lower Mainland. With high-up views, invigorating inclines and old-growth trees, each of these seven picturesque spots will dazzle on-foot adventurers of all abilities. Don’t forget to bring a camera! [Photo credit: Joe McFarlane]

The beaten path: 7 great hikes in and around Vancouver

Stanley Park

This sprawling urban park is a must-see attraction for Vancouver tourists, and it's also a favourite spot for local residents who are looking to get a bit of exercise. Don’t content yourself with the Aquarium and the Seawall – there’s a bounty of flat, easy trails for walks both short and long inside the park. Travel along the network of inner pathways and you’ll find yourself under a canopy of trees in the shade and cool of the forest. As far as trees go, the trails offer a wealth of beauty: cedar, hemlock, fir and many more species are represented.

Area Covered: 27 km2
Difficulty Level: Easy
Time: 1.5 to 3 hrs
Open: Year-Round

Hollyburn Mountain

Located above West Vancouver, Hollyburn Mountain is a challenging, but not overwhelming, hike that makes for a lovely afternoon. The surrounding environment is great, but the high point (pun intended!) of this trek is the spectacular view at the top. Vancouver, the Georgia Strait, the Gulf Islands, Howe Sound, the Lions Gate Bridge and more are revealed right before your eyes once you reach the summit.

Area Covered: 7 km
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Time: 3.5 hours
Open: July to October

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Located on Vancouver’s West Side close to UBC, Pacific Spirit Regional Park is home to a large network of trails that borders various prominent city spots, including the Fraser River and the clothing-optional Wreck Beach. There’s not much elevation gain, but if you’re looking for a great three-hour hike through beautiful forest, this one's for you. Maple trees are prominent, making fall an especially good time of year to visit.

Area Covered: 7.5 km2
Difficulty Level: Easy
Time: 3 hours
Open: Year-Round

Grouse Grind

Locals refer to this demanding uphill hike as Mother Nature’s Stairmaster, and for good reason. Undertaken by approximately 150,000 people every year, the strenuous climb up the face of Grouse Mountain is one of the most popular athletic challenges in the Lower Mainland and is a hotspot for runners, athletes and novices looking for a challenge. It’s a journey of 2,830 steps on a steep incline up the mountainside; bring your A-game if you’re up for the challenge! Reward yourself with a beer at the top and ride the gondola back down to give your legs a much-needed break.

Area Covered: 2.9 km
Difficulty Level: Difficult
Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
Open: June to September

Garibaldi Lake

Located near Whistler, just two hours away from Vancouver, the trail out to Garibaldi Lake is a long hike with spectacular sights. A magnificent glacial backdrop, glistening turquoise lake, requisite forest environment, and gorgeous wild flowers at the right time of the year make this outing a photographer’s dream. There are a few options here – including connections to an excellent campsite and some longer trails – so take the day to explore, or pitch a tent to really get to know the place.

Area Covered: 18 km
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Time: 4 to 6 hours
Open: July to October

Brandywine Meadows

Also near Whistler, Brandywine Meadows in Callaghan Valley is a difficult hike that’s recommended for experienced trekkers who are looking for a taxing bout of exercise. The trail is steep (especially at first) and with rocks and fallen trees to step around, it requires some dexterity and quick thinking. The alpine surroundings include glaciers, and the destination meadow filled with colourful and fragrant wildflowers is absolutely beautiful – well worth the mud on your Nikes.

Area Covered: 6 km
Difficulty Level: Difficult
Time: 3.5 to 5 hours
Open: July to October

Quarry Rock Trail

Located on the North Shore in charming Deep Cove, Quarry Rock is perfect for a moderately challenging hike. It’s a steady climb through a rich, deep forest environment, ending in a rocky outcrop that reveals a typically beautiful North Shore view. On your trip you’ll come across knotty tree roots, bridges and a true sight to behold: a huge Douglas fir that’s an estimated 600 years old! Great for a family outing, and dog friendly to boot, this accessible trail is recommended for athletes and casual walkers alike.

Area Covered: 3.8 km
Difficulty Level: Easy
Time: 1.5 hours
Open: Year-Round

Whether you’re an amateur athlete or a seasoned backpacker, there are plenty of scenic hiking trails to discover (or re-discover) in and around Vancouver. Lush forest, bracing workouts, great camping opportunities and panoramic views that are among the greatest in the continent – what more enticement do you need? Lace up your boots, grab a water bottle and get going!

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