Vancouver is not so much an urban metropolis as an ideally located outdoor-lovers city. Wedged between the mountains and the sea, with peaks and coves, beaches and glacial lakes around every bend on the winding BC roads, Vancouver has a plethora of excellent hiking trails within a short drive of downtown. Here are 14 of the best, from easy strolls to tough climbs.
One of the closest hikes to downtown Vancouver, Dog Mountain is just a 25 minute drive and the hike takes between one and two hours return. If you’re visiting in the winter, this is an easy one to do, even in the snow. The views of downtown Vancouver from here are spectacular, and in winter it’s even been known as a great place to view the Northern Lights.
Affectionately known as ‘The Chief’, Stawamus Chief is the second largest free standing granite outcropping in the world after the Rock of Gibraltar. The hiking track starts at Stawamus Chief Provincial Park near Shannon Falls and takes about three hours return to reach the lowest of the three granite domes, five to reach highest. The sheer rock faces are also popular with rock climbers in the summer months.
St Mark’s Summit
An intermediate hike, this trail winds 11 kilometres along the How Sound Crest Trail. A five hour return trek, it takes you deep into the mountains, with views over the islands, ocean and nothing but wilderness all around.
If you’re strapped for time but need a dose of exercise and pretty vistas, head to Burnaby Mountain. There are 26 walking and mountain bike trails covering the 576 hectares of conversation area. The peak, which is 366 metres above sea level, has views over Vancouver, waterways and the surrounding mountains.
One of the biggest peaks visible from downtown Vancouver, Crown Mountain the return hike takes about five hours from the top of the Grouse Mountain skyride. An easier alternative is Goat Mountain, just next door, which takes about 4 hours return.
A five-hour hike from the Mount Seymour Ski Resort parking lot, this trail winds along the ski runs before climbing to the ‘three pumps’ rock formations at the summit. You can do this hike both in summer and winter, the latter with snow cover, meaning you can ski or snowboard back down! The views from the top right over Vancouver are especially spectacular.
If fresh air and stillness are what you’re after, take the trail to Diez Vistas. Winding along the ridgelines above Indian Arm and Buntzen Lake, this four to six hour hike offers stunning views along much of the trail. Find the start of the track on the beach at Buntzen Lake.
Most accessible in the height of summer, this challenging hike is well worth the 450 metre uphill climb – from the top you’re treated to 360 degree views. From here you can see across the Georgia Strait, Gulf Islands, Vancouver, The Lions peaks and Grouse Mountain. A seven kilometre hike, it takes about three and a half hours. If you do visit in winter, this is a popular snowshoe trail, once you reach the top, simply lie down and slide back down the mountain!
A short hike on the North Shore, this popular trail takes about one and a half hours return. Starting at the Baden Powell Trailhead, you’ll walk up timber stairs, across creeks and through dense wooded areas to a rocky outcrop overlooking Deep Cove.
Also on the North Shore, this more challenging trail has a fairly steep incline, and therefore small crowds, to the summit. A nine kilometre round trip, from the top you can see all the way to the city and over endless surrounding mountains. The trail is only open June to October.
This trail takes you to along the valley floor rather than up a mountain peak like the rest of these day hikes. Following the Lynn Creek before moving into denser bushland, the easy seven kilometre trail takes you to beautiful Norvan Falls. Access to the start of the trail is from the Lynn Heawaters Park Headquarters along the Mills Creek Trail.
One of the more challenging hikes on this list, the trek to Mount Elsay is 16 kilometres up, starting on the same trail as Mount Seymour. Recommended for experienced hikers only, sections of the track are rough, difficult to follow and there’s a large boulder field to navigate across. The round trip takes a full day, eight to nine hours.
One of the highest peaks in the Fraser Valley, this mountain is actually quite accessible. A old logging road serves as an access, bringing you to within an hour’s hike of the summit. The best time to go is between July and October, as the road is snowed over most of the year.
90 minutes from downtown Vancouver and just 30 minutes from Whistler, this hike is one of the longer, but not so difficult day hikes accessible from Vancouver. An 18 kilometres round trip, the summit of this hike rewards you with stunning views over the turquoise glacial Garibaldi Lake and surrounding mountain peaks. Despite its length, because the hike isn’t all that challenging it can be completed in less than five hours. On the way back down, those brave enough may enjoy a dip in the lake.