Vancouver is an outdoor lovers paradise! With the mountains just a stone’s throw away, there is no excuse not to get out and about and take advantage of the stunning landscapes that Vancouver has to offer. With a pretty good public transport system, most of the hikes we went on are accessible by bus. Here is a list of the 10 best and accessible hikes to do around Vancouver.
1. Grouse Mountain (Grouse Grind and BCMC Trails)
While it was in the summer that we hiked Grouse Mountain the most, the winter can also be a fun time to take it in and we were regulars up Grouse Mountain for the snow-shoeing season. It is super cheap to buy second hand snow shoes and a yearly gondola pass for Grouse Mountain is only CA$130. And once you’re up then it’s all free, even guided tours. The snow makes everything look completely different and incredibly stunning, so I recommend trying this activity at least once. There is no better feeling than standing on top of a mountain that you have huffed and puffed your way to get to the top of, and looking out over a deserted and magical winter wonderland.
Grouse Mountain isn’t only spectacular in the winter but is a great place to visit in the summer. My preferred route up the mountain is the BCMC. It is a pretty tiring and steep hour and a half climb to get the top, but it is pretty and far less busy than the infamous Grouse Grind. The Grouse Grind is a gruelling hour up multitudes of steps and during a summer weekend you will be joined by hundreds of tourists. While this might appeal to some people, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Rather, take the BCMC route to the top, it takes a bit longer but the lack of crowds makes it a more pleasant experience. And once you make it to the top, the view over Vancouver is one to behold.
The view isn’t the only thing to appreciate at the top of Grouse Mountain. It is also home to two grizzly bears who were orphaned as cubs and were found close to death. They were unable to survive on their own, so a 5 acre wildlife refuge was created for them on the mountain. Their names are Grinder and Coola and you can often see them when they venture near the fence line.
2. Baden Powell Trail from Deep Cove to Lynn Canyon
This is a really neat and easy to get to hike. You take a bus out to Deep Cove and spend about 45 minutes hiking to the Quarry Rock lookout. It’s a pretty popular place to visit so this part of the trail is sometimes busy, however, the views are really pretty. Once you have taken some time to absorb the scenery and pet the many dogs, it is then time to follow the BP markers for a 3 hour hike through the forest.
The trail itself is not too strenuous, so it allows you some time (and breath) to really soak in your surroundings. The trail was virtually deserted and we went for long stretches without seeing anyone else. You will know when you are nearing Lynn canyon as you will start to meet a few more people on the trail. Lynn Canyon is a popular place for people to drive up to and visit, with the beautiful Twin Peaks Falls and the suspension bridge, so you tend to see quite a lot of people at the end. You then hop on a bus back home.
3. Stawamus Chief
The Stawamus Chief consists of 3 peaks near Squamish, which is about an hour north of Vancouver. Unfortunately you cannot get a bus here which makes it a bit more difficult to get to. However, if you get a group together to rent a car, it is a very reasonable day trip. You start at the Shannon Falls parking lot and you have the choice of visiting all three peaks or just one or two. We chose to do the first and second peaks, and I would highly recommend going to both of them. It is a lot of uphill climbing so be prepared for that. But you are walking through the most stunning scenery so it is definitely worth it. The first peak is the one that most people visit and it provides a great view of Howe Sound.
The second peak was by far our favourite. The climb to the top was very interactive with lots of chains and ladders to help you up – definitely not for the feint-hearted! The views from the top were incredible and there were some very confident chipmunks that tried to steal our food. It took us about 3 hours to do the two peaks. I strongly advise you to go as early in the morning as possible. It is a very popular hike (especially in the weekends) and the crowds honestly ruin it a bit. We got there early and had many parts of the trail all to ourselves. However, on the way down, at about 10.30-11.30 there were hundreds of people starting the ascent. We were so relieved that we missed them.
4. Sendero Diez Vistas at Buntzen Lake
The Sendero Diez Vistas Trail at Buntzen Lake is a pretty doable 15km loop that takes about 6 hours. We went with a couple of friends and their dogs which made the hike really enjoyable. There are a lot of dogs on this trail which is perfect for the dog lovers that we are and there are ten beautiful viewpoints to stop at along the way to take in the views.
You can get transit out to Buntzen Lake, however it does take over an hour and a half, so if you have a car it is much better. Plus there are a few nice breweries in Port Moody that are worth stopping at on your way back to Vancouver City.
5. Big Cedar and Kennedy Falls
If you’re looking for an easy and beautiful hike to do in Vancouver then this is the one for you. The trail starts from the Mt. Fromme Parking Lot in North Vancouver, it is about 10km return and takes 3 – 4 hours. It is dog friendly so we took along our friends’ dog Batman and he had a blast. It is a bit easy to get lost, but just make sure you follow the orange trail markers and you should be fine. Along the way you come across Big Cedar Tree, a massive tree that shows what the forest would have looked like had it not been logged.
At the end of the trail you get to see the beautiful Kennedy Falls, a great place to stop for some food and to soak in the atmosphere. You can get public transport out to the hike, however you would then need to add on about a kilometre to walk from the bus stop to the trail head.
6. Dog Mountain at Mount Seymour
The Dog Mountain hike is another nice and easy one that starts at the Mount Seymour Parking Lot. Unfortunately you cannot get public transit out to it so need to take a car. The hike is 5km return and usually takes under 2 hours, however, we decided to do it in Spring when there was still quite a lot of snow on the ground. If you do it this time of year then definitely wear hiking boots (we didn’t and slipped and slid everywhere). Also watch out for the treacherous Spring melt! My brother did not and fell through a crevice into the creek – no harm done but dangerous nonetheless.
Once you reach the end / mid-way point, the lookout over Vancouver is truly spectacular. A good place to relax, eat some lunch and soak in the view. It is also a great trail to go snowshoeing on in the winter as well! Unfortunately no public transit out to this one, so you will need to borrow or hire a car.
7. Bowen Lookout at Cypress Mountain
Continuing with the trend of easy hikes, the Bowen Lookout hike is only a 4km round trip and takes just over an hour. On the drive up to the car park and trailhead stop off at a lookout called Barrett’s View which gives you a beautiful panoramic view of Vancouver.
The view from Bowen Lookout really is spectacular, you obviously get a great view of Bowen Island but also Howe Sound and the Sunshine Coast. If you have more time on your hands and you want to make this hike more challenging then continue on up to St. Mark’s Summit. Unfortunately, just like Mount Seymour, there is no public transit up to Cypress Mountain so you would have to take a car.
8. Pacific Spirit Regional Park
This regional park is full of hiking trails and is located right in the midst of Vancouver. You can basically make this hike as long or short as you choose. We decided to do a simple 2hr/7km stroll around the park. It is nice and peaceful through the forest and is well sign posted. Definitely worth it on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you’re not feeling too ambitious.
9. Binkert Lions Trail
Known as “The Lions” this is a bit difficult but incredibly rewarding hike in the Howe Sound Area – only a half hour drive north of Vancouver (no public transport I’m afraid). It takes about 6 hours return and is best done in the late Summer. We learnt that the hard way by going in early Summer when there was still too much snow making it incredibly dodgy. Nevertheless, the views were stunning and the trail gorgeous.
Summiting the Lions can be a bit tricky and there are a lot of ropes that are permanently there to help you out. This hike is definitely for the more fit and experienced outdoor enthusiast.
10. Stanley Park
I’m going to end this blog post with a hike that is located right in the downtown core of Vancouver – the magnificent Stanley Park. This park makes you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere rather than in the middle of one of Canada’s largest cities. The extensive trail networks mean that you can easily spend 2 hours just wondering around the park.
The top attractions to see in Stanley Park are not just the beautiful and enveloping fir trees but you can also check out the First Nation totem poles, Hollow Tree (a massive red cedar trunk that you can stand in the middle of – don’t really recommend this), and the lovely Beaver Lake. Stanley Park is also located right on the coast and no trip into the park would be complete without popping out to see the beautiful Third Beach.
Going on hikes around Vancouver was a huge part of what made our time living there so spectacular. The outdoor opportunities that Vancouver offers is out of this world and this list is a mere snippet of what the area has to offer. I highly recommend checking out the blog Vancouver Trails which we found to be an indispensable resource for planning our weekend hikes.