Canoeing Indian Arm

Exploring Vancouver's wild and watery backyard

words by Emanuel Smedbøl

Paddling up Vancouver's Indian Arm


Adventure is important. We’re nourished by the thrill of discovery, of seeing and doing new things, of getting cozy with our comfort zone. And while adventure can be found almost anywhere in any myriad of forms, for me, raised on the woods and wilds of interior BC, it most often means being outdoors. Which is kinda tricky as I live in the city and have neither a car nor driver’s license.

Canoe camping trip into the Indian Arm Cooking up some dinner in the wilderness near Vancouver, BC Evening in the British Columbian woods


Vancouver’s Indian Arm was always just kinda there on the map, looking for all the world like an extension of boring old Burrard Inlet, provoking neither intrigue nor interest. But one day all that switched, when I realized how much easier and imperative it was to explore these nearby places. You don’t need to plan big trips or book time off work or save up a lot of money or travel long distances. You don’t even need a car. Adventure can be close to home.

Morning calm while camping on the Indian Arm, BC Swimming in the fjords of British Columbia Camping in the BC Backcountry Picking wild berries in the coastal woods Granite Falls on the east side of Indian Arm

Indian Arm is BC’s southernmost fjord, extending some 20 km north of Burrard Inlet. The mountain walls are steep, forested with old growth, dotted with waterfalls and the occasional abandoned cabin. You really only need to paddle maybe an hour to leave most of the buildings and motorboats and people behind. We were told that it can get busy during high summer weekends, but we went midweek and saw hardly anyone. It’s crazy how close to the city it is, while feeling so utterly remote.

There are three user-maintained provincial campgrounds perfectly spaced out for a leisurely paddle. It’s essentially wilderness camping, but it’s easy going as you don’t have to lug a heavy backpack and there are plenty of creeks to get your drinking water from. Depending on the time of year, there may also be berries to gather or salmon to catch. The scant few beaches are mostly rocky and barnacled but we found the swimming to be decent and the lounging to be unsurpassed. It is a truly beautiful place, and a unique Vancouver experience.

Camping under the stars just outside of Vancouver, Indian Arm Morning coffee in the woods Canoeing down the Indian Arm Abandoned cabins in the BC Backcountry Exploring Twin Island, Indian Arm Camping and canoeing, Vancouver, BC Twin Island lighthouse with a mountain view up Indian Arm


Indian Arm is ridiculously close. You can get to Deep Cove by public transit and rent a canoe from there, or with a car you can save a bit by renting elsewhere and setting out just about anywhere east of the Second Narrows. You can scale the trip to whatever length you want, dipping in to Jug or Twin Island for the day or taking your time and spreading the Arm out over 3 days or more. I always recommend taking as long as you can and savouring the experience. There are few greater pleasures than travelling by canoe, and fewer still than exploring the wilderness right in your backyard.

Grey skies on our canoe trip up Vancouver's Indian Arm