Vancouver Adventure Guide: 25 essential hikes, sights, and day trips around Vancouver, BC

25 essential hikes, sights, and daytrips around Vancouver, BC

by Emanuel Smedbøl

Watersprite Lake: one of Vancouver's best hikes

WELCOME TO VANCOUVER!

Sure, Vancouver is a vibrant and multicultural city full of diverse neighbourhoods, great restaurants, microbreweries, parks, cafés, fun events, all that typical city stuff — but let's be honest: what really sets it apart is its stunning location. Vancouver's close proximity to temperate rainforests, ocean beaches, isolated islands, and rugged mountain backcountry are what set it apart and make it so special — there are hundreds of great hikes, sights, and daytrips into some of the most varied and beautiful landscapes Canada has to offer. These are 25 of our most favourite. Just remember, if you're heading into the backcountry hike safe and leave no trace.

For more city-oriented info, check out our Vancouver City Guide. Or, jump to an area outside of the city that you want to explore:

The North Shore

Sea to Sky

Tri-Cities / Ridge Meadows

Fraser Valley East

Islands

Morning light over Vancouver's North Shore Mounains

THE NORTH SHORE

Vancouver's North Shore has some of the most accessible wilderness anywhere. Only a half hour from the city you can find plunging canyons, crystal clear creeks, old growth rainforest, and a handful of rugged mountain hikes (many with a scenic view over the city).

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LYNN CANYON & THE HEADWATERS

Lynn Canyon is one of our favourite places in Vancouver. There's a whole network of easy creekside trails, waterfalls, and refreshing little swimming holes — the more popular of which can get quite busy during the summer months, but you can usually find a quiet area if you know where to look. If you're feeling adventurous make your way north into the Headwaters — check out the intermediate 14km trail to Norvan Falls, or head up the difficult backcountry trails to Coliseum Mountain or the Hanes Valley route to Grouse Mountain.

Difficulty: Easy (Lynn Canyon) to Difficult (Hanes Valley & Coliseum)

Hiking in Vancouver's North Shore forests Evening light at Rice Lake, North Vancouver Cold creek swims in Lynn River, North Vancouver Exploring Lynn Canyon, North Vancouver On top of Coliseum Mountain on Vancouver's North Shore

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ST MARK'S SUMMIT

You'd be hard pressed to find a better view than from St Mark's. With sweeping panoramas over Howe Sound and a scenic bluff, this has become a very popular trail in the last few years. Come on a weekday if you can! Part of the 29km Howe Sound Crest Trail, you start on Cypress Mountain and can continue past St Marks to Mt Unnecessary, the Lions, Mt Harvey, Brunswick, and Deeks Lakes, but St Marks is worth the trip all on its own.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Clouds lifting over Howe Sound from St Marks Summit The view from St Marks Summit on the Howe Sound Crest Trail Foggy hike in the forests of Vancouver Clouds over Vancouver's North Shore Mountains

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CYPRESS

There's a bunch of things to see on Cypress including mountain top hikes and rustic cabin spotting, but our favourite is probably just Cypress Falls down near the highway. The lush canyon feels like something out of time. But also worth checking out is the trail to Eagle Bluffs, with a swim in Cabin Lake on the way.

Difficulty: Easy (Cypress Falls) to Intermediate (Eagle Bluffs)

Lush canyons at Cypress Falls, West Vancouver Swimming in the canyon at Cypress Falls, West Vancouver Snowshoeing up to the old cabin community on Cypress Mountain Cabin Lake is frozen over, Cypress Mountain, Vancouver

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LIGHTHOUSE PARK

One of our favourite places to catch a sunset or share a picnic, Lighthouse Park offers some pleasant forest strolls and a beautiful rocky cove-filled coast.

Difficulty: Easy

Watching the sun go down from Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver The lighthouse of West Vancouver Refreshing ocean swims at Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver

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MT SEYMOUR

One of Vancouver's three ski hills in the winter, Seymour offers a variety trails with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the city spread out far below. Our favourite trails are the 9km trek up to the Mount Seymour summit, and the shorter but still scenic trail to Dog Mountain. Another place worth a visit is the Seymour Valley Trailway — a paved bicycle route up the valley bottom through old growth forests.

Difficulty: Easy (Dog Mountain, Seymour Valley Trailway) to Intermediate (Mt Seymour Summit)

Hiking the Elsay Lake Trail, Seymour Provincial Park The trail to Dog Mountain, Seymour Provincial Park, Vancouver Dark mountain lakes above Vancouver, BC Exploring the Seymour Valley Trailway

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CAPILANO CANYON

The Capilano Suspension Bridge is world-renowned as one of Vancouver's premier attractions, but there are a couple other things worth checking out, including the Capilano-Pacific Trail. Starting from shores of the Burrard Inlet, you can hike up past canyons and forests and a salmon hatchery to the photogenic Cleveland Dam.

Difficulty: Easy

Looking down the Capilano Reservoir from Cleveland Dam, Vancouver Capilano Suspension Bridge The forest platforms at Capilano Canyon Park Hiking the Capilano-Pacific Trail, West Vancouver

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DEEP COVE / QUARRY ROCK

Deep Cove is a quiet little village nestled on the shores of Burrard Inlet. Only 30 minutes from Downtown Vancouver, it is the terminus of our favourite section of the North Shore-spanning Baden Powell Trail, and the setting off point for the popular the Quarry Rock hike or a paddle up the Indian Arm. Be sure to grab a huge tasty treat from Honey's Donuts after your adventure.

Difficulty: Easy

The view from Quarry Rock, Deep Cove, Vancouver The Baden Powell trail to Quarry Rock, North Vancouver

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INDIAN ARM

BC's southernmost fjord, the Indian Arm is a paddler's delight. Whether you set off for an afternoon jaunt to the Twin Islands or for a long weekend circumnavigation, there is plenty to see and experience. Highly recommended for all locals. For a bit more info read our Indian Arm blog post.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Morning mountain reflections on the Indian Arm, Vancouver Paddling up the Indian Arm, one of Vancouver's best adventures

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SEA TO SKY

The 30 minute drive up the Howe Sound to Squamish is one of the most spectacular stretches of highway around, especially in the late afternoon. Stop in at Lions Bay for a swim, Porteau Cove for a view down the Sound (or a snorkel), and at Galileo's for a coffee and a treat. Past Squamish you're driving through mostly forests until you hit Whistler, but there are a number of scenic pullouts and trails to hit up on the way.

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STAWAMUS CHIEF

The Chief is another Vancouver classic, and one that we try to hike at least once a year. It's a steep but rewarding climb, and with picturesque views of Howe Sound and three endpoints to choose from, there's plenty reason to keep coming back for more.

Difficulty: Intermediate

High above Howe Sound from the Stawamus Chief Parachuting off the Stawamus Chief, Squamish

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WATERSPRITE LAKE

Watersprite is a relatively recent discovery, but it has quickly become one of our favourites. It just seems like something out of a fairytale. There's a new trail that avoids all the mud and swamps, but still plan a full day for this one.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Mountain reflections at the stunning Watersprite Lake, Squamish Evening light looking down the mountain valley, Vancouver, BC

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ELFIN LAKES

Elfin Lakes are a great hike at any time of the year. The first half of the trail is just through forest up old access roads, but once you hit the Red Heather Hut there are stunning mountain views all the way to Elfin Lakes and beyond. In winter the snow piles up over 2m (7ft) thick, so pack your snowshoes! eservations are now required if you plan on staying overnight between June 29 – Oct 17. For more info read our Elfin Lakes Snowshoeing post.

Difficulty: Intermediate

The Elfin Shelter covered in snow, Elfin Lakes, BC Snowshoeing to the Elfin Lakes Hut, Vancouver, BC Sunrise over the mountains of Garibaldi, Elfin Lakes, Vancouver

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GARIBALDI LAKE

Garibaldi Lake is a great setting off point to a number of hikes like the Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge, but it's also a satisfying destination on its own. A sparkling turquoise blue, the icy waters are perfectly refreshing on a hot summer's day, and watching the distant glaciers slowly turn pink with the sunset is unparalleled. Reservations are now required if you plan on staying overnight between June 29 – Oct 17.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Relaxing after a long hike up to Garibaldi Lake Cold mountain swims in the bright blue waters of Garibaldi Lake Swimming in sparkling glacier water at Garibaldi Lake

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MUSICAL BUMPS

Whistler has a bunch of great trails, and the Musical Bumps is easily among our most favourites. We like to take the gondola up to the High Note Trail overlooking Cheakamus Lake, then connect onto the Musical Bumps and hike the open alpine all the way to Singing Pass. From here you can either loop back down to Whistler via a long forest slog or take the branch trail up to Russet Lake and the Himmelsbach Hut. For more info read our Musical Bumps post.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Hiking the High Note Trail above Cheakamus Lake, Whistler Hiking the alpine meadows of the Musical Bumps, Whistler Overnight at the Russet Lake Hut in the Whistler backcountry

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WEDGEMOUNT LAKE

Wedgemount is a difficult trail with substantial elevation gain (and no gondola, sad sad). Climbing 1100m (3600ft) in just 7km (4.3miles), at can times it feel like a heroic effort to pull yourself up. Much of the trail is through forest, but once you climb out onto the rocks and see towering mountains, glaciers, and the grey-blue waters of the lake all the effort is immediately worth it. Just be sure to be easy on your knees and leave yourself plenty of time to hike back down as the steep descent can take almost as long as it did coming up.

Difficulty: Difficult

Beautiful Wedgemount Lake, Whistler Hiking the shoreline of Wedgemount Lake Camping below the Wedgemount Glacier, Whistler BC

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SEA TO SKY GONDOLA

If the idea of a steep sweaty hike up the Chief doesn't get you excited, you can opt for a pleasant gondola ride up instead — and then cap it off with a round of drinks or snacks from the mountaintop restaurant. For the more adventurous, you can scramble up the Via Ferrata or Sea to Summit Trails and take the gondola back down, or use the gondola as a jumping off to a backcountry hike to Skypilot and beyond.

Difficulty: Easy (gondola) to Difficult (Via Ferrata, Skypilot)

Taking the Sea to Sky gondola up into the clouds The suspension bridge at Sea to Sky Gondola Mountain views of Skypilot from the Sea to Sky Gondola suspension bridge Wathing the evening rays light up Howe Sound from the Sea to Sky viewing platform

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TRI-CITIES / RIDGE MEADOWS

Suburbs stretch eastward from Vancouver, but the city is contained by a vast wall of steep mountains and wilderness to the north. Here you can find beautiful lakes, great hikes, and plenty of backcountry camping opportunities at the northeastern edge of Metro Vancouver.

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BUNTZEN / SASAMAT LAKE

Buntzen and Sasamat lakes are popular swimming spots in the Anmore - Port Moody area. There are scenic picnic areas, nice trails around the lakes, and a couple wilderness treks including the magnificent Halvor Lunden trail, a collection of challenging 8-12hr loops with spectacular views of both Indian Arm and the Coquitlam mountains.

Difficulty: Easy (swim/picnic) to Difficult (Halvor Lunden)

Giant old stumps and mountain views from Buntzen Lake, Vancouver, BC Forest reflections from Sasamat Lake Evening swim at Sasamat Lake, Vancouver, BC Heading into the rainforest at Buntzen Lake Looking out over Indian Arm and Belcarra from the Diez Vistas Trail viewpoint, Vancouver, BC Scrambling up the Halvor Lunden Trail, Coquitlam, BC High above the Indian Arm and Vancouver on the Halvor Lunden Trail

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PITT MEADOWS

The approach to Pitt Lake is one of the prettiest areas around. A vast series of marsh and meadows under the Pinecone-Burke and Golden Ears mountains, you can walk for miles on the extensive dyke system or hop on a boat and head up the lake. Pitt Lake is one of the world's largest tidal lakes and notoriously temperamental, so we haven't canoed it... yet

Difficulty: Easy

Looking up the mountain valley from Pitt Meadows Heading out on an adventure on Pitt Lake, BC Clouds hanging low over the lush marsh at Pitt Meadows, Vancouver Little beach forts on the shore of Pitt Lake Foggy morning on the Pitt Meadows Dykes, Vancouver

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WIDGEON CREEK

From the Pitt Lake dock you can paddle across the river into the Widgeon Slough, a maze of meandering creek systems that slowly leads you up the valley. It's a beautiful paddle, but if you come late in the summer you may have to pull your canoe up some of the shallower sections. Camping is available at the Widgeon Creek Camp, and there's a steep overnight trail to Widgeon Lake.

Difficulty: Easy (depending on tides and currents on Pitt River)

Paddling up Widgeon Creek, Vancouver, BC Kayaking into the mountains of Widgeon Creek, Vancouver, BC Exploring the lush forests of Widgeon Creek, Pitt Meadows

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GOLDEN EARS

Golden Ears is the largest provincial campground in the lower mainland, with plenty of hiking, canoeing, and backcountry camping opportunities as well. Check out Alouette Beach, Gold Creek, and the thick moss forests of the Spirea Trail.

Difficulty: Easy

Storm rolling in over Alouette Lake, Golden Ears Provincial Park Mossy forests in Golden Ears Looking down the lake, Golden Ears Provincial Park Hiking the Gold Falls Trail, Golden Ears Clouds rolling in over Alouette Lake, Vancouver BC

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FRASER VALLEY EAST

Driving east, you leave the flat farmland of the Fraser floodplain and enter the Cascade Range near Chilliwack and Hope. Towering mountains line the highway, the rough dirt roads beckon you into the wilds. It's a couple hours' drive from Vancouver, and one of the areas we've explored the least, but there is plenty to discover.

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CASCADE FALLS

It's a long drive northeast of Mission to get to the Cascade Falls, but once you're there it's just a quick walk out onto the scenic suspension bridge.

Difficulty: Easy

The suspension bridge over Cascade Falls, Mission BC

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CHILLIWACK LAKE

Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park is predominantly a boating and camping destination but there are some nice trails in the area too, most notably the Flora Peak Trail which offers sweeping views down the lake and across the border into the Washington's snow-capped North Cascades.

Difficulty: Intermediate

High above Chilliwack Lake on the Flora Peak Trail Hiking the Flora Peak Trail, Chilliwack, BC Taking a res above the North Cascade Mountains, Chilliwack, BC

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JONES LAKE

It's a bit of a rough drive in, but the striking mountain views above Jones Lake make for a great camping getaway. The lake is a reservoir operated by BC Hydro, and you can expect low water levels and lots of submerged stumps in the off season. Unfortunately there's also a bit of a party scene, and you can probably expect to see a lot of garbage as well.

Difficulty: Easy

Morning mountain view from our tent at Jones Lake, Hope, BC Morning swim at beautiful Jones Lake, BC

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SILVER-SKAGIT

Just south of Hope, the Silver-Skagit Rd cuts through some beautiful mountain terrain. Camp out at Silver Lake, or make the long drive down into the Skagit Valley Provincial Park where you can camp, boat, or hike the trails. Much like Jones Lake, Ross Lake is a hydro reservoir so if you come in the shoulder season expect low water levels and a lot of stumps. You can hike the steep Skyline Trail into Manning Park, or cross the unguarded border into Washington to the stunning Hozomeen Mountain and Desolation Peak access trails. For more info read our Silver Skagit post.

Difficulty: Easy

The stump-filled lake bottom at Ross Lake, Skagit Valley Provincial Park Throwing rocks into Silver Lake, Hope, BC

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ISLANDS

There's no better way to unwind and enjoy BC's relaxed coastal lifestyle than by hopping on a ferry to one of the islands. Whether you're camping, kayaking, or renting a cabin and hitting up the quiet towns, there's just something really special about these rural arbutus-lined rocks.

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SALT SPRING ISLAND

The largest and most populated of the Southern Gulf Islands, Salt Spring also happens to be our favourite. Camp at Ruckle Park, drive up Mt Maxwell, swim in St Mary's Lake, and grab some frozen yogurt and baked goods in Ganges.

Difficulty: Easy

Ocean mists rising above Mt Maxwell on Salt Spring Island, BC Farm scenes at Ruckle Park, Salt Spring Island Swimming in St Mary's Lake, Salt Spring Island

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GALIANO ISLAND

We've barely scratched the surface of Galiano, but the stunning hike up the eponymous mountain was enough to make it on our list. While you're here, check out the shops of Sturdies Bay, take in the coastal views from Bodega Ridge, and spend a couple nights relaxing at the Montague Harbour campground.

Difficulty: Easy

Looking out over the Southern Gulf Islands from Mt Galiano Taking a break on the Galiano hiking trails Coastal scenes from the Southern Gulf Islands

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BOWEN ISLAND

Bowen has a bit of a different flavour than the Southern Gulf Islands, but its proximity to Vancouver alone makes it worth a visit. Stroll through the shops and galleries at Snug Cove, take in a unique view of Vancouver from the top of Mt Gardner, or catch a stunning sunset from the rocky coast of Cape Roger Curtis.

Difficulty: Intermediate (Mt Gardner)

Sunset from Cape Roger Curtis, Bowen Island, BC Hiking up the Mt Gardner Trail, Bowen Island, BC High above Vancouver from the top of Mt Gardner, BC

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