You might think that the Vancouver area is just a small city, but it’s actually bursting with amazing trails. Rainforest trails, roaring waterfalls and picturesque canyons are all within reach of Vancouver and you don’t even have to leave the city.
One of my favourite year-round hikes near west vancouver is a 5.2 km return trip through a moss-covered forest and along rushing Nelson Creek to Whyte Lake. It’s easy and accessible for the whole family, even in winter with microspikes.
Ambleside Park is one of West Vancouver’s most popular parks, with its 59 acres (24 hectares) of sandy beach, 1.2km shoreline Seawalk, and marine sightseeing. It was officially designated as a park in 1918 and is a great place to relax in the sun, take part in the many activities available at the park, or explore the surrounding areas.
There’s a wide range of recreational facilities at Ambleside Park, including baseball diamonds, tennis courts, a fitness circuit, a skateboard park, sports fields, and volleyball nets on the beach in the summer. There’s also a fully-supervised youth centre here, where children can enjoy a wide range of activities in a safe environment.
The main beach at Ambleside is a great spot to swim and sunbathe. Although the water isn’t as clean as other beaches in the city, it’s still a lovely place to spend the day. There are also several piers here, so you can try your luck at fishing.
If you’re into hiking, Ambleside Park is the perfect spot to start a long hike along the Capilano River. It’s an incredibly scenic route that takes you through dense rain forest and over rocky shores as it follows the Capilano River from the ocean up to Cleveland Dam, where much of Vancouver’s drinking water comes from.
This 7.5km trail is best done as a loop, so you’ll have to allow about three hours for a round-trip from Ambleside Park. It starts with a walk through the forest, over wooden bridges, and to some creeks before it emerges from the trees onto Cleveland Dam.
You’ll want to be sure to wear shoes that can handle the rocky terrain as this is a fairly steep hike. The views will be incredible though, so make sure to bring your camera.
There are several different routes to choose from when you hike through Ambleside Park, so it’s up to you how long you want to spend exploring. The most popular is the one that runs alongside the Capilano River.
Another route that leads down to the waterfront is the Kings Mill Walk, which connects you from Moodyville to West Vancouver via a separate dog area and spectacular views of the water. This is also a popular spot for people to go kayaking and other outdoor activities.
The North Shore of Vancouver is home to some fantastic hikes near the city, especially for those who enjoy nature. One of the most popular is Grouse Mountain, which provides an excellent workout while enjoying some great views.
The trail to the top is a 2.9-kilometre, one-way climb that gains 853 metres in elevation and consists of over 2,830 stair-type steps. While this trail is not suitable for those with heart or knee issues, the views are well worth the effort.
Aside from being a challenging hike, it is also a popular destination for families as it has a number of activities and attractions to keep everyone entertained. There is a movie theatre, bird park, and Lumberjack show to name just a few.
For those who want to get their feet wet, there are many lakes nearby that offer swimming opportunities. The Garibaldi Mountains are also close by and offer some stunning hiking trails with views of the ocean and mountain scenery.
Another popular trail is the BCMC Trail, which takes you up to the summit of Grouse Mountain and features a chalet at the top. This trail is a little shorter and easier than the Grind, but still quite steep in places.
To start this hike, head to the parking lot at the base of the mountain and then follow a path through thick forest. After about a hundred metres, you will see a sign that directs you to the BCMC Trail.
Once you have climbed this trail, there is a small hill where you can stop and take in the scenery. The trail then continues to the top of the mountain, where you can catch a glimpse of the Vancouver skyline.
The trail is fairly easy to navigate, but there are a few spots where it can be slippery and it’s best to wear sturdy shoes. The trail is also closed during heavy rainfall, so it’s best to plan your trip for late spring or summer when there isn’t much snow.
Hikers who aren’t comfortable climbing the grueling Grouse Grind can choose to take the Skyride, an aerial tram that offers spectacular views of Vancouver and the surrounding area. Departures are regularly scheduled throughout the day.
Whale-watching tours can be one of the best ways to see marine wildlife in Vancouver. These excursions usually last between three hours and a full day and feature naturalists who can give you an in-depth look at the area’s ecology.
There are a number of different companies that offer whale watching trips from Vancouver. These range from quick 3-hour zodiac trips to longer cruises in cruisers or yachts. The cost can vary greatly, depending on the company and the type of boat you choose.
During the winter, whale watchers are likely to encounter grey whales and humpback whales. During the summer, you’ll be more likely to spot orca whales. These incredibly large whales can weigh as much as 22,000 pounds.
Tours typically last between 3 and 5 hours and include free tea, coffee and snacks. Most tours depart from downtown Vancouver.
Aside from spotting whales, you can also enjoy a scenic ride and beautiful views of Vancouver Island. The Strait of Georgia and the Gulf Islands are home to thousands of whales, and you can often see them frolicking in their natural habitat.
The most common species you can expect to see on a Vancouver whale-watching excursion are humpback and minke whales, as well as harbor seals. However, you can also spot Dall’s porpoises and bald eagles.
Some whale-watching tours focus on seeing orcas and other killer whales while others combine a seaplane flight with a cruise around Vancouver Island. This seaplane and whale-watching combo is a great choice for travelers who want to see some stunning wildlife and incredible views, all from the comfort of a luxurious boat.
There are a number of companies that offer whale watching trips from Vancouver, including Prince of Whales, which used to be based at the Westin Bayshore Hotel in Coal Harbour but is now based out of Granville Island. As of March 2022, the company has a 4.5 Star rating on Yelp and a 5 Star review on TripAdvisor.
Most tours are fairly inexpensive, ranging from $130 to $300 for adults. There are also discounts for children under age 4.
Most whale-watching trips are a half-day in length and include complimentary tea, coffee or hot chocolate as well as snacks. They take place on semi-covered vessels and are accompanied by naturalists who can provide interesting information about the different types of whales you can see. Some trips even come with hydrophones so you can hear the whale calls underwater.
West Vancouver has a number of hikes to choose from. Cypress Mountain is the main hiking area, but there are many other trails that offer a variety of terrain and spectacular views.
One of our favourites is a short drive away in Seymour Provincial Park, where you can hike to three peaks that offer different perspectives and stunning views across the city. It’s a great place to take the family for a day out, and there are plenty of easy trails as well as more challenging ones that will test your fitness and endurance.
Another popular hiking route is in the Lower Seymour Conservation Area, where you can get away from it all and explore a forest of evergreen trees. It’s a lovely place to spend a day walking and you can find a few loops to suit every ability level, from a simple stroll around Rice Lake to a longer route that includes Lynn Canyon.
Whyte Lake is another great West Vancouver hike that takes you through a forest of evergreens to a beautiful lake with a little jetty at the end, perfect for picnics. The trail also passes by a suspension bridge so it makes for an excellent day out, and there is a small general store near the starting point where you can grab some ice cream or cold drinks before heading back down.
If you’re looking for a shorter but still scenic day out, check out the Centennial Seawalk, a paved path that runs between Ambleside Beach and Dundarave Beach, offering sweeping views of Burrard Inlet, Stanley Park and the giant ships passing under the Lions Gate Bridge. There are a number of benches and parks on the path, so you can stop at any time during your journey for a rest and a bite to eat.
Alternatively, you can make the most of the Baden Powell Trail, which is a 48km loop that winds from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay across North Vancouver’s stunning North Shore Mountains. It can be completed in sections by accessing the trail at a number of different locations, most with parking.
Among many other things, David A. Grantham is a contributing author to UmassExtension West Vancouver Blo. He is a renowned expert on real estate in BC.
Born in North Vancouver, Louisiana, Dr. Grantham grew up in Lower Lonsdale. He then went on to complete his business degree at the University British Columbia. As of this writing, Grantham has completed over 100 projects, including the development of a high rise building in Vancouver.
He is a husband, father, son, brother, and friend. He was a dedicated outdoorsman and enjoyed sports such as hunting, fishing, scuba diving, and snow skiing. His wife, Alison Grantham, and their two daughters survived him. He is survived by his wife Alison Martin Grantham and two daughters.