Vancouver Outdoors

Hiking and Climbing
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Hiking in Vancouver isn't your typical urban trudge. How many other cities can boast ancient forests, bears, and sparkling granite cliffs within their limits? Many trails meander through Vancouver's plentiful parks, giving hikers extensive outdoor choices.

Lynn Headwaters Regional Park and Lynn Canyon: Mere minutes from downtown in North Vancouver, this rugged park lying between the Capilano and Seymour watersheds offers dramatic mountain scenery and wildlife. Among the attractions here are a 600-year-old cedar and a free suspension bridge 260 feet above Lynn Creek. Hiking trails here are thoroughly developed and are geared towards novice hikers and families.

Cars can reach the park by crossing either the Second Narrows or Lions Gate Bridge and following the Trans-Canada highway to Lynn Valley Road. Another possible option for reaching the North Shore is the Vancouver SeaBus harbor ferry.

Mount Seymour Provinical Park : 30 minutes northeast of downtown Vancouver, Mount Seymour Provincial Park offers 31 miles of trails. Wildflowers, an array of animals, and towering coastal conifers are all draws in this 14,000 acre wilderness. The hike up Mount Seymour's three peaks (5.5 miles) is popular here, with great views of the city from the summit; the park also offers access to the 26-mile Baden-Powell Centennial Trail. Wilderness camping is available throughout the park.

Cypress Provincial Park: Five miles north of West Vancouver on Highway 1, the Cypress Lookout in Cypress Provincial Park offers a glorious view of Greater Vancouver. Looking down, you'll see the Lion's Gate Bridge over Burrard Inlet, the emerald isle of Stanley Park, and thefreighters in formation all along the water. Downtown sparkles, and further off lies the Peninsula, the Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island.

Cypress Provincial Park becomes berry-land from spring to fall and ishoneycombed with trails, including the rugged Howe Sound Crest Trail, a 19 mileloop that starts here and reaches beyond the famous Lion's Gate to Porteau Cove onHowe Sound. Good day hikes include the two mile Black Mountain Loop overlooking Howe Sound. Walk quietly, and you may catch a glimpse of some of the park's varied wildlife, from bears and coyotes to hawks and owls.

Lighthouse Park: As the name suggests, a major attraction at Lighthouse Park is the Point Atkinson lighthouse, in operation since 1875. Two trails to the lighthouse form a five-kilometer loop through some of the last remaining ancient forest in southern British Columbia. The park, which lies at the western end of Vancouver's north shore, features rougher terrain than that found in other parts of the city.

Pacific Spirit Regional Park: Also known as the University Endowment Lands, this large park stretches the width of Point Grey, separating the University of British Columbia from the rest of Vancouver. Like other parks in the city, Pacific Spirit preserves the wild landscape, comprised of everything from bogs to conifer forest to rocky beaches. 21 miles of multi-use trails lie in the park, some of which include steep slopes. There are also many pedestrian-only paths that allow for more secluded walking along Spanish Banks beach or through lush wooded ravines.


Only the Rock of Gibraltar is a bigger granitic outcrop than Stawamus Chief, which towers over the town of Squamish some thirty five miles from Vancouver along the road toWhistler-Blackcomb. There are thousands of climbs of varying difficulties (from 5.4 to 5.12) spread out over 12 to 15 major crags along the Squamish corridor. Among them is"the University Wall climb", which is rated the hardest rock climb in Canada. Most of the climbs are traditional, although you'll also find some sport crags, notably in the Cheakamus area of Garibaldi Provincial Park, a massive wilderness with entrances near Squamish. The most popular area is known as the Smoke Bluffs; Murrin Park is another worth checking out.

Between Vancouver and Squamish you'll find some less-travelled spots with challenging climbs. In Capilano Canyon Regional Park, the granite gorge cut by the Capilano Creek offers some good slabs. Lighthouse Park has rocky cliffs along the Burrard Inlet shore; Quartz Pillar and Comic Rocks are other names whispered by Vancouver climbers in the know.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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