9 Essential Hikes in Vancouver, British Columbia

One of the things we love most about living in Vancouver is its close proximity to nature and endless outdoor adventure. We’re happy to share this guest post written by our friend Matt Inouye, a fellow Canuck and the man behind Mountain Guru, a free online guide to over 100 Vancouver area hiking trails.

9 Essential Hikes in Vancouver, British Columbia

Are you a visitor to Vancouver who’s looking to get outdoors and tackle some of its best hiking trails? Or maybe you’re a Vancouver resident that’s in search of some hiking inspiration?

Well, you’re in luck! Here are nine essential hikes to add to your Vancouver bucket list – ranging from thigh burners to world-class views and forest adventures.

It’s time to put on your hiking boots, pull up your socks and head outdoors – nature is calling!

2012-05-26 Grouse Grind 004.jpg

1. Grouse Grind

Renowned throughout the world as Mother Nature’s Stair Master, this trail will test your will power and sanity. You cannot say you’ve hiked Vancouver without hiking the Grouse Grind at least once.

Although, to get the full Grouse Grind experience, you’ll need to hike it twice because the first time around you’ll curse the day you were born – your head will throb, your arms will tingle and tears will pour. Perhaps for the first time in your life, you will truly understand what it means to feel pain. For the second time around, your deflated ego will recover as you pace yourself to reach the top.

Hiking Tips for the Grouse Grind:

  • Slow and steady wins the race. It’s a cliché, but fitting for the Grouse Grind experience. Once you gracefully hike past crowds of the nauseous and wheezing around the quarter mark, you’ll know what I mean. If you feel the need to break, just slow down your pace – don’t stop.
  • Dress light. Even on a rainy day, your body temperature will rise easily. There’s nothing hipster about skinny jeans while hiking up a mountain.
  • Bring your ID. Once you’ve grinded your way to the top, there is a fully licensed restaurant serving Whistler beer. Nothing is quite as rewarding as hiking to the peak of a mountain, then taking a refreshing sip of beer while sitting on a patio overlooking the Lower Mainland and Georgia Strait.

More info Hiking the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver

2. Quarry Rock

For a great entry-level trail with an easy to reach, one-of-a-kind view, try the Quarry Rock trail located in North Vancouver (located about 30 minutes from Downtown Vancouver).

The final stretch of the Baden Powell trail ends with the Quarry Rock viewpoint facing Deep Cove and the Indian Arm. The views are a great reward at the end of this moderate trail.

More info Hiking Quarry Rock in Deep Cove

3. Diez Vistas

Looking for a trail less travelled? Head over to Port Moody and hike the Diez Vistas. Translated to “10 Views”, the Diez Vistas trail is a 7 km stretch situated between Sasamat Lake and Buntzen Lake that overlooks the Indian Arm, Burrard Inlet and Fraser Valley.

This central trail is unique in that it offers exceptional views in nearly every direction. At a comfortable pace, the first viewpoint is around 45 minutes. Great for trail runners and weekend warriors.

Hiking Tip: Don’t call it a day when you reach the first viewpoint. Be a trooper and push on for another 20 minutes. You will arrive at a big rock and resting place with an epic view of the west, facing towards Downtown Vancouver and Burnaby. Bring binoculars if you have them.

More infoHiking Diez Vistas in Port Moody

4. Buntzen Lake Loop Trail

Vancouver’s first hydro-electric power was generated from this lake, known as Lake Beautiful (and rightfully so). The 8 km trail loops around the lake and features both a suspension and a floating bridge.

Hiking the Buntzen Lake Loop Trail is moderately easy, with the exception of one intense hurdle up a 200 meter hill about halfway in. For dog owners, the beach area has a large off-leash fenced in area that runs right into the lake.

More infoHiking Buntzen Lake Loop Trail

5. The Chief

About a 45 minute drive north of Vancouver is the Lower Mainland’s second-most popular hike, known locally as “The Chief.”  The Stawamus Chief is a gigantic granite rock with three peaks towering over Squamish and the Sea to Sky highway. Hiking to the first peak is one part mountain climb and one part elevated boardwalk – it’s not your average walk in the forest!

Hiking Tip: Pack your camera, a bottle of wine, some food and a blanket. While everyone else is baking in the sun just happy they reached the top; you’ll be taking in the full experience while relaxing with good food and drink. Also, keep your eyes out for eagles. The Squamish area has one of the highest populations of wintering bald eagles in North America.

More infoHiking the Stawamus Chief in Squamish

6. Lynn Peak Trail

Dubbed the Goldilocks’ peak (by me), the Lynn Peak trail offers a variety of sceneries and hiking options. It offers “not-too-long” and “not-too-short” distances as it branches northeast from the Lynn Loop trail, at the Lynn Headwaters Regional Park in North Vancouver.

The Lynn Loop starts with a refreshing bout of switchbacks as you ascend a good portion of elevation. Keep your eyes open for a sign guiding you towards the Lynn Peak trail. This portion is a mix of high-elevation ridges and dried out gravel creek beds, until you reach the viewpoint that offers an interesting view that faces southeast into the heart of Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

More info Hiking the Lynn Peak trail

7. Howe Sound Crest Trail (the Bowen Lookout)

Best hiked on snowshoes in the middle of winter, the first leg up to the Bowen Lookout is the perfect Pacific Northwest hiking experience. You don’t know Vancouver until you’ve hiked the narrow and daunting switchbacks of the Howe Sound Crest trail, only to arrive at one of the best, relatively unknown views of the Howe Sound and Sea-to-Sky valley. Bonus points for sliding down the trail on your way back.

Hiking Tip: Start your hike about an hour before sunset. By the time you reach the viewpoint, you’d think the sun sets in the west specifically for this view. Don’t worry about hiking back in the dark. Just bring a headlamp and let the lights of the Cypress Mountain ski resort light your path.

More info — Hiking Bowen Island Lookout and the Howe Sound Crest trail

8. Juniper Point Trail

Many who have hiked this trail know it as, “that trail that ends with the awesome view of the Georgia Strait”. One of the easiest ways to get a sense of Vancouver’s signature temperate rainforest climate is by hiking the Juniper Point trail.

Almost always guaranteed to be muggy and damp, this short hike through the North Shore forest is abundant with Arbutus trees and dog-walkers.

More infoHiking the Juniper Point trail

9. Hollyburn Peak Trail

With the same length as the Grouse Grind, but only half the elevation gain, the Hollyburn Peak trail is one of the North Shore’s best year round hiking trails.

Starting at the cross-country skiing parking lot on Cypress Mountain, the trail winds up Hollyburn mountain to a peak at over 1,300 meters above sea level. From there, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the Lower Mainland with its stunning 360 degree view. A motivated go-getter can hike to the peak in an hour.

More infoHiking the Hollyburn Peak trail


Author bio: Matthew Inouye is a passionate hiker and the founder of Mountain Guru, a free online guide to over 100 Vancouver area hiking trails that continues to supply tourists, the hiking community and weekend warriors with downloadable trail maps, reviews, directions and much more since 2006. Get hiking inspiration by following him on twitter – @goMountainGuru

Photo credit – Grouse Grind photo was sourced from Flickr Creative Commons.


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