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5 Best Outdoor Adventures in (and Around) Vancouver

3/16/17 by Matt Wastradowski

It’s impossible to think about Vancouver without imagining the city’s scenic harbor, urban beaches, lush rainforest, and other natural wonders that are rarely far from its urban core. No matter how busy a Vancouver vacation may be, it’s never *truly *complete without time on the sands near English Bay, a quick trip to nearby sights, or amidst the greenery in Stanley Park.

To that end, we’ve rounded up five of our favorite outdoor adventures in (and around) Vancouver, B.C. Whether you rarely stop moving or like to slow down and enjoy the sights, you’re sure to find a viewpoint, trail, waterfall, or beach to love.

1. Cross the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge.

The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge offers visitors up-close views of a dense rainforest.
The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge offers visitors up-close views of a dense rainforest. Chris Morisawa

North Vancouver’s lush rainforests and dense wilderness make it a haven for popular suspension bridges. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park garners most of the spotlight, but don’t skip Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge for an awe-inspiring afternoon.

The heart of the park is a 164-foot high bridge, which towers over a rushing creek below and promises the chance to experience British Columbia’s renowned forests from an all-new perspective. Best of all: It’s free to cross the bridge and explore the entirety of the park.

If heights aren’t your thing, Lynn Canyon Park offers 30-Foot Pool, a chilly (yet refreshing) swimming hole; scenic Twin Falls (find the Twin Falls Bridge for a closer look at the falls); and numerous hiking trails—perfect for getting up close and personal with a rainforest full of second growth trees, most of which are 80 to 100 years old.

2. Cycle the Seawall.

Cyclists can ride just along the surf from the Seawall in Stanley Park.
Cyclists can ride just along the surf from the Seawall in Stanley Park. Arvin Asadi

Vancouver hosts the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path—which means plenty of opportunities to check out the city’s scenic water views). Make the most of the 17.4-mile Seaside Greenway by renting a bike and exploring the mostly flat, paved path on a sunny afternoon.

Highlights are almost too numerous to mention. Skyline views await around every bend in the path, beaches and parks line seemingly every step of the trail, colorful cruise ships and freighters come and go in the distance, and Stanley Park offers no shortage of natural beauty (more on that later). Elevation gains are negligible, so cyclists won’t feel too winded along the way, either. (That said, save some energy for the hills near the University of British Columbia.)

Pro tip: The closer to downtown you are, the more pedestrians you’ll encounter. Start early to avoid the biggest groups, and exercise patience in crowded areas. (Odds are good there’s a great skyline or beach view to distract you from the throngs, anyway.)

3. Hike Stanley Park.

Vancouver’s Stanley Park is a natural oasis in the middle of the city.
Vancouver’s Stanley Park is a natural oasis in the middle of the city. Kyle Pearce

Visiting Vancouver without seeing Stanley Park is akin to visiting Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower or New York City without strolling through Central Park. Sure, you *could *do it, but we wouldn’t recommend it—especially if you’re an outdoors lover.

At roughly 1,000 acres, Stanley Park is the largest urban park in America. And it’s best experienced from the seat of a bicycle or along one of its numerous hiking trails.

The walking and hiking trails, in particular, promise natural beauty that belie the fact you’re not far from the heart of British Columbia’s biggest city. We’re particularly fond of the Avision Trail, where you can see the underside of the iconic Lions Gate Bridge; Lovers Walk, where you should keep an eye out for two trees that appear to be locked in a lovers’ embrace; and the Seawall Trail, where views of the Vancouver skyline and bustling harbor span out in every direction.

4. Visit Grouse Mountain.

Grouse Mountain offers a mix of invigorating outdoor recreation opportunities and stunning views of Vancouver.
Grouse Mountain offers a mix of invigorating outdoor recreation opportunities and stunning views of Vancouver. Murray Foubister

There are generally two ways to experience Grouse Mountain, not far from the suburb of North Vancouver, and which one you opt for will depend on how much of a workout you’ll want to put in.

The first will surely tempt hardcore hikers: a thigh-busting trek up the mountain. The heart-stopping hike includes a 2,800-foot ascent over the course of 1.8 miles. As if that’s not intimidating enough, the narrow trail features more than 2,800 stairs to climb along the way. But consider yourself warned: This trail is recommended for hikers in strong physical condition. While 150,000 hikers make the trip each year, it is a physically-demanding outing that can easily take two or more hours.

The other method doesn’t demand nearly as much sweat equity: Hitch a ride on the SuperSkyride Aerial Tramway for a relaxing trip to the summit.

However you get there, you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied. Grouse Mountain is popular with skiers and snowboarders in winter, and hikers in spring, summer, and fall. Visitors can also nosh on food at eight restaurants and cafes at the summit, take a zipline tour, and enjoy panoramic views of the Grouse Mountain wilderness and downtown Vancouver skyline from inside a wind turbine.

Should you elect to scale the mountain on foot, you’ll be happy to know you’re actually prohibited from hiking back down; simply pay $10 ticket for a return trip on the SuperSkyride, and enjoy the scenery you were too exhausted to notice earlier.

5. Tour the Sea-to-Sky Highway.

The Sea-to-Sky Highway has incredible viewpoints around every turn.
The Sea-to-Sky Highway has incredible viewpoints around every turn. Ruth Hartnup

Most of the aforementioned adventures can be done on foot or two wheels, but for this final outing, we’d recommend renting a car and making a day (or two) of seeing the sights along the Sea-to-Sky Highway.

Also known as Highway 99, the winding route connects Vancouver and Whistler. Along the way, visitors are enchanted by stunning scenery, quaint towns, historic sites, and outdoor adventures.

Whatever you decide, it’s hard to go wrong along the way. We’re fond of Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver, where visitors can hike out to a rocky island at low tide; Shannon Falls (the province’s third-tallest waterfall, accessible via an easy, 10-minute walk); the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, where hikers can discover unmatched views of Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains; and Whistler, a beloved mountain town that delivers world-renowned skiing and snowboarding each winter, as well as heart-pumping mountain biking and hiking each summer.

Originally written by RootsRated for ExOfficio.