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Explore Mother Nature's Playground: Vancouver's Best Outdoor Activities



It's not surprising that British Columbia's beauty is one of the main reasons that people come to visit or live. After all, the opportunities are almost limitless and can be enjoyed throughout the seasons. From skiing and hiking to biking and beaching, Vancouver has it all. This is a city that's known for its West Coast rain, but if you're dressed appropriately, it won't get in the way.

A short drive from downtown Vancouver is the scenic town of Squamish. Here, you'll find jaw-dropping views at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola. When you're at the top, take advantage of the various trails and lookout points. If you really want to get your exercise in, there's the Sea to Summit trail that starts at the bottom of the mountain and will take you to the top (in lieu of the gondola). This can take about three to five hours. This attraction is wheelchair and stroller accessible.

For those sun-filled days, lazing around on a beach seems like the most logical thing to do. Lacarno and Jericho beaches offer a relaxing reprieve from the bustle of downtown Vancouver. You'll find these beaches to be less busy than Kitsilano Beach and other beaches downtown.

Stanley Park is the quintessential Vancouver experience and can be explored for many hours. In the park, you can enjoy trails, an aquarium, beaches, a pool and water park. It's great for all ages here.

An added bonus is that many of the outdoor activities are free so you can save a few bucks for attractions that do cost something.


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Outside the City
WildPlay Elements Park


Get outside of the city and head to WildPlay Park, just outside of Maple Ridge's Golden Ears Park. What was once an old campground has now been revitalized into an interactive park that will keep kids (and adults) happy and entertained. The park is a series of treetop adventures, zip lines and other adrenaline-inducing activities. The treetop adventures get you to traverse zip lines, swing on ropes, climb scrambling walls and hanging nets, test your balance on wobbly bridges, and navigate other fun challenges. The park has areas that are specifically for younger children and those ages 12 and up. This park is only about an hour away from Vancouver and is an ideal day trip.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Adults may think WildPlay Elements Park is just for kids, but they have courses that are challenging and fun for those ages 12 and up.

Natasha's expert tip: There is a campsite close to the park that's awesome to camp at during the warm months. Not only are there groomed sites, there are bathrooms and water stations that make life a little easier.

Read more about WildPlay Elements Park →


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North Shore
Lighthouse Park
Photo courtesy of Natasha John


This rugged, forested park is located along West Vancouver's Marine Drive and is only about 30 minutes from downtown. The trail from the parking lot to the lighthouse viewpoint is steep wear your hiking boots and be prepared for a strenuous return back up to your car. If you don't have a car, you can hop on a bus from downtown Vancouver and it will take you directly to a bus stop that's right by the park's entrance. Lighthouse Park features several trails that lead to tidal pools. In order to keep the impact on the environment to a minimum (and to avoid getting lost), you'll want to stick to the designated paths. When you're ready to bus home, go to the other side of the street from where you were dropped off. It doesn't hurt to look at Translink's website for schedules.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Lighthouse Park is a relatively easy hike that's suitable for all ages and the views are a sweet reward for your efforts.

Natasha's expert tip: There are a few areas of flat rock, which makes for a perfect spot to take a little rest, snack on a picnic, or take in some sun while a beautiful view makes itself at home in front of you.

Read more about Lighthouse Park →




About 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver is one of North Vancouver's most famous attractions, the Capilano Suspension Bridge. This beautiful and fun spot sees some 800,000 visitors each year. The original bridge was built in 1889, and although it has been replaced since then, there has been a bridge here ever since. Swaying 230 feet above the Capilano River, the plank and cable bridge stretches 450 feet from one side to the other. Other attractions at the park include the world's largest privately owned collection of totem poles, totem carving demonstrations, their Treetops Adventure, hiking trails, two restaurants and a gift shop. In Vancouver without a car? During the busy season, there is a shuttle that you can catch downtown that will take you to the bridge.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Capilano Suspension Bridge and Regional Park is a well-groomed outdoor playground with plenty of great photo opportunities.

Natasha's expert tip: Edgemont Village is just a short drive away and a lovely spot to grab lunch after a trip to the bridge.

Read more about Capilano Suspension Bridge and Regional Park →


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Grouse Mountain


Conveniently located just a short drive from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is open all year long for outdoorsmen and women to enjoy. During warmer months, put your fitness to the test and hike the Grind. This challenging trail is not for the unfit and is a 1.8-mile steep trek up the mountain. Be sure to wear proper footwear and bring plenty of water. In order to get down, you'll need to hike to the top where you can get the gondola back down. If you'd rather go for the views and to explore the top of Grouse Mountain without working up a sweat, you can also take the gondola up. At the top are animals (like grizzly bears), zip lines, dining options, a wind turbine with a lookout observatory, winter activities (like snowshoeing, skating and skiing), and so much more.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Grouse Mountain has something to do all year long-skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.

Natasha's expert tip: If you're doing the Grouse Grind, be sure to bring plenty of water and pace yourself while you climb the very steep hike.

Read more about Grouse Mountain →




The full Seawall is 17.5 miles and goes along the city's waterfront, and if you can't do the full stretch, make sure to do the 5.5-miles around Stanley Park. This lovely jaunt is perfect on a sunny day to bike, walk, run and blade around. Going around the Seawall is best enjoyed with a few stops here and there, and fortunately for you, there are benches, beaches and scenic spots to stop along the way. Wherever you decide to stop, epic views are always within reach. If the sun is shining and the temperature is rising, pack your towel and swimsuit and take advantage of the sandy beaches and cool ocean waters. No matter what your skill level is, the Seawall is enjoyable for all ages and athletic abilities. Scattered along the Seawall's edge are also plenty of restaurants and cafes that make for a perfect pit stop.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The Seawall is 17.5 miles of paved beauty and one of the most relaxing and fun ways to explore Vancouver.

Natasha's expert tip: There are set paths for specific directions and different lanes for those walking or biking, so make sure to be in the correct lane and avoid getting in the way of oncoming traffic.

Read more about Seawall →


Locarno and Jericho Beaches


This stunning piece of shoreline offers views of North Shore Mountains, Howe Sound, Stanley Park, Bowen Island, Vancouver's skyline, passing cruise ships and spectacular sunsets. Both beaches have large sandy shorelines, as well as grassy areas that are ideal for picnicking. Jericho Beach has windsurfing boards for rent, and Locarno is a designated "quiet beach". Lifeguards are on duty from mid-May through Labor Day. There is a beach concession where you can purchase drinks, ice cream, hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and other fast food delights. Public washrooms and change rooms are also located within the same vicinity. Wherever you end up laying down your towel, there are a few washroom facilities spread out along the beach.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Slightly off the beaten path, Locarno and Jericho Beaches are less busy than some other beaches in the city.

Natasha's expert tip: If you're into bunnies, check out Jericho in the spring for baby bunnies. They're in the bushes between Jericho Pier and the concession stand.

Read more about Locarno and Jericho Beaches →


Stanley Park


Located in downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park offers a green oasis for city dwellers that stretches over 1,000 acres of land. Lord Stanley of Preston opened the park in 1888, and at the time it was a haven for gathering various material and food. Today, Stanley Park is home to half a million trees, the Vancouver Aquarium, the Malkin Bowl, carved totem poles, monuments, beaches, a lighthouse, restaurants, and plenty of trails to take in the fresh air. During the summer months, the Malkin Bowl hosts a series of concerts that are the perfect way to spend a warm evening in the park. If hiking through forests isn't your thing, take advantage of the Seawall where you can run, walk, or cycle the 5.5 miles around Stanley Park. The lush greenery is a welcome escape from the busy city and though it's right downtown, you will feel miles away.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Stanley Park is 1,000 acres of rainforest in an urban setting. This beautiful park has so much to do, you could spend days here.

Natasha's expert tip: There's a small water park along the Seawall and it's a great way to cool kids down on a hot day.

Read more about Stanley Park →


Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge


A majestic and lush rainforest set in the heart of North Vancouver offers some much-appreciated solitude from the city. The park is loaded with hiking trails, an ecology centre, and a suspension bridge. The best part of it all? Everything is free. Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge has been open to the public since 1912 and is a local favorite. The natural beauty here is simply stunning. While you may see people cliff diving and swimming, it can be quite dangerous depending on water levels. If you're planning to swim, be sure to visit Lynn Canyon Park's website to see where they recommend. This easy-to-find park is ideal during the summer months, but can also be explored and enjoyed throughout spring and fall. There are several different trails you can do and they vary in difficulty. Some are definitely more challenging than others, so plan your route accordingly.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge is a fabulous and free suspension bridge to visit.

Natasha's expert tip: Make sure to know the trail you're taking and wear proper shoes. If you go off the path, things can get quite steep.

Read more about Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge →


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Outside the City


The Sea to Sky Gondola takes you on a 10-minute ride up the mountain to the Summit Lodge. Once at the top, this magnificent piece of nature is yours to explore. There are hiking trails, a suspension bridge, viewing platforms, mountain biking trails, walking paths, rock climbing, a lodge and more. For the experienced hiker, there are an abundant number of trails that will challenge and inspire. For the less experienced, there are two walking trails that have been carved out and are great for all ages and abilities. The Panorama Trail and Spirit Trail are pretty flat, making them pretty easy to navigate. They offer guided tours every day at 11 am and 2 pm. If you're unfamiliar with the area or worried about getting lost, these guided tours are awesome and take out the guesswork for you. Hungry? There's a fully licensed restaurant and bar at the top.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The Sea to Sky Gondola has incredible views and gives you access to trails you may not normally have the ability to get to.

Natasha's expert tip: If you're planning on going more than three times in a year, you should definitely consider the annual pass as it equates to about three regular tickets.

Read more about Sea to Sky Gondola →


Whistler Blackcomb


With an average annual snowfall of 30 feet and glacier skiing that often lasts into August, it's no surprise that Whistler Blackcomb is known for being one of the best ski resorts in the world. The two mountains have a combined acreage of over 8100 acres, with 200 marked trails and 38 lifts able to move 61,407 skiers per hour. The longest runs are seven miles so you can spend less time on the chair and more time on the slopes. There are also several snowboarding parks and pipes. Going with kids? Children six and under ski free. After a day of skiing, head down to Whistler Village for some apres ski action. Staying the night? There are plenty of ski-in and ski-out lodging options around the mountain. During the summer, ride down the mountains rugged terrain on a mountain bike and cool off in one of the nearby lakes.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Though it's a two-hour journey from Vancouver, Whistler Blackcomb offers world-class skiing during the winter and mountain biking, fishing and hiking during the summer.

Natasha's expert tip: No car? There are plenty of chartered buses that make their way to and from Whistler every day from Vancouver.

Read more about Whistler Blackcomb →


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Meet Natasha John

Natasha is not born and raised in Vancouver, but is pretty certain it's her spirit hometown. After jumping around Canada, Texas, Arkansas and the UK, she has her feet firmly planted in...  More About Natasha

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