Vancouver's North Shore Mountains
Hiking, cross-country Skiing, Snow-Shoeing
Vancouver's local mountains are just a short distance from the downtown core; an average drive of 15 - 20 minutes will get you to the parking lot of the three local mountains. The parking lot for Grouse Mountain is at the base of the mountain; from there access to the mountain is by tram (for a fee) or hiking up. Parking for Seymour and Cypress Mountains is near the top. All mountains offer facilities to meet your basic needs - food services, equipment rentals, washroom facilities.
In summer and autumn, all three mountains offer walking and hiking opportunities. There are easy trails for beginners and more challenging routes for the more adventurous hiker. On clear days, spectacular views of Vancouver, its harbour and the surrounding municipalities can be seen from all three mountains.
In the winter and spring, the local mountains cater to downhill skiers and snowboarders with chair lifts and rope tows, but that costs money! Strap on your snowshoes or cross-country skis for free at Mount Seymour! My family had never tried snow shoeing before, so I drove up to Seymour Mountain. We rented snowshoes for $13 each per day for the fancy, new aluminum type (cheaper models were available), grabbed our backpacked lunch and hit the trails clutching a free map (available at the rental shop) of the mountain's trails. My two children, aged eleven and thirteen, found the experience very exciting and immediately took the lead. The trails were easily identified and simple to follow. All junction points are well marked and the trail map was easy to follow. The trails were not overly crowded. While we stopped for lunch in the snow, only one other group went past our make-shift picnic site. On the way back to the parking lot, we saw a couple of cross-country skiers and several others on snowshoes. While on these hikes, you get the awesome feeling of being alone in the woods, while at the same time having the reassurance that others are not too far away.
Images of our trip to Seymour Mountain.
Grouse Mountain offers a limited amount of cross country trails. Rentals are available for skis and snowshoes.
Cypress Bowl offers a wide variety of snow-based activities including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing and tobogganing. Cypress Bowl does charge a small fee (under $15 depending on the activity) to help offset the cost of maintaining the park and its facilities.
Precautionary Note On Outdoor Activities In The Mountains
Due to a number of hikers, skiers, and snowboarders requiring rescue from the North Shore Mountains, and the escalating costs involved, many of the mountains now have very strict policies in effect regarding search and rescue. All visitors to local mountains should inquire as to the local mountain policy before starting out on the day's activities. All hikers must lodge a hike plan at most of the area trailheads. Be smart - tell someone of your plans before you go, dress for the weather (include waterproof gear), carry extra food. If you have access, a cellular phone (fully charged) can be a lifesaver. Many mountains now charge any rescued party for the search and rescue costs if the party is found "Out of Bounds". Be smart and stick to the marked trails.
Capilano Salmon Hatchery
Located in North Vancouver, approximately 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver, the Capilano Salmon Hatchery (a truly free site!) is an educational wonderland! The hatchery's displays show various types of salmon and their life cycles, and the commercial aspects of the B.C. salmon industry.
Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary
This "close to free" site is located in the Vancouver suburb of Delta. This is a wonderful outing for children and adults alike. The sanctuary is the wintering-over stop for nearly 200 species of birds, and hosts an annual Snow Goose festival each year. Bring your binoculars, camera and guidebook. The children will have a blast feeding the hundreds of ducks.
Bear Creek Park
A wonderful stop for families with children. The municipally run Surrey park has a miniature train (small entrance fee), water park, adventure playground, picnic area, public outdoor swimming pool (summer only), running track and more. The Surrey Art Gallery is located on adjacent property.
White Rock Beach
Another family fun spot - this beach is perfect for sand-castles and other beach sports. When the tide goes out there is sand for what seems like kilometers! Lots of fish and chip shops, and a public pier and waterfront walkway lend charm to the seaside community. Lots of interesting little shops also front onto the beach. A Public beach house and museum are located near the pier.
About 30 minutes north of the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, Shannon Falls is a fantastic display of cascading water. The easy walk up to the falls through tree lined paths lead to the falls. Visitors in winter may be lucky enough to see the falls in a spectacular display of ice and icicles.
This is THE spot for families with young children!! The five-acre park is open year round Tuesday - Sunday, 10 AM to 4 PM. Maplewood Farm was once a working dairy farm in the heart of North Vancouver. Now home to goats, horses, cows, rabbits birds and much more, the popular farm hosts hand-milking demonstrations daily. Plan a picnic lunch and about two hours minimum to visit the farm. Small entrance fee (under $10 for family of four).
At the far southwestern corner of Richmond, lies the historic village of Steveston. This once booming fishing village is still home to a major portion of British Columbia's southern fishing fleet. The popular Government dock still has public fish sales most weekends of the year. Stroll the pier and check out the numerous art galleries and specialty shops. Seafood restaurants abound in the pier area. Don't forget to check out windy Garry Point Park - perfect for kite flying! Stroll along well-defined paths and watch the marine traffic head up the river.
This historic shipyard was built in 1889 to serve the southcoast fishing fleet. The site also housed a cannery until 1980. The shipyard now contains the cannery and shipyard buildings, a Japanese house with a net loft and a First Peoples house.
Open from May to October, this exhibit showcases the commercial fisheries on the West Coast. From the site it is just a short walk to the fresh fish off the boat at the government docks.
Deas Island Regional Park
Delta's Deas Island Park is a quiet gem tucked near the Massey tunnel. The park is best suited to leisurely strolls along the dyke paths leading to the Fraser River. Bird watchers should bring along camera and binoculars to the area as the park thrives with a multitude of species. There is a large picnic area, with shelter, that may be reserved by groups. The Deas Island rowing club also makes its home near the entrance to the park and rowers may be seen sharpening their skills in the Deas Slough.
No trip to Vancouver is complete without a trip to world famous Stanley Park. Perhaps Vancouver's most famous attraction, the park is packed with free things to do. Visitors who want peace and tranquility can find it along the myriad of walking trails. Start at Lost Lagoon and visit the nature house, then proceed around the Lagoon. You'll find geese, swans, and many other species of birds. The Stanley Park seawall is an ideal way to take in the view from all around the park. Visitors are welcome to walk, bike or rollerblade the 8.85 km (5.5 mile) wall. Cyclists and rollerbladers do need to proceed with caution and yield to pedestrians. In some areas, bladers and bikers are required to depart from the seawall and travel on roadways for a short distance.
The park also features a number of beaches (Third, Second, English Bay) with lifeguards on duty in the summer months. Second Beach also features a pool with wash rooms and change rooms. A children's water park is located at Lumberman's Arch and a refreshment stand is close by. The Miniature Railway (which has an admission fee) is located a short walk from the water park.
A pitch and putt golf course is located near the Rhododendron Garden and the formal Rose Garden is located near the Stanley Park Pavilion. The park also has tennis courts, located near the Lost Lagoon Nature House.
Also worth checking out (although it does require an entrance fee) is the Aquarium.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Two former stone quarries have been transformed into beautiful gardens in a spectacular setting. The park has numerous ornamental gardens, a waterfall and a rose garden. The park is a very popular setting for wedding photos. In summer months, visitors may see many bridal parties posing for photos in the tranquil setting.
Queen Elizabeth Park is a weekend favorite for many devotees of Tai Chi - the large, gently sloping lawns are often filled with those devoted to this ancient Chinese exercise. The park also offers 20 tennis courts, a pitch and putt golf course and a disc (Frisbee) golf course.
For a small entrance fee, visitors to Queen Elizabeth Park may wish to visit the Blodel Conservatory. The indoor facility is home to many exotic plant species, over 100 birds and Koi fish.
A former industrial area on Vancouver's False Creek, Granville Island is now a bustling collection of craft shops, theatres, artists' studios, a public market and even a brewery. The Island still retains its industrial roots and is still home to boatyards and marinas. The Island is a perfect place to absorb the eclectic side of Vancouver. Parking is at a premium so visitors may wish to reach Granville Island by mini-ferry (water taxi) from downtown Vancouver.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
The Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre is located in Lynn Canyon Park. The Centre offers educational programs and interactive displays focussing on the flora and fauna of the region. The park features a free suspension bridge across Lynn Canyon. Once across the bridge, there are plenty of walking trails. This is not the place for a child's stroller. Visitors with young children may want to think about using a child backpack. Walks take visitors to some spectacular waterfalls and pools. Do not be tempted to swim or dive in the pools. Please take the (posted) Park warnings seriously.
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