Hiking North Vancouver
|The mountains and forests of
Vancouver's North Shore are more than just decorative frosting for (if
we do say so ourselves) an attractive city. And no, you don't have to be
a teenage mountain biker to enjoy them. Hiking, snowshoeing, nature
walks, kayaking and river-dipping are all within easy reach of downtown.
Following are some samples of Vancouver's almost-wild edges—three
accessible, affordable and downright delightful outdoor experiences—to
give you a taste of what's out there.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the most popular tourist
attractions in Vancouver, and there is something to be said for swaying
over a 230-foot (7o-metre), vertigo-inducing chasm. But if you prefer to
avoid the madding crowds and the $27-per-person entry fee, there are
other options. Capilano River Regional Park is a 400-acre evergreen
forest surrounding the Capilano River, which runs out of a dam spillway
at Capilano Lake. A network of trails runs throughout the park, offering
a much less populous landscape of sword ferns, river pools and steep
granite canyons—as well as the occasional river kayaker shooting the
Class III rapids. and coho salmon). You'll also find a good trail map
here: all trails are easy on the eyes and the legs, but one of the best
is the Capilano Pacific Trail that winds along the west side of the
river. Two other trails of note: the Second Canyon Viewpoint Trail gives
some dramatic upstream views, and the Giant Fir Trail leads you to
Grandpa Capilano, a 61-metre (2oo-foot) old-growth Douglas fir that was
putting down roots when Columbus was still in diapers.
To access the hatchery entrance to the park, take the Lions Gate Bridge
to Highway #1 and exit at Capilano Road/ Grouse Mountain. Head north on
Capilano Road and turn left on Capilano Park Road, just past Edgemont
The parking lot is at the end of the road.
Indian Arm is a miniature version of the B.C.-Alaska Inside Passage,
minus the nasty squalls and rip currents.w and scenic day paddle. The
put-in at Deep Cove is only 3o minutes away from downtown, making an
afternoon kayak a surreal experience when you've been surrounded by
office towers mere moments before.
As traditional fishing and hunting grounds for several local First
Nations including the Squamish
and Tsleil-Waututh bands, the entire inlet north of the Twin Islands has
been preserved as a provincial park, and houses are few. When motor-boat
engines and passing sailboats are out of sight (the Royal Vancouver
Yacht Club maintains a rustic inn near the head of the inlet), there's a
palpable sense of being in another century.
If you go keep an eye out for eagles and deer, as well as harbour seals,
who tend to hang out on the rocks of the western shore near Silver
Falls. Spring brings millions of moon jellies (jellyfish) to the
Arm—making swimming a bit spooky—but they're basically harmless. (Avoid
the larger, reddish-orange Lion's Mane jellyfish that show up later in
the summer—they can pack a nasty sting.) Equally spooky are two gothic
power stations built by BC Hydro in the early 1900's. Though they look
defunct, one is still in operation—kicking out about 18,000 kilowatts of
power as well as occasional surges of water from Buntzen Lake.
Picnic spots abound on the Arm's inlets and along the shore, but save
room for the amazing doughnuts at Honey Doughnuts and Goodies in Deep
Cove (4373 Gallant Ave., 604-929-4988) when you get back. Boats, gear,
lessons and tours are available at Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak,
To get there, take Trans-Canada Highway #1 over the Second Narrows
Bridge toward North Vancouver.
Take the first exit to the right, 232 Dollarton Highway. Follow
Dollarton to its end right onto Deep Cove's main street, Gallant Avenue.
Snowshoeing at night is one of the great pleasures of Vancouver in the
winter. When it's raining and dreary in the city, it's usually crisp and
snowing above the 900-metre (half-mile) mark. Tromping through fresh
snow under a full moon—headlamp switched off, a thermos of hot chocolate
in your backpack is a wonderful combination of rigorous exercise, alpine
peace and indulgent escape.
Cypress Mountain offers snowshoe terrain in two flavours: in the
designated alpine resort, and out-of-bounds in the surrounding
provincial park.wy meadows and forest trails for a two-hour trip ending
at Hollyburn Lodge, a charming and rustic chalet serving food, drinks
and occasionally live acoustic music. Basic winter gear is required
(hiking boots, warm socks, ski jackets, hats, etc.), and for the $32
fee, snowshoes, poles and headlamps are provided. For more information
and advance booking, check www.cypressmountain.com or call the resort at
If you're there by day, you can head to a great beginner trail in the
provincial park, which starts at the very end of the cross-country
parking lot (you can't miss the trailhead once you hit the end of the
lot). The trails weave through the woods and, while separate from the
resort, are never too far from the groomed runs. Fortunately, they're
also not far from the fire pit—stocked with roasting sticks and
marshmallows for the kiddies—and other winter comforts of Hollyburn
Lodge. If you choose to rent your gear before you hit the mountain, the
best bets are Altus Mountain Gear (604-876-5255) on West Broadway or
Mountain Equipment Co-op (604-872-7858), right across the street.
To get to Cypress from downtown, take the Lions Gate Bridge and follow
the signs to Highway 1, via Taylor Way. Head west on Highway 1 to Exit
8, Cypress Bowl Road, and follow it for 13 kilometres (8 miles) to the
cross-country/snowshoe parking lot.