Hitting those Vancouver Trails! The 11 Best Hikes in Vancouver for 2018

Nailing down the best hikes in Vancouver is actually a pretty difficult thing to do.  Why? Well, because Vancouver trails are not only abundant, but are all of such world class hiking quality, how are you supposed to choose just a few? The average person in Vancouver hikes quite regularly, and it’s because of this that Vancouver hiking trails are not only in spectacular settings but kept up really well. We demand a lot from these trails!

Hikes near Vancouver range from ridge walks to mountain peaks, forest walks to beautiful waterfalls or shining lakes, and even shoreline adventures to appreciate the diversity of the West Coast.  But there is no way I have managed to do all of them so I have recruited some of my pals to help share some tips, and their pictures, of the best Vancouver hikes!

I have divided the trails into areas, generally speaking. This is clearly nowhere near a full contingent of what is available in Vancouver, but I try to keep these hikes to a manageable level, length, and ascent. I don’t know when hiking became the equivalent to summiting Everest, but most of these hikes are doable by anybody in fair shape with a little bit of grit.

Hitting those Vancouver Trails!

The 11 Best Hikes in Vancouver for 2018!

Vancouver Hiking Trails on the North Shore

Kennedy Falls Hike

The Kennedy Falls trail head starts at the end of the line of Mountain Highway in North Vancouver. The first several hundred meters are easy trail while linking into the Big Cedar Trail. Once merged into this trail, it becomes a rugged single track trail that weaves up and down towards the falls.
There are over a dozen small creek/run-off crossings that take some inventive fording to pass without getting wet. The trail itself is rough and heavily wooded. There are many dead fall trees and twists and turns. The trail crosses through areas of old growth forest with massive cedar trees, nothing says the West Coast like huge trees!
Kennedy falls hiking trails in Vancouver
Leading to the falls, you can hear the booming water from hundreds of meters away. As you approach Kennedy Falls, the mist in the air is enough to soak all your clothes almost completely through. There are some easy and safe areas to climb down and take perfect, unobstructed shots of the huge falls or soak your feet in the cold mountain water.
Once heading back, the hiker will need to pay close attention to the orange placards on trail to not get lost.
We ran most sections so the 10km round trip took us 2.5 hours; a walk would be about 5 hours. The trail is dog friendly but there are a few challenging spots for the four legged friends- so no pugs.
Kennedy Falls hike north vancouver hikes
-Wisdom and photos provided by Wade and Mary, trail runners and friends extraordinaire

 Mount Seymour Hiking

Mount Seymour hiking trails in vancouver

One of the most popular hikes in Vancouver, hiking Mount Seymour isn’t actually as strenuous as most people think climbing a ski mountain would be. The trail, is about 9 km roundtrip with only an elevation gain for 450 metres.  Mainly because you drive up most of the mountain, and then park in the ski hill parking lot. Follow the BC Parks sign at the end of the lot along the trail that runs parallel to the ski run.

The coastal mountain views from the top of Seymour are some of the best you’ll find, and with access to this beautiful hike a mere 20 minutes from downtown, there really is no excuse! There are a ton of different trails crisscrossing Mount Seymour Provincial Park, so once you conquer the mountain, have a check with some of the other options along the way!

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Capilano Pacific Trail to Cleveland Dam

Cleveland dam hike Capilano valley hike

Many of the hikes in North Vancouver are uphill.  Actually more like up a mountain.  But the trail to the Cleveland Dam isn’t a slog, but it does take you through beautiful West Coast forest, past stunning canyon views, and all the way up to the breathtaking Cleveland Reservoir.
When my friend Alexis and I did this trail, we parked at Ambleside Park, all the way at the sea, and followed the trail up the Capilano River. The trail ambles up throughout the hike, but rarely do you feel like you are climbing. The Cleveland Dam hike is another good trail to do on a very hot day, since you’re under the lush canopy the entire time.  You can park closer than Ambleside and hop on the trail mid way if you want to cut down the 7.5 one way trail by a bit.
Cleveland reservoir best hikes in north vancouver

Vancouver Hikes Near the Beach

Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver

This is a lovely park with, a lighthouse, as if the name didn’t tip you off. The park has many easy walking trails and affords grand views of the quaint lighthouse and the seaside. the trails run all over the park, most starting at the parking lot at the end of Beacon Lane.

The Valley of the Giants Trail is notable for wandering through hundreds of huge Douglas Fir trees and eventually brings you to the ocean viewpoint at Eagle Point. To get to the lighthouse itself, take the Beacon Lane Trail, or to get a better view of the lighthouse follow the West Beach Trail. None of the trails in this park are difficult or long, but a few hours could definitely be spent exploring the whole park and really soaking in the sea views.

Stanley Park Seawall

Probably the most famous trail in Vancouver, the Seawall is completely ubiquitous of Vancouver and outdoors activity. The Stanley Park portion of the Seawall is 11km and is literally a wall that goes along the sea.

Starting from Coal Harbour off West Georgia street, walk counterclockwise in order to end up at English Bay and hit a patio for cocktails afterwards. The Seawall is paved, so I wouldn’t necessarily call the Seawall a hike, but it is a beautiful trail that allows for the true worship of Vancouver’s best views.

You pass by some of the most famed totem poles in Vancouver, around the Brockton Point Lighthouse, and past the famous Siwash Rock, an outcropping off of Stanley Park’s West coast, just north of Third Beach.

Hikes between Vancouver and Whistler

There are many great hikes on the Sea to Sky Highway to leads to Whistler, and they all provide epic views, though depending on the hike there are some challenging trails to be certain.

Squamish is located approximately 45 minutes from Vancouver, up along the Howe Sound along a truly beautiful ocean side road.

Hiking the Stawamus Chief in Squamish

Stawamus Chief hike squamish bc

The Chief is basically a rite of passage for any Vancouver hiker. The trail head for the Chief hike is on the east side of Highway 1 and is impossible to miss. The hike itself is a slog the lands you atop the second largest granite monolith in the world.  This hike is not easy, but it does have major reward when you get to the top of the Chief and the views of Howe Sound, the ocean and the mountains are incredible.

Proper hiking gear is a must, don’t do this in your cheap walking shoes. Ropes, ladders, and bouldering keep the Chief eventful, and maybe a little nerve wracking for those fearful of heights. If you go all the way to the third peak, the total roundtrip is 11km, and you should allow 4 hours at least, but definitely plan for more as you’ll want to take in the views.

The Stawamus Chief trailhead is at the Chief viewpoint for Shannon Falls parking lot on the east side of Hwy 1.

Petgill Lake

This trail is popular mainly because it’s under the forest canopy, but the high point is relativly low at 775 metres, so it can be explored all year around. There are many nicely spaced viewpoints of Howe Sound and north towards Squamish, as well as of Petgill Lake itself.

The trial starts from the Murrin Provincial Park lot, and then walk 100 metres up the road to an old wooden sign, which makers the trailhead. The first section is pretty steep, but after that it’s give and take.  The round trip is 11.5km and does eventually take you right down to the lake itself.  So maybe a dip if you’re there in the summer?

The Sea to Summit Trail

Sea to Summit trail squamish hikes

Newly built at the same time of the Sea to Sky Gondola, this trail is just south of the Chief and is 7.5km up the mountain.  The elevation gain is just short of a kilometre, so clearly it’s not an easy walk in the woods, but the views along the way and at the top are killer. This trail is a great alternative to the Chief and will have much less hiking traffic on it, but still get you similarly epic views.

The trail leaves from the gondola parking lot, and merges with the Chief trail for a time. But make sure you divert off, or else you’ll find yourself on the Chief! Once you get to the top, if you have energy, you can then hike around the trails at the top of the gondola, or if you’re done for the day, have a beer on the patio and then hop on the gondola for the ride down ($15).

The Sea to Summit is dog friendly, which the Chief is not (due to the ladders and ropes!), but you must keep your dog on a leash.

The Best Hikes Near Vancouver (aka you need a car)

Diez Vistas Trail from Bunzten Lake

Diez Vistas bunzten lake port moody hikes in vancouver bc

I’ve done the Diez Vistas hike out of Port Moody a couple of times now, and it really is a stunner. Most of the hike is under the canopy, so it’s cool and you won’t get roasted by the sun. The first hour or so is a slog up, you need to get high enough to enjoy the vista after all! You start getting viewpoints after the first hour and then go in and out of the forest after that.

Because the trail wraps around the side of the mountain, the variety of views is huge, from Indian Arm to Downtown Vancouver and Deep Cove.  This trail is also dog-friendly, but bring water for them as there are no water sources at the top.

The downside of this trail is the long walk back to the Bunzten Lake parking lot once you descend back to lake level. It’s exposed and basically just walking along a boring gravel road. But it’s still an awesome hike.

Park in the Bunzten Lake day lot, at the end furthest from the lake. Start the trail from that corner of the lot, you will cross a bridge over the end of the lake and then follow the trail into the forest.

Mount Thurston in Chilliwack

View from the top of Mount Thurston Chilliwack best hikes near Vancouver

Granted the Mount Thurston Hike is a solid 75 minute drive from downtown Vancouver, but the mountains in the Fraser Valley are amazing and the views awarded by this hike are epic.  I did this hike several times when training for the Ince Trail, and it’s truly spectacular. The start f the hike is not the easiest to find, but most GPS’s will take you there.  The trail head is at the end of Chilliwack Bench Forest road off of the Prest Road exit from Highway 1.

The first 2 hours of the hike are ascending, until you come atop the ridge and find yourself with incredible mountain and valley views in every direction.  The surrounding meadows are lush with grasses and wildflowers, and maybe even some wild strawberries if you’re there at the right time! Round trip, Mount Thurston trail is about 15 kilometres, but you can make it shorter depending on how far you go along the ridge.

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Golden Ears Trail in Maple Ridge

golden ears hike near vancouver panorama ridge

I hiked the Golden Ears a few years back with my friend Wade.  The Golden Ears are two sister mountains in Maple Ridge, and are a fixture of basically all mid-Fraser Valley views. There is a lot of hiking in this area, as the Golden Ears Provincial Park is one of the best parks in Vancouver, as well as hosting several campgrounds.

Most folks will hike the Golden Ears as an overnight hike.  You can go up and back down in a day, but a) why would you want to, and b) HOW!? No way. The 12km trail starts with a slow ascent to Alder Flats campground, where you get your first up close view of the peak. The trail then starts to climb through the forest, though once you get above the tree line, the views are endless and always.

Golden Ears provincial park golden ears trail vancouver

We camped at Panorama Ridge, about 750 metres from the glacier at the top of the mountain.  There is an emergency shelter here, but don’t rely on that, so bring everything you need (aka camping gear, so see my packing list for the West Coast Trail, that’s where I make all my hiking and camping gear recommendations!). There is a glacier creek running through Panorama Ridge, so fresh water is ready, and the views from every angle are incredible.

Some people will stay atop the Golden Ears for 2 or 3 nights. We just did the one, I would have liked to do more, so next time!

Hike to Alder Flats Golden Ears provincial park

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Hiking in Vancouver BC

Hiking in Vancouver is one of the main reasons people love to live here! Even from the city centre we can easily access all kinds of different trails of all lengths and difficulties. There is absolutely no shortage of new hikes to try out and they change all the time! The ocean, the mountains, and the forests of Vancouver are all major reasons to come around and check out why we all love living here so much!

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3 thoughts on “Hitting those Vancouver Trails! The 11 Best Hikes in Vancouver for 2018

  1. a few other favorites are Black Tusk and Joffre Lakes, although it sounds more like hitting a beach than hiking in the middle of nowhere! You have to BOOK these in advance to ensure a campsite! INSANE! Golden Ears now has some nice platforms at the top, I might be crazy enough to try it again this summer! It says “Difficult” for a reason! Probably the toughest hike I have done around Vancouver!
    But the outdoors is what makes Vancouver so amazing right???

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