Vancouver, Canada’s gem on the west coast, is filled with lush, natural beauty to explore. From experiences like gliding down green mountains in a gondola to wandering through an exceptional collection of parks, Vancouver is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts that regularly draws patrons from all over the world. If you’re heading to Vancouver, here are four outdoor destinations you won’t want to miss.
Queen Elizabeth Park
A lavish sightseeing paradise, Queen Elizabeth Park offers magnificent views of green forests and colorful flowers along with an epic panoramic glimpse of Vancouver. A light hike takes visitors to a wide overlook featuring the Vancouver cityscape resting beneath the towering North Shore mountains – a pristine view that is a favorite for weddings and postcards. Meanwhile, the rolling green space around the rest of the 52-hectare park (128 acres) provides a blank slate and endless possibilities for visitors.
Among the most popular activities from spring to fall is picnicking, particularly on the north side of the park nearby a grove of Japanese cherry trees that blooms in April. Although there is a designated area with picnic tables and barbecue pits during warmer months, there really isn’t a bad place to have a picnic thanks to the park’s famously immaculate scenery. And if you’re looking for a break from the outdoors, the beloved Bloedel Conservatory is a tropical paradise with more than 100 exotic birds and 500 species of plants, making it one of the focal points of the park anytime of the year.
Although Queen Elizabeth Park is a terrific spot for visitors to the area, it’s also a great place to live like the locals. Guests can try their hand at lawn bowling, disc golf, or play a few sets of tennis at more than a dozen public courts. Fine dining options are also available near the peak of the park overlooking the city, making for an especially memorable night out for romance-seekers. Whether you come to simply wander through the sights, view the city, or work up a sweat with the park’s many different sporting features, Queen Elizabeth Park is a marvel that’s perfect for outdoor lovers of any age or background.
A ski resort by winter and a haven for adventure in the summer, Grouse Mountain exemplifies Vancouver’s most spectacular geographical features no matter the time of the year. While the skiing is sensational, Grouse Mountain really pops when the snow melts and the green valley below springs to life, opening up a wealth of other possibilities for visitors. At the top of the list, the Skylift (gondola) takes riders up 4,100 feet above sea level for a majestic view of forested mountainsides and the pristine Capilano Lake.
For those looking for further adventure, Grouse Mountain is also a quintessential jumping off point. The area offers outstanding mountain biking and hiking along with a spectrum of other activities, from tandem paragliding and zip lining to climbing through the enormous trees on specially-designed pedestrian bridges. There’s even a 100-seat theater at the top of the mountain that screens specialty nature films, perfectly suited for a break after a morning of traversing the region’s hiking and biking trails.
VanDusen Botanical Garden
Whether you’re a flower lover or not, you’ll likely be amazed by the wondrous offerings of VanDusen Botanical Garden, a staple of Vancouver since a defunct golf course was converted in the mid-1970s. Different species of trees and flowers bloom nearly all year long, although VanDusen is exceptionally beautiful during the fall months thanks to the spectacular bursts of blooming hydrangeas, heathers, asters, and more. In the summertime, the garden is coated with strong, sweet-smelling flowers while the spring brings visitors to see the collection of magnolias, cherry blossoms, and plenty of others.
More than just flower viewing, however, VanDusen Botanical Garden has all kinds of events and activities throughout the calendar year. One of the main features is the Elizabethan Maze, transporting visitors back to 16th century England and offering an opportunity to wander through the thick green hedges in search of the exit. Between the fresh air, stunning plant life, and magnificent walkways showcasing the very best of nature, the VanDusen Botanical Garden is an ideal spot to spend a day during a Vancouver holiday.
Just north of Vancouver’s exquisite West End, Stanley Park is a hallmark of the city and a stunning collaboration between the urban and natural worlds. With multiple beaches, a lengthy waterfront trail, endless scenic points, and plenty of integrated activities, Stanley Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s daydream that has earned its spot as one of the most popular sites in Vancouver.
One of the best ways to enjoy the park is to simply pick up the city’s famous seawall, a pedestrian/bike path that runs along the water all the way from downtown Vancouver, around Stanley Park, and all the way down to Kitsilano Beach. But the portion within Stanley Park is breathtaking, with unforgettable spots like Ferguson Point offering ideal refuges for catching a sunrise or a sunset over the English Bay. The seawall is particularly great for bikers, who can cruise the entire 22 kilometers (14 miles) or take an abbreviated route that loops back through the park past scenic areas like the Lost Lagoon and Beaver Lake.
Stanley Park is also an excellent destination for families and travelers who need to keep busy. Third Beach is a large sand beach great for relaxing on a summer day while Second Beach is perfect for young swimmers thanks to its large man-made pool built into the edge of the sand. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Aquarium is well worth the price of admission. The park has gardens, monuments, local wildlife, and much more. Simply put, if you love outdoor activities and you don’t make it to Stanley Park on your trip to Vancouver, you should probably plan a return trip as soon as possible.
Traveling Tips For Vancouver
From May through early September, Vancouver has envious summer weather that is perfect for those looking to stay active. Even at the peak of the season, Vancouver has cool mornings and evenings. The impeccable summer weather means that you’ll have plenty of company at some of the popular locations throughout Vancouver. Although there is an influx of visitors during the peak season, Vancouver’s main outdoor highlights are regularly enjoyed by the locals as well. It can be better to go during the weekday– when possible – if you’re headed to a place like Grouse Mountain or Queen Elizabeth Park.
Despite some cooler temperatures in the spring and fall, both seasons are still terrific options for experiencing Vancouver. Even in the winter, average-lows are not usually below freezing in the metro area. Plus, there are new possibilities that appear thanks to the geography of the neighboring regions, where winter sports are sensational.
But the biggest upside of Vancouver is the sheer quantity of great outdoor spots worth checking out. With several places to enjoy Vancouver’s natural beauty, your biggest problem will be choosing what to do next.