Vancouver, British Columbia is among the most outdoorsy cities in North America. Surrounded by mountains, lakes, rivers, and ocean, wilderness is easily accessible, and often can be reached by public transportation.
Wander in the Woods
You don’t need to travel very far from Vancouver to take a wander in the woods. Right downtown is the 1001-acre Stanley Park, which includes more than 16 miles of trails meandering through West Coast rain forest, many of which follow the scenic coasts of English Bay and Burrard Inlet. Those seeking a slightly greater challenge can reach Grouse Mountain by bus from downtown in less than an hour to tackle the legendary Grouse Grind, a 1.8-mile trail that climbs over 1000 feet that is often referred to as Mother Nature’s stair master. While on the North Shore, a stroll across the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge is also a fine way to enjoy an afternoon in the wilderness.
Breeze down the trail on the two-wheels
Those familiar with mountain biking need not be reminded that the legendary trails of Vancouver’s North Shores are a mecca for riders that are often referred to as the birthplace of freestyle mountain biking. Those looking to head out with a group should check out the North Shore Mountain Biking Meetup. Visitors who left their bikes at home can find a variety of mountain bike rentals and tour guides at Endless Biking.
Fly down the line
The North Shore of the city (and slightly further afield) is home to several zip-lines with epic views of the old-growth forest. Grouse Mountain’s zip-line circuit is a great way to reward yourself after tackling the afore-mentioned Grouse Grind.A slightly farther, but well worth the trip, Superfly Ziplines in Whistler runs regular buses from the city to their famous zip-line, which is over one kilometer long, 600-feet high, and enables riders to reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. That one is not for the faint of heart.
Paddle away at sea
As a city that attracts outdoorsy people, Vancouver has developed a strong sea kayaking industry. Rentals can be found just across the Granville Street bridge from downtown on Granville Island (which is a tourist attraction in its own right) for kayaking around the island and in the False Creek area. Those who would rather get into the open ocean, however, will have to go slightly farther to Jericho Beach (also accessible by bus) for their rentals. Both locations are serviced by EcoMarine Paddle Sports Centers.
Getting a tan may sound slightly less adventurous than some of the above-mentioned activities — but it need not be. Jumping in the frigid Pacific Ocean from any one of eight oceanside beaches is a challenge at any time of year, no matter how hot the day, while a visit to Wreck Beach, Vancouver’s best-known nude beach, is also a unique adventure unto itself.
One of the least known and appreciated adventures from Vancouver, however, is island hopping. The Georgia Strait between Vancouver and Vancouver Island is filled with small sleepy islands (referred to as the Gulf Islands) all of which are accessible by the government-run ferry service. Both ferry ports (Tsawwassen to the south of the city, and Horseshoe Bay to the north) can be reached by public transportation and service a number of these islands, each of which has its own character, but are generally known to be inhabited by friendly artisans, artists, eccentrics and quirky small-town folk.