While vacationing in China, I developed a fondness for hiking. Exercising my legs and camera to reach spectacular views was basically heaven to me during that trip. Following this, I had a sudden realization that I have yet to traverse any of the trails on the North Shore, minus the Grouse Grind.
It was at this moment when I resolved to spend my summer "catching up" on some of the natural wonders of the Lower Mainland, and to share some not-so-obvious wonders with others. Hopefully, this will help if you're new to the city, or just looking for ways to kill your last few weeks of summer.
Quarry Rock - North Vancouver
Transit: About 2 hours from UBC, 2 zones.
Located in the wonderful Deep Cove, this is a short 30 minute (one way) hike with a beautiful view waiting for you at the end. Bring some snacks and water for when you get to the rock at the end, it's a wonderful spot for a mini-picnic. The trail is well maintained and generally easy to hike, with the exception of the root-filled beginning. I'd strongly recommend waking up early for this one as it can get super busy by noon. On the plus side, people tend to take their dogs up this hike so if you love watching tiny dogs somehow outpace you, noon is an ideal time to arrive.
Be sure to spend some time around Deep Cove after you complete the hike, it's a very unique seaside community with a very quaint vibe. Honey's Doughnuts is a must as an after-hike treat.
Transit: About 2.5 hours from UBC, 2 zones.
If you've ever looked north at a Vancouver beach, chances are a little red and white lighthouse had caught your eye at the foot of the North Shore mountains. A long bus ride over will take you to the magical Lighthouse Park, the location of trail-like paths which all lead to rocky beaches with their own unique views. The time it takes to transit there may seem daunting, but the bus route is incredibly scenic, and is an experience on its own. Disappointingly, the path which takes you directly to the lighthouse is fenced off to the public, but there are plenty of other sights to see across the park.
While the trails are quite easy, getting around the rock-filled beaches can be a bit tricky if you don't have proper shoes on. The trail routes themselves are quite short, but definitely take your time visiting all of the different viewpoints. I'd highly recommend stopping by the Dundarave neighborhood on your way back from the park. While we didn't have a chance to on our visit, there are many small restaurants and cafes in the area for you to refuel in.
Sea to Sky Gondola
Transit: None, shuttle available for fee.
Price: $38 at the stand, $34 if purchased online a day before your trip.
This was one of the highlights of my summer. Everywhere you look on this mountain is gorgeous, it's one of those places that almost seem too perfect to exist in real life. After taking the gondola up, there is a cafe/restaurant, suspension bridge, quite a few hiking trails, and many viewpoints scattered around. There's a few tours scheduled daily as well, which are a great way to see everything the mountain has to offer.
You may want to pack your own food if you plan on eating lunch/dinner on the gorgeous patio, as the food on top is quite pricey and doesn't quite do the rest of the park justice. It's also advisable to go as early as you can, the various viewpoints can get quite crowded in the afternoon. If the fee is too expensive for you or you're feeling adventurous, it is possible to hike up onto the park and pay $10 for the lift down. Expect this to take about 3-5 hours.
Transit: Not available.
This isn't at all a hike, but Porteau Cove is a must if you're on your way back from the Sea to Sky Gondola. If the name sounds familiar, it is: I was there last year trying to capture the Northern Lights. This was my first time actually seeing the park, as it becomes pitch-black at night. This park is gorgeous 24/7; during the day you can see lush pacific northwest forests with perfectly blue water, and during the night there isn't a better place to catch the stars. There is a campground right in the park as well, which would let you see the park in both sides of the horizon.
With this brief guide, I'm quite sure I haven't even scratched the surface of what this region has to offer. Many people complain about being stuck in this city with no vacation plans, but that could be seen as a gift rather than a curse. Spend some time rediscovering the city you thought you knew, and I'm sure you won't be as disappointed staying here by the end.