Depending on where you come from and if like us you may not be able to simply swap your driver’s license in Vancouver, making a reliance on transit an essential part of how you move around. Even before the Covid pandemic, Vancouver was not particularly known for its big events and entertainment (some will disagree!) and most of the beauty of living in this part of Canada is the outdoors.
Unfortunately, most of the beautiful pictures you see on Instagram needs a few hours of driving to get there and B.C. doesn’t have affordable long-distance trains. This means that for people who don’t own a car or who can’t drive, they are limited by where transit would take them.
Due to that, one of the first things we were told when we came to Vancouver was that we can’t do anything without a car. And so for our first couple of months, we didn’t even bother checking. Obviously, this turned out to be completely wrong as there are so many hikes that can be reached just by tapping your transit pass or getting on a bus with a regular route to go even further!
One more thing to note, as we live in the West End, most of the estimated duration of the ride will be dependent on that so your journey may be a bit different. While most of the trails are accessible using the Translink network, you can do even more by getting on a ferry or on one of the privately operated buses. In short, these are all transit accessible hikes as well as trails you can get to without needing to get behind the wheel!
(Disclaimer: Trails marked with * are ones we haven’t personally done yet)
Starting with the basics with the most famous park of all. Living in the West End means Stanley Park is just in our backyard.
How to get there: Stanley park being smack in the middle of downtown, it is one of the easiest places to reach by transit.
1- Stanley Park Seawall
Probably the most talked about on every must-do in Vancouver blog, Youtube videos and influencer Instagram account. We only did the 10 km walk with minimal elevation very recently but really just to check it off the list. There are many small stops along the way and things to look at such as Siwash rock and the 9 o’clock cannon. You can watch our Youtube video (yes, we did one too) for a more detailed list of those stops. It’s best to get started from Coal Harbour especially if you’re planning to cycle throughout.
2- Lost Lagoon
Stanley park doesn’t have much elevation and walking around the Lost Lagoon, which is not very lost, is another quite easy walk especially if you’re a complete beginner. The loop around the lagoon is about 1.8 km long and is a good representation of the nature in the middle of the city that Vancouverites take pride in.
3- Queen Elizabeth Park
Another park in the middle of the city, Queen Elizabeth Park is another easy walk up Little Mountain, 152 m of altitude. The park is less of a walk in wild nature and consists of small hills with flower gardens that are blooming in the spring and summer which is when it’s best to get there. It also has a great viewpoint of the city and the Bloedel conservatory.
How to get there: Get on the Canada line and get off at King Edward station. From there it’s a 10 minute walk to the park.
4- Pacific Spirit Park
Unpopular opinion: we liked it better than Stanley Park and don’t know why it’s not as heavily promoted. There is a large network of trails to access and they’re all quite easy walks with minimal elevations.
How to get there: There are several ways to get to Pacific Spirit Park depending on where you’re coming from. If you’re coming from downtown, bus no 14 will take you close enough to the entrance. If you’re on the Canada Line, you can get off at King Edward and take the 33 or get off at Langara and take the 49. If you’re coming from the east, taking the R4 from Joyce Collingwood or the 49 from Metrotown. So depending on where you live, it should be easily accessible as it’s in the middle of the city.
5- Maplewood Flats Conservation Area
Another flat and easy trail. The conservation area is a favorite of bird watchers but is a great walk nonetheless for those who would like a change of scenery. There is really the one path to take (made one-way due to Covid).
How to get there: Once at Phibbs Exchange, both the 212 and 215 will pass by the stop Dollarton Highway at 2600 Block which is right at the entrance of the park.
Lynn Canyon Park
One of the first parks in North Vancouver we went to and a great one for beginners too. It has several trails that can be followed with various difficulties.
How to get there: From the Burrard Skytrain station, take the 209 or 210. The last stop for both lines will be around the corner from the entrance to Lynn Canyon Park.
6- Lynn Canyon Loop
After getting off the bus and walking to the Pipeline bridge, a sign to the right should detail the way to the suspension bridge. You’ll pass by the 30ft pool on the way to the bridge which is a great spot to cool off during the summer. Once the bridge is crossed, the Baden-Powell trail will lead back to the same bus stop you got off at. The loop is almost 3km long and an elevation of 140m
7- Twin Falls Loop (*)
There’s a lot of pathways inside of Lynn Canyon park. We haven’t specifically been to the waterfall yet. According to most sites, it is an easy loop that can be done in an hour. But keep in mind, there are lots of stairs!
8- Rice Lake Loop
How to get there: While it’s considered to be in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, you can get to the lake from the same starting point as Lynn Canyon, by getting off at the last stop of the 209 or 210.
Once the Pipeline bridge cross, instead of turning right towards the suspension bridge, keep going straight. There is more of an elevation gain on the way up but nothing too difficult. A small fenced area to the right on the wide trail is the starting point to get to the lake.
Once at the lake, it is more of a flat loop around it that should take about an hour to complete.
Lynn Headwaters Park
Lynn Headwaters Park is right next to Lynn Canyon and the Lower Seymour Conservation Area. It is a larger park with a variety of trails, also with varying difficulties.
How to get there: It’s the same 210 from Burrard station that goes to Lynn valley. The closest stop to the start of the park is McNair Drive at Ramsey Road and from there go through Mountain View park to get to the parking. Otherwise, stay on the 210 until it stops at Lynn Valley and either walk on the road leading to the park or start early by taking the Varley trail.
From there, you will be able to access all the below trails.
9- Lower Lynn Loop
We did the lower Lynn loop trail while attempting Norvan Falls the first time. We didn’t go early enough and with sunset being quite early in the late fall, we preferred to head back sooner.
It is quite the easy wide trail and total elevation is around 180 m. It is also quite long to do (5.5 km for the full loop) which is a good way to start doing longer walks if you are a total beginner..
10- Norvan Falls
Our first time to Norvan Falls wasn’t the most successful. From the Lynn Headwaters Parking, it’s a 14 km round trip hike. It consists of three large sections: the first one is the Lower Lynn Loop, the second one is the Cedars Mill trail which ends at a large debris chute (which is where we stopped and turned back) and finally the last section to get to the falls.
We went in the fall and even though it wasn’t really raining, the walk was quite muddy. There were gorgeous pictures of the falls being frozen in winter. But as we are not very early rises, it would’ve been difficult to get to the falls and back before it gets dark.
The second time we went, we ended up going straight up to the falls in one go in under two hours. After reaching the debris chute (again), the trail changed and was more challenging than the initial two sections and the last 200 m were particularly difficult, but it could be due to the length. That being said, the way back took longer due to tiredness.
11- Kennedy Falls and Big Cedar (*)
Another hike we haven’t attempted yet. The start of the trail is around 10 minutes from the bus stop mentioned earlier. There is a very large Cedar that has been on everyone who did this hike’s Instagram post.
It is on the longer end of hikes with 12 km and 470 m of elevation gain.
12- Lighthouse Park
How to get there: From Burrard station, take the 250 that usually goes to Horseshoe Bay and get off at Marine Drive at Beacon Lane. It’s a 5 minute walk from there to the entrance of the park.
Despite the ease of access, we kept postponing going there because our initial thought was that it would be an easy walk. The park isn’t one of the largest but it’s far from flat and has some great views. You can take a shortcut from the parking and go straight to the lighthouse. Instead we turned right at the parking to do a loop around the park.
The terrain is more rugged that what we expected and there were areas where we had to be careful especially with the rain. The entire loop is around 4 km long but it took longer than expected since we took a lot of breaks on the various spots to enjoy the views.
13- Cypress Falls Park
I kept seeing this park on Google map and completely ignoring it as the size seemed so small it felt like a little neighborhood park. After it was recommended on an online group, we decided to give it a shot.
How to get there: There are a couple of ways to get to the park, but the optimal one is to get to Park Royal on the 250 bus and from there switch to the 253. The Woodgreen drive stop will be right at the entrance of the park.
The hike there is labeled as Intermediate. More experienced hikers may say it’s an easy one so use your judgement depending on the level of experience.
One of the best recommendations we’ve read is to not cross the bridge. We ignored it for a couple of minutes and immediately changed our minds as the path didn’t seem to be clear enough. From there it’s a bit of a steep hike but it’s pretty well marked. The forest is different and was very green which gave it a whole different vibe compared to the other hikes we’ve been at.
14- Whyte Lake (*)
How to get there: If you just want to get to Whyte lake, you can start from the stop right before Horseshoe Bay on the 250 and take the Baden-Powell trailhead which will lead you right to the lake. Another way to do it would be to combine it with the Cypress Falls trail.
15- Centennial Trail
This was one of our least favorite trails but it could be because it was quite muddy on that day and we could see the highway at all time, countering the whole escape from the city vibe.
How to get there: From downtown, take the 250 or 257 to get to Horseshoe bay. From there, take the 262 and get off at Crosscreek Road at Lion’s Bay. The start of the trail is right next to the highway with a wall separating the two for the first few meters.
The trail is an out and back one with some potential for small loops. There are several picnic benches with viewpoints but because you’re mainly parallel to the road, they’re quite similar.
It’s not a flat or trail that keeps elevating, there’s lots of going up and down throughout. Towards the end, closer to Brunswick Beach, it turns into a road again. We didn’t want to go all the way back however because we didn’t enjoy ourselves as much. Luckily, there is a stop for the 262 just at the other end. So if you don’t want to return to the start of the trail, you can take the bus sooner on the other end.
16- Capilano Canyon and Cleveland Dam
This is another one of those trails that we never looked twice at at first. We never went to the Capilano suspension bridge and had heard it was a paid park. But the Capilano Canyon is separate from the paid part and it is another great transit-accessible hike.
How to get there: There are two possible ways of doing this with the reservoir being your start or end point. Either way, start by getting the 246 from downtown. You can get off at Capilano Road and from there access the start of the trail or from there get on the 236 to Grouse Mountain and get off at Nancy Green Way for the reservoir.
The first time we got to Cleveland Dam was a mind-blowing moment. We didn’t think we’d see something like this just by transit. From there, the trails are downhill to get back to the start of the park.
17- Mosquito Creek Falls
How to get there: From downtown Vancouver at Burrard station, take the 246 to Highlands and get off at any of the stops at Highland boulevard which will be parallel to the creek.
One you’re at the creek, there are two main trails, the path along the creek and then the trail up to the falls. Both are listed as easy however doing them at the same time was quite the workout with a total elevation of about 350 m over 10 kilometers there and back. It becomes shorter depending on where you start. There isn’t really much of a viewpoint at the end and the trail is a constant elevation with no flat sections. A specific point is very steep that a rope is available to go up. The falls themselves aren’t very impressive but are a good end point to take a break and maybe grab a bite before heading down.
How to get there: The 236 bus departing from Lonsdale Quay and/or Phibbs Exchange will drop you off at the base of the grind.
18- Grouse Grind (*)
I genuinely don’t think we will ever be doing the grind. It’s a long series of stairs and people challenge themselves and each others on setting personal bests. Some people even do it more than once a day (19 times is the record!).
It’s also a one way hike and the gondola is needed to head down!
19- BCMC Trail (*)
BCMC has been described as a less straightforward trail than the more popular Grouse Grind. It is not the easiest hike and is quite steep as it’s only 3 km long with an elevation of over 800 m. Like the Grind, the way down is using the gondola as it’s quite steep and dangerous.
Mount Seymour Provincial Park
Getting to the interesting parts of Mount Seymour park isn’t possible. However, that doesn’t mean there are parts of it which you can get to by transit, allowing you to explore some small parts of it.
20- Hyannis Trail, Powerline and Fisherman’s Trail Loop (including the Suspension Bridge)
Finding the right heading for this isn’t the easiest as there are so many combinations you can do. The trail network is quite complex and you’ll easily be able to identify where to go next and whether to keep going further depending on your fitness and energy level. One thing to keep in mind is that there are a lot of mountain bikers only trails.
How to get there: From the Phibbs Exchange, take the 214 and get off at Hyannis Drive. The start of the trail will be right to your left.
Hyannis trail itself is quite easy and great for a walk in the forest and there’s enough junctions to get on a different trail. We wanted to get to the suspension bridge and once there was a sign for Powerline trail, turned left until we got to Fisherman’s trail which will lead to the suspension bridge and then back to Hyannis drive for the bus back!
Note: From the Hyannis drive bus stop, you can also take the Baden-Powell trail.
21- Old Buck Trail
How to get there: From Phibbs Exchange, the 215 will drop you off at the start of the trail (Indian River Drive at Mount Seymour Road). The official start of the trail is further up but instead of walking up the road, there’s a short path right across the bus stop that will lead you there.
There is a network of trails and paths that can be taken from that start point depending on how far you want to go. The path we took was starting on Old Buck’s Trail then left on Bridle Path until we got to Perimeter Trail that led us out of the park into a cul-de-sac and straight to the bus stop and back to the start of the trail. We were planning on doing the Pauline’s rock loop but missed the start of the side trail.
There are a lot of mountain bikers there and even though they should be yielding, better be cautious and keep an eye. The part of the trail on Old Buck’s was quite steep going up. Afterwards, it was just a flat trail and then down on the way back.
22- Deep Cove
Note: Deep Cove (Quarry Rock) has been temporarily closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was the very first hikes we did when we first moved to Vancouver and as someone who had never hiked before until then, I found it to be very difficult. I don’t remember much details because I was complaining the entire time and wanted to head back almost every step of the way. The view at the end however was absolutely worth it and I’m glad I kept going!
This hike is actually considered to be one of the easiest ones and I’m looking forward for it to reopen in order to give it another try and see how much I’ve improved!
How to get there: From Burrard station, take the 211 and stay on it all the way to the end!
23- Deer Lake Park
Sometimes one just needs a nice flat trail for a relaxing afternoon walk and Deer Lake is the perfect one for that.
How to get there: There are several ways to get to Deer Lake. Once on the Expo line, you can get off at Metrotown stop and take the 144 to the Sperling Avenue stop which is right at the entrance of the park.
The loop around the park is a bit under 5 km with minimal elevation. It is frequented by families with small kids.
24- Burnaby Lake Park
Another easy loop trail around a lake, but this one is twice as long as than Deer Lake. The full loop is 10 km but also with minimal elevation.
How to get there: You will need to get on the Millennium Line to easily access the lake and get off at the conveniently named Sperling-Burnaby Lake station.
It is a very quiet loop and we ran into very few people but it’s also very good exercise for a walk or a run around it.
Belcarra Regional Park
This park is further away from where we live. As we needed a couple of hours to get there, we spent the night in Coquitlam to save transit time and did both Sasamat and Buntzen lakes in one weekend.
25- Sasamat Lake
How to get there: Once on the Millenium line, get off at Moody Centre Station. From there, take the 182 until Bedwell Bay Road at White Pine Beach where you’ll get off right at the lake.
The loop around Sasamat Lake is quite short at a bit over 3 km and also has minimal elevation but is a beautiful spot and worth the journey.
26- Buntzen Lake Loop
Looking back, we should’ve done Buntzen Lake on the first day as it’s a much longer walk with 10.5 km. It also has a 300 m elevation which is not bad if you’ve already built up endurance (yes i know, for some, this is a stroll in the park!)
How to get there: Unfortunately, the 179 bus that drops you off directly at Buntzen Lake is seasonal and only operates in the summer on weekends so plan accordingly! Another option would be to get off at the Anmore Grocery Store. From there it’s a 15 minute walk to the start of the trail.
27- Diez Vistas (*)
This is one of the more “famous” trails that we thought were out of reach. It is on our to-do list for the summer of 2021!
How to get there: Same as Buntzen lake, if the 179 is not “in season”, a 15 minute walk from the Anmore Grocery Store stop.
28- Jug Island Beach (*)
How to get there: Take the 182 from Moody Centre station and stay on it past Sasamat Lake, until the stop that says Midden Road at Bedwen Bay which is right at the start of the trail.
29- Burnaby Mountain Park
How to get there: From downtown, take the R5 which will stop in SFU at the top of the mountain.
The path to the viewpoint from the final stop to the R5 is not a difficult once and can be easily done on one of the lazier days. There are more difficult and longer trails that can be done such as the park’s full loop which is 11 km long and with 300 m of elevation. There are multiple scenic views along the way with great spots for pictures.
Even more transit accessible hikes!
In addition to all the hikes above, there are even more difficult hikes that can be accessed from the same starting points as one on the list above. We haven’t tried any of them yet and aren’t familiar with the level of difficulty and feasibility depending on the level. Most are rated as hard and have an elevation gain of 800-1200 m.
The post will be updated as we do them so you can bookmark it and refer to it in the future!
From the starting point of Lynn Headwaters:
- Lynn Peak
- South, Middle and North Needles
- Coliseum Mountain
- Mount Burwell
- Lynn Lake trail
From the starting point of Buntzen Lake:
- Swan Falls loop
- Lindsay Lake loop
- Eagle Ridge Trail