We love the cosmopolitan excursions in Vancouver as much as the next traveler, but we’re also huge fans of the fact that it’s a great gateway to surrounding outdoorsy adventures. After all, the city is flanked by mountains, forests, and the Pacific coast. Best of all, plenty of these escapes are accessible as day trips.
The best way to see Vancouver, surprisingly, is to leave it. The glittering skyline, spread along the pacific coast and topped off by the 62-story Shangri-La Hotel, is perhaps only truly appreciated atop nearby Grouse Mountain. Travelers can reach Grouse Mountain Peak two ways: the easy way and the hard way. The option that requires less effort is taking a smooth ride on the Grouse Mountain Skyride — North America’s largest aerial tram system, if you’re counting — 4,100 feet up to the top. The more difficult option, the one that awards street credit upon your downtown return, the aptly named Grouse Grind. Measuring just under three kilometers, this nearly vertical hike is a fitness fanatic’s challenge.
Sea to Sky
Perhaps it’s counterintuitive to leave one set of roads for another, but the Sea to Sky Highway, also known as Highway 99, leads straight to sensible adventure. While the full route takes you much further and starts at the U.S. border, the most beloved segment stems from greater Vancouver and connects drivers to the illustrious ski town of Whistler. The highway, known as one of the ultimate road trips in the Pacific Northwest, skirts snow-capped mountains, broad seascapes, and rumbling waterfalls. By the time you make it to Whistler — as beautiful in warmer months as at its snowiest — you’ll complete a crash course in Canada’s landscape essentials in under two hours.
Seeking a quaint, quiet corner of the Vancouver area? Island hop from downtown’s Granville Island by water taxi to Horseshoe Bay and board the ferry bound to Bowen Island’s Snug Cove, and you’ll find lots of charm. A handful of eateries and shops await on land, allowing a leisurely stroll before you embark on any of the island’s more active pursuits, like scenic hikes along a series of tried-and-true trails. Of course, if you want to take it easy, no one will judge the laid-back traveler for grabbing a sampling of local eats and opting for an afternoon picnic on its Sandy Beach instead.
Just an hour outside of the city by car, Squamish — sharing its namesake with the indigenous people of British Columbia — is most known for its adjacent Stawamus Chief Provincial Park. The locals’ preferred destination within the park is the Stawamus Chief, a 700-meter granite monolith that ranks amongst the largest in the world. An aggressive hike to “The Chief,” as its known in the area, is possible by a number of trails leading to one sweepingly picturesque view of British Columbia. Lucky hikers might even sight the area’s protected Peregrine Falcon.
Lynn Canyon Park
While Vancouver’s famed Capilano Suspension Bridge is easily accessible within city limits, another suspension bridge, at North Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon Park, is also worth the trek — and is free to visit. The park is just over half an hour outside of the city by bus, and its 50-meter high suspension bridge is a great perch for viewing the twisting waterfall below. While we highly encourage this day trip for all manners of outdoor fun, the surprisingly popular and dizzying cliff jump below the bridge is very much not recommended.