After a hard day’s work, most people can’t wait to get home and relax. But in Vancouver, the day is just beginning as everyone from office workers to kids slips into their sports clothes and hits the trails. With mild temperatures all year round and challenging mountain hikes just steps away, it’s no wonder that Vancouver is an outdoor sports haven. Here are five great ways to work up a sweat without ever setting foot in the gym.
Cycle the Vancouver seawall around Stanley Park
Just a jog away from the downtown skyscrapers, the 10km Stanley Park segment of the Vancouver seawall is so popular they’ve built separate lanes for wheeled and unwheeled travellers. At the foot of ragged cliffs overlooking log-strewn beaches, this gentle ride offers heart-stopping views of the North Shore Mountains. It’s not unusual to see couples zipping along the trail on tandem bicycles (which can be rented on Denman Street near the park entrance), or entire families soaring between sea and sky in a cheerful two-wheeled convoy.
Hike Pacific Spirit Regional Park
The seawall around Stanley Park may be as crowded as a downtown street, but there are plenty of trails in the city for hikers seeking a moment’s solitude. In Pacific Spirit Regional Park, the 763 hectares of wilderness can make you forget you’re still in the city. Go for a sunset jog along the sandy beaches, stroll around 12000-year-old Camosun Bog, or challenge yourself to the rugged path down to the Fraser River Estuary.
Kayak around the coastline
The view from the shore is magnificent but from a kayak the city takes on a different character. False Creek bobs with boaters who paddle gracefully amidst the Aquabuses taking in the sights, while the more adventurous venture around Vanier Park past the Museum of Vancouver into English Bay. You can rent kayaks on Granville Island and at Jericho Beach, or even take to the waves with a guided tour. The guides are happy to point out seals, otters, eagles, and other wildlife.
Climb the Grouse Grind
It’s hard to resist Vancouver’s North Shore with its mountains that seem to wrap around the city. From downtown, Grouse Mountain is only a short ride across the Lions Gate Bridge and home to Vancouver’s favourite challenge, the Grouse Grind. There’s a reason it’s touted as nature’s StairMaster; what this 2.9km hiking trail lacks in length, it makes up for in height. The official record time for completing the trail is 25:01 minutes, but most first-timers take a respectable 2 hours. The view of Vancouver Harbour’s calm blue waters and the city of glass beyond makes the struggle worthwhile.
Bike the North Shore Mountains
If you prefer your mountain excursions on wheels rather than on foot, the rocky North Shore is also a haven for mountain bikers. The trails at Cypress Mountain, Mount Seymour, and Mount Fromme offer advanced adventures through old-growth forest. Less experienced bikers should stick to Burnaby Mountain, which offers all the thrills with fewer spills.
With so many activities to keep residents and visitors occupied, it’s no wonder everyday office workers in Vancouver look like Olympians. But there's no Olympic training required to enjoy Vancouver on the go – just a willingness to put on your sneakers and walk, run, paddle or ride.
Meredith Snyder is a Vancouver-based writer. For more ideas on this sporty city, take a look at a great range of tips and articles on Vancouver on lonelyplanet.com.