Wherever you are in the world, chances are the last few months have been pretty rubbish. The rules are different in different countries; But almost everyone has had some level of lock-down. Here in Vancouver we have all been working from home for 2 months now, and we have not been allowed into the mountains for a similar amount of time. However, we still have quite a lot of freedom to keep exercising outdoors within the city. One silver lining for me has been getting to know more of Vancouver’s parks, greenways and scenic spots within walking (or cycling) distance from home.
I’ve loved visiting Vancouver’s Parks. So, I thought I should share some of my self-isolation adventures with you all. I’m going to concentrate on the less obvious places first, as they have been better for staying at least 2 meters apart from people. I did include some of the famous places too though, as you can still visit them early in the morning before crowds arrive.
Trout Lake – John Hendry Park
Trout Lake is one of my favourite Vancouver Parks. It’s a gorgeous park with a lake, mountain views and oodles of space for sports, bbqs and picnics. Even if you don’t live nearby, there is a cycle lane that links up to this park, so it’s easy to make this the destination for a mini adventure from a different part of the city.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Queen Elizabeth Park is the best on this list for views. If you visit on foot, it’s likely that you’ll need to walk uphill most of the way to this park, but it’s worth the effort when you get to the top. The hill is covered in flowers and has perfect views of the North Shore Mountains. Once things re-open after the lockdown, there is a restaurant/bar in the park that serves fantastic cocktails. I love to visit in the evening to see the Van City lit-up below you.
Renfrew Ravine Park
If you fancy feeling like you’ve made it into the wilderness, then search for Renfrew Ravine Park in East Van. I’ve never seen other people in this gorgeous little ravine, so it’s great for social distancing. The sides of the ravine are very steep and surrounded by houses, so there are only a couple of spots where you can venture down to the water and the skunk cabbages. There is a pleasant easy walk around the outside of the ravine that links up to cycle lanes if you want to cycle here.
Central Park in Burnaby
There are multiple safe, fun cycle routes that lead to Central Park in Burnaby. I have to admit, I had never even considered visiting this park before Vancouver went into lockdown. Central Park is a giant rectangle shape when you look at it on google maps, so for some reason I assumed it would be a boring. It was a pleasant surprise to find that it is a gorgeous green space, filled with some massive old trees as well as a couple of pretty lakes.
Central Park is pretty busy, but the paths are quite wide, and it is easy to find less-obvious routes through the park if you’re attempting a social-distance adventure.
Deer Lake Park
I really love the trails around Deer Lake Park. This is located at the end of the Central Valley Greenway (that starts near the train station on Vancouver’s Main Street.) You’ll be able to see all the residential skyscrapers of Burnaby, as well as great views of the North Shore Mountains. Plus this park is not crazily busy.
Robert Burnaby Park
You can go searching for trolls, dragons and even star wars characters! This beautiful forest-filled Robert Burnaby park is at the edge of Burnaby Lake Regional Park. A local artist has hidden some amazing natural sculptures around the park, so it is great fun to go find them!
Burnaby Mountain is a small peak on the edge of Vancouver. It is crisscrossed by trails, so is perfect for a mini urban adventure, with views out to the city and the bigger mountains nearby. It’s also a great spot for a picnic. I love all the art at the top of the mountain, as well as the gorgeous pathways through the trees. Check out the loop around the mountain to get your heart pumping.
New Brighton Park
Most people have heard of Playland at the PNE, but if you go slightly North of that, there is a lovely park between Vancouver Harbour and the Ironworks Bridge, New Brighton Park. If you are missing the North Shore Mountains, this’ll give you gorgeous unobstructed views of them. We walked down to this park, but there are a few cycle routes that reach this area easily. Once things start opening up, there is a public pool here too, so you can swim with the amazing view.
On the way to New Brighton Beach, walk or cycle along Wall Street. It’s a residential area that has multiple parks and gaps where you can look out at Vancouver Harbour, with all the boats and colourful shipping containers.
Everett Crowley Park
Everett Crowley Park is a forested corner in the Champlain Heights area of Vancouver. It is on the edge of the new housing and industry along the Fraser River. I thought the prettiest parts were near Avalon Pond on the East side of the park, as well as the viewpoints on the opposite side. Again, there are good cycle routes (although in a couple of places you need to cycle on the main road, so you might want to avoid that if you cycle here with children.)
Fraser River Park
If you don’t mind walking through quite an industrial area to reach it; Fraser River Park at the Southern point of the Arbutus Greenway is a pretty park that is great for dogs.
Vancouver only has one cemetery, but it makes up for it by choosing an area with fantastic views. If you decide to have a mini adventure walking or cycling here, please be respectful of the people who are here to mourn or visit their relatives.
There are several sections of the cemetery, each with it’s own character. It’s not all overgrown and spooky like the graveyards in London, but I really like visiting it to see the birds.
Most of Vancouver’s golf courses have closed due to covid-19, but they opened their grounds to allow locals to wander around and enjoy their pathways while the golfers are absent. We have explored Langara Golf course a few times. I quite like the wiggly paths that lead you though their manicured lawns. Plus all the little green hills makes it feel a bit like Hobbiton.
We have been avoiding the seaside as our friends that live close to the beaches told us that they have been really busy. Still, no list of possible mini adventures would be complete without mentioning Vancouver’s beautiful coastline. I have a post about our last long walk that shows the beaches from Kitsilano to Wreak Beach at UBC. It is over 16km if you walk the whole way along these beaches so it might be better to cycle, or choose the beaches closest to where you live.
We have always found that the further West you go, the fewer people there are on the beaches, and the easier it is to keep your distance from other people. Plus, the sunsets are often best from the West.
False Creek is another one of the obvious areas for locals to walk in Vancouver. We tend to avoid these paths unless it’s early in the morning, or late in the evening as it can get busy, and the pathway isn’t quite wide enough to walk 2 meters away from other people (unless you want to step in the bike path and block the bicycles!)
Still False Creek at night is much quieter and can be seriously pretty with all the lights. It might be best to save your mini adventures along the waterfront for after dark.
Stanley Park is normally one of my favourite spots for a mini Vancouver adventure. The problem is, it is so lovely, that everyone flocks there so I don’t think it is easy to walk while maintaining your distance from other walkers. The park has been closed to cars, so now cyclists can cycle along Stanley Park Drive, which keeps the sea wall for pedestrians.
If you do like the idea of Stanley Park, try exploring the inner trails, rather than the main trail around the park. I have always found that the trails inside the park are much quieter. Plus you might stumble upon the lost lagoon looking like this…
Pacific Spirit Park
Another great choice for trails is the forested area out by UBC, Pacific Spirit Park. In normal times, this is my favourite spot for a mini adventure after work. I love to choose new routes to cycle through this park on my way home. We did visit this park once since we went into self isolation, but it was incredibly busy. I’m not sure I’d recommend visiting this while you’re self isolating as it can be hard to keep 2 meters away from people on these paths.
If you do go as far as Pacific Spirit Park, it’s always nice to keep going to the end of the Point Grey peninsula to see the views down at the beach.
As well as all the parks, I have really enjoyed exploring some of Vancouver’s Greenways. They are all pretty flat, wide and almost always seem to lead to parks. I’ve written about the Arbutus Greenway in my previous post. I also had fun exploring the Central Valley Greenway to Burnaby, the Ridgeway Greenway for views of the city. Plus it’s always fun to cycle along the sea wall.
Not bad eh? I already knew Vancouver is great for escaping the city to get out on the trails. Now I am quite enjoying all the possibilities within the city too. Once it is safe, and we are allowed to go back into the mountains, I will always prefer spending time in the wilderness. But this summer, I think I will keep exploring these local parks and trails too.
If you’d like to explore some of these, please click on the pins below to save them for later.