Southern British Columbia is home to tall mountains, turquoise lakes, islands, and the Pacific ocean all within a couple of hours’ drive. With the world’s best rock climbing, kayaking, downhill skiing, snowboarding, and scuba diving, it is the prime location for outdoor enthusiast all year round. The busiest time of year is probably between June to August and then December to February. The list of outdoor experiences is endless, but here are few highlights for families to avid adventurers.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
1. Rock climb in Squamish, Canada’s premier rock climbing destination.
Squamish is home to Canada’s hardest single-pitch climbing route but also features bouldering, multi and single pitched sport, and trad routes for all grades. These granite walls and splitter cracks are easily accessible and close to parking lots. Most are about 5 to 10 minutes drive from downtown Squamish. The Squamish Select is a great guide to the top routes in the area but also check online for more recent and newly developed climbs.
Mountain skills academy and adventuresWhistler, CanadaThe view from Whistler’s peak makes you feel small. Watch the glaciers from up high in the summer. Unfortunately, they have shrunk over the past 10 years.
#climbing #hiking #viaferrata
Via Ferreta, using metal rungs is an easier alternative to traditional rock climbing if you are wanting vertical ascent experience. Guided tours are held in Whistler or Sea to Sky corridor.
2. Kayak the jagged coastlines of Vancouver Island and Vancouver coves and inlets.
Southern BC’s temperate temperatures make kayaking possible all year round. Rentals can range from couple hours to multiple days. Deep Cove, tucked away in North Vancouver, offers a quiet and serene adventure around small islands. In shallow water spots, you can see beds of mussels and occasionally crabs. Rentals are available from March to October.
Clark Island Broken GroupAlberni-Clayoquot C, CanadaClark Island is one of the most beautiful designated camping spots at the Broken Island Group. Never would have thought that this turquoise water was located in the Pacific Northwest.
#kayak #brokengroup #island
One of the best and most convenient multi-day kayaking trips are at the Broken Group Islands in the Pacific Rim National Park reserve which consists of over 100 islands. Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, the sheltered location makes waters less choppy and ideal for kayakers of all levels. Guided tours are also available. Designated camping spots have beautiful wooden solar composting outhouses.
The best way to get to these islands is to rent in Bamfield. GPO Charters not only the sturdy sea kayaks but also provides a water taxi across the open water. The shallow waters of Clark Island look as if you’re in the Caribbean.
At the end of the day, sleep under the milky way at night after a long day of kayaking.
3. Surf along 35km of sandy beaches in Tofino and Uclelet.
Chesterman Beach TofinoTofino, CanadaA long sandy beach with surf, tides, wind and rain. You can find sand dollars and sea weed that’s drifted ashore. Often busy with people walking their dogs, children playing in the sand, and surfers year round. Even more stunning during the storm season with 15 feet waves.
Tofino is known to be the surf capital of Canada. Waves roll in along 35km of sandy beaches. Because water temperatures tend to be around 10 degrees Celsius all year round, wetsuits are essential to keep warm. The easiest way to get here from Vancouver is to take the ferry to Victoria or Nanaimo, and then drive to the west coast of the island. Watch the tide trends to see the best time to head over. Chesterman Beach, close to Tofino town, is one of the busier beaches. Uclelet and Tofino both offer surfboard rentals which come with a car rack. If you don’t have a car, there is a Tofino Bus that runs to different beaches or you could try hitchhiking. Often the location of the surf depends on swells, but Wickaninnish Beach in Uclelet tends to be quieter.
After surfing, stay for the sunset.
4. Get lost in old growth forests at Lynn Canyon.
Lynn CanyonNorth Vancouver, CanadaI grew up just around the corner from here and have been to Lynn Canyon many times. I never get bored of it! Many different hiking options and free suspension bridge, why not?
Easy access to Lynn Valley from Vancouver and easy hikes makes this provincial park family-friendly outdoor adventure. Cross over the suspension bridge and follow Twin Falls trail for a view of the waterfall and large pool below.
Lynn CanyonNorth Vancouver, CanadaA provincial park with a suspension bridge and giant evergreens. I watched the sunlight weave in and out between the trees. Delicate moss hang from branches. The fresh smell of fir can be found here.
Avid hikers can venture into longer and steeper hikes at Lynn Headwaters that lead to Grouse Mountain with the Hanes Valley Trail. Often this provincial park gets quite busy on weekends in the summer but worth the visit.
5. Reach new heights on the treetop walk Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is only about 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver. Open yearly, the bridge hangs 450 feet (247m) across and 230 feet (70m) above the Capilano River. If you’re only there for the suspension bridge, then the less touristy and free alternative is at Lynn Canyon. But, challenge your fear of heights on the Cliffwalk, which features an unobstructed view of the granite cliffs and rainforest, and at the treetop, where you can walk as high as 110 feet above the Douglas firs. The best time to go is in December to January when the forest is lit up with colourful lights. Visit the park just before sunset and stay after dark to view to see the beautiful lights light up the bridge.
6. Chase waterfalls along the Sea to Sky Highway and in Howe Sound.
Shannon FallsSquamish, CanadaThe most iconic waterfall is Squamish. You can hear and easily spot Shannon Falls from the highway. At the viewing area you can see and feel the power of the falls.
The best time to see waterfalls is often is between March and July when snow begins to melt on the mountains. If the winter is cold enough, waterfalls become frozen. Some, like Brandywine Falls in Whistler and Shannon Falls, are a 10 to 15-minute walk from the parking lot. Have a picnic and listen to the thundering water. Others like Joffre Lake Falls in Pemberton and Norvan Falls in North Vancouver are about an hour hike away. Check out Vancouver Trails for a quick guide to waterfalls.
7. Relax in natural hot springs such as the Keyhole Hotsprings.
Keyhole HotspringsSquamish-Lillooet C, CanadaNatural hot springs in the Pemberton Meadows surrounded by mountains. A great place for tuning out with no GPS or cellphone signal.
#hotspring #remotelocations #camping #extreme #hiking
Keyhole Hot Springs are located 100km north of Whistler. Access to these hot springs may be difficult without a higher clearance car. Visit the springs between June and November when the logging roads are open and not covered in snow. Bring candles to the springs to enjoy the serenity at night. After, walk 10 minutes back to the campground in the forest. Give yourself couple days to enjoy this remote location and bring lots of food!
8. Stand-up paddle (SUP) board at English Bay.
English BayVancouver, CanadaOne of the most convenient beaches to get to in the city. The water is so refreshing on a hot summer day. We managed to get a different view of the city from the water.
In the heart of downtown Vancouver, the calm waters of English Bay are ideal for stand-up paddleboarding. In the summer, you can rock up to the beach, look for the paddleboards sitting by the beach, and rent directly from Ecomarine. For a challenge, you could even try SUP yoga lessons. After a paddle session, walk down Denman Street for some quick eats.
9. Sea to Sky gondola.
Sea to Sky GondolaSquamish, CanadaGreat idea for a visit with out of town guests. The views of Squamish valley and the mountain peaks are stunning. Trails at top range from very accessible to difficult. Lots of spots to stop for your packed lunch or order a beer on the sunny patio. #pacificnorthwest #views #hiking
The Sea to Sky gondola opened in 2014 and sits between Shannon Falls and the Chief granite cliffs. About an hour from Vancouver city, this 10-minute gondola ride is family and wheelchair friendly and allows young children and people who would not be able to hike up to one of the best views in Squamish. Shuttle buses are also available from downtown Vancouver. Additional snowshoe, backcountry, and hiking trails have been opened because of this gondola.
10. Stroll the seawall around Stanley Park.
Stanley ParkVancouver, CanadaRiding bikes around Stanley Park was a great way to get different views of the city, harbour and beaches of Vancouver! It’s a loop and takes about an hour to ride around. I’d do it again! #biking
Stanley Park is the largest and natural urban park in Vancouver. What makes Stanley Park unique is that it’s surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Occasionally sea otters pop their head out from the waters. The parks can get busy on hot summer days with people biking, rollerblading, and walking the 10km seawall. Take the Stanley Park bus along Georgia Street to enter the park.
11. Learn kiteboarding at the Squamish Spit.
Squamish SpitSquamish, CanadaLike kiteboarding or watching kiteboarding then come to the end of the spit in Squamish. Great wind here and if you get bored their a good hiking trails through the estuary. #kiteboarding #hiking
Located at the mouth of Squamish River, constant winds run through the Spit in the summer making this the ideal kiteboarding location. Lessons are offered by Aerial Kiteboarding and Sea to Sky Kiteboarding for beginners and advanced riders. Keep in mind that wind fluctuates during the day and keeping your schedule flexible for this outdoor experience is essential.
12. Snowshoe or ski at Cypress Mountain.
Cypress MountainBowen Island, CanadaLocal mountain with a variety of green to black runs. After a long snow storm the trees look like marshmallows. My favourite winter and summer spot.
Cypress Mountain is one of those local favourites in West Vancouver just north of the city. Although the alpine area is much smaller than Whistler or Blackcomb, the downhill alpine area is open at night and doesn’t require a gondola to get to the base of the mountain. The runs are still fantastic and it is much closer than to the city than Whistler. The drive up the windy roads can be quite icy so snow tires are recommended. Just before reaching the alpine area, you can rent snowshoes at the nordic area and head up to Hollyburn Mountain for snowy views of the city.
13. Dive the reefs and wrecks of Porteau Cove.
In 2014, National Geographic listed diving in BC as an Ultimate Adventure Bucket List experience. Porteau Cove is a shore-accessed dive site is located along the Sea to Sky highway is about 40 minutes from Vancouver. There are three shipwrecks including a tugboat and a sailboat hall. The best season to go is in cold water diving in a dry suit during winter when visibility is best. Local dive operators often use Porteau Cove for training. Other world class dive sites are located on Vancouver Island.
14. Hike to turquoise lakes in the mountains.
Wedgemount LakeWhistler, CanadaOne of the most rewarding hikes I have ever done. At 7km, this hike is strenuous with a scramble towards the end. However, you are rewarded with an intense turquoise lake, ice caves and glaciers. It is important to be well equipped for alpine conditions, as temperatures are below freezing.
Most glacial lakes require a fair bit of hiking. Wedgemount Lake in Pemberton is quite a difficult hike with an 1160 metre elevation gain and 14km round trip, but the varied landscape and turquoise water are worth the hike. The best time to go between July and October when the lake has melted. It is possible to go for just a day which takes about 4-6 hours, but to fully enjoy the experience, take a tent and food to stay the night. There is a shelter operated on a first-come-first-serve basis. For an easier hike try Joffre Lakes or Garibaldi Lake.
15. Mountain bike in Squamish.
Unlike the Whistler Bike Park, trails are free and ridable in all four seasons. Squamish features gradual slopes and technical downhill descents through the West Coast forest. It was rated as one of the top 25 wildest and most exotic place to ride by the Mountain Bike Magazine.