Ask anyone you know if they’ve ever been to Vancouver and you’re likely to get responses ranging from “no, but I hear it’s a pretty cool city,” to “yes, and I want to move there immediately.” And that’s even true of people who prefer nature and green space to buildings as Vancouver has some of the best access to outdoor recreation you’ll find in any North American city.
What makes Vancouver parks so great is that they aren’t great for being urban parks –they’re just great. In 30 minutes or less from downtown Vancouver, you can hike summits that look out onto rocky islands and the beautiful Howe Sound, learn about Indigenous art and culture, cross a suspension bridge high above a lush valley floor, or mountain bike on expertly built trails that feel like you’re flying through a fern-covered Jurassic Park.
If you’re in the city, you have to explore at least a few Vancouver parks. Since activities range from gentle walks through flat paths in Stanley Park to beach days by English Bay, there’s no excuse for not finding a park you love.
The best parks in Vancouver, BC
Vancouver, BC, is an amazing example of a city that maintains its access to outdoor space — and does it well, too. There are many parks inside the city boundaries, and many more just across the bridge in North Vancouver (North Van, to locals). And since BC Ferries is part of the public transportation program in the city, it’s pretty easy to move between the best Vancouver parks even if you don’t have a car.
Welcome to Stanley Park, likely the most well-known of all the Vancouver parks. The beautiful urban park is on the edge of downtown and is surrounded by the waters of Burrard Inlet and English Bay. The park spans more than 988 acres, making it larger than NYC’s Central Park and one of the largest urban parks in North America. The park has a mix of natural and human-made features.
One of the main draws of the park is the seawall along the park’s perimeter. The path stretches beyond the park but a full eight miles are within the park, and they’re a favorite location for walkers, joggers, and cyclists. Most of the route has views of the ocean, the city skyline, and the mountains on the North Shore.
The park is also home to a number of beautiful gardens, such as the Rose Garden, the Japanese Canadian War Memorial Garden, and the Stanley Park Ecology Society Garden. These gardens showcase a variety of plants, flowers and trees from all over the world. The totem poles are also quite popular and a significant cultural landmark. They’re in the Brockton Point area, which was once a traditional village site of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations people. They’re replicas of the originals, which were carved by Indigenous artists from the Pacific Northwest Coast, and tell stories, depict figures from Indigenous legends, and serve as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage of the First Nations people.
Also in the park is the Vancouver Aquarium, which is home to over 50,000 marine animals from around the world, including dolphins, sea otters, an array of fish and sea life, and a huge outdoor area for seals and sea lions.
View this post on Instagram
Though it’s technically not one of Vancouver’s parks — as it’s not a park, nor is it technically in the city of Vancouver — it might as well be, since it’s one of the best places for hiking and mountain biking (especially mountain biking) around the city. The mountain is home to a network of well-maintained trails that offer a variety of terrain and difficulty levels, making it suitable for both beginner and experienced riders. All the uphill climbing is done via a gentle fire road that passes every trailhead, making it easy to do multiple laps without gnarly single-track climbing.
The trails on Mount Fromme range from smooth and flowy to rocky and technical, and they offer a mix of challenging climbs and human-made features like jumps and woodwork. Some of the most popular trails include “Corkscrew,” “Expresso,” and “7th Secret.” You’ll find a diverse range of trails that cater to all levels of riders, from beginner to expert. Mount Fromme also offers great views of the surrounding area, including the city of Vancouver and the North Shore Mountains.
Note that Mount Fromme is a part of the North Shore Mountain Bike Association (NSMBA), a group of volunteers who work to maintain and improve the trails. The trails are free to use, but they take donations in case you like what you see and want them to build more. Some trails are mixed-use and some are only for hikers or bikers, so check the map before you start your walk or bike to make sure you’re appropriately following the rules. Remember that North Vancouver is known for steep and rocky trails, so start with easier green trails, even if you’re an experienced hiker or biker.
VanDusen Botanical Garden
VanDusen Botanical Garden is a 55-acre botanical garden in the middle of the city. The garden is home to a wide variety of plants from around the world, including over 7,500 species and more than 260,000 individual plants. The garden was established in 1975, and it has been open to the public since 1977. It’s a living museum of plants, where visitors can learn about the diversity of plant life and the importance of conservation.
The garden is divided into several distinct areas, each with its own unique collection of plants. The Elizabethan Hedge Maze, for example, is a popular feature of the garden, and it is home to a collection of over 100 species of hedging plants. The Rhododendron Walk is another popular area as it’s home to a collection of more than 300 species of rhododendrons. The garden also features a number of sculptures and other works of art, making it a very peaceful place to visit.
The garden is open daily though the hours vary seasonally, and tickets for adults start at $8.90 CAN.
Grouse Mountain Regional Park
Grouse Mountain Regional Park is one of the most popular Vancouver parks for locals who want to escape from the city without driving too far. The high-elevation park is home to Grouse Mountain, the closest ski resort to Vancouver proper.
The park offers a wide variety of recreational activities, including hiking, skiing and snowboarding, and sightseeing. The park is home to several hiking trails, including the Grouse Grind, a difficult, two-mile round-trip trail to the summit. It’s challenging and a rigorous climb, but the reward is a breathtaking panoramic view of Vancouver. By the way: you can take the chairlift down if you’d rather do it as a one-way.
Visitors can also take a scenic chairlift to the top of the mountain for incredible views of the city, the ocean and the surrounding mountains. The park also features a wildlife refuge, where visitors can learn about the local wildlife and see the resident grizzly bears and wolves. For that, as well as other activities like the ropes course and chairlift, you’ll need to buy a day pass. Prices vary between summer and winter daily, so it’s best to check the website a few months before you plan to visit.
Lynn Canyon Park
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is perhaps the most famous bridge at any of the Vancouver parks, but it’s expensive and gets crowded. But Lynn Canyon Park, in North Van, is the next best thing. The park offers a unique blend of natural beauty and recreational opportunities, making it a must-see destination for visitors to the area.
The park is home to a variety of hiking trails that wind through the lush forest and along Lynn Creek. The park’s main attraction is the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, a free-to-cross bridge spanning the canyon with lovely views of the creek and the surrounding forest.
Visitors can also take a dip in the park’s “30 Foot Pool,” (a popular swimming spot) or choose from other places to beat the Vancouver heat, like Twin Falls and Rice Lake, where visitors can swim, sunbathe and picnic.
The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bears, deer, and raccoons. Visitors can learn about the park’s wildlife and their natural habitats by visiting the Ecology Centre, a small exhibit and visitor center that provides information about the local environment and conservation efforts.
English Bay Beach Park
If your goal with selecting a Vancouver park is to hit the beach, you may want to head to English Bay Beach Park. It’s in the city’s West End neighborhood and the main draw, as you may expect, is English Bay Beach. It’s a large beach surrounded by a large grassy area, and in the summer, you can rent kayaks and paddleboards.
The Seawall that runs through Stanley Park also runs through English Bay Beach Park, and if you get a bit peckish while walking, you’ll find a few concession stands and the delicious CRAFT Beer Market English Bay just a few steps off the beach.
English Bay Beach Park is also home to several annual events, including the English Bay Beach Festival, with live music, food vendors, and other fun activities.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park
Pacific Spirit Regional Park is a unique and ecologically diverse urban wilderness covering about 1,900 acres of coastal Douglas-fir forest, second growth forest, wetlands, and beaches.
From an ecological perspective, it’s one of the best Vancouver parks as it’s an important habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species. The park has several distinct ecosystems that provide a much-needed habitat for many plant and animal species, including several species at risk.
From a recreational perspective, Pacific Spirit Regional Park offers a wide range of activities for visitors. The park has more than 31 miles of trails, including the popular (and easy) Huckleberry Loop. The park also offers excellent birdwatching opportunities as more than 200 species of birds have been recorded in the park, and Vancouver hosts ongoing events like birding walks throughout the year (but the schedule changes seasonally). Pacific Spirit is a perfect example of how urban development can coexist with conservation and preservation of natural environments.
Where to stay in Vancouver, BC
Vancouver is a huge city and the hotels available reflect a diversity of price points, people, styles, and cultures. You can choose from historic properties, hip boutique hotels, or even hostels populated by friendly 20 and 30-somethings. Matador’s hotel editor recently stayed at the OPUS Hotel and truly loved it. So don’t worry if you’re booking your stay last-minute — you’ll find something (though don’t expect it to be very budget-friendly if you want a prime location). Airbnbs are always an option, too.
We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
Fairmont Pacific Rim: a 15-min walk to Stanley Park
This stunning hotel is in Coal Harbour, close to Vancouver’s bustling downtown core and near where some summer whale-watching trips leave from. It offers elegant guest rooms with views of the harbor, mountains and surrounding cityscape. The hotel also features its own private movie theater, infinity pool, a world-class spa, and a highly rated fine dining restaurant. Rates start around $270 a night in the low season.
Wedgewood Hotel & Spa: near public transportation in the heart of the city
Old-school luxury meets glam in this historic property in the center of the city. Rooms have private balconies, the classy on-site restaurant serves afternoon tea, and it’s only a few minutes to reach a SkyTrain stop. Aside from the high price, there’s not much not to like. Rates start at the surprisingly low $199 a night.
Rosewood Hotel Georgia: near downtown bars and restaurants
On Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver, this historic boutique hotel blends classic style with modern amenities in its meticulously appointed guest rooms. It also has an indoor pool and spa as well as two stylish bars – Reflections The Garden Terrace and Prohibition Bar – that offer a range of cocktails made from locally sourced ingredients. Rates start around $250.
The Burrard Hotel: a 10-minute walk to the beach
This is the best place to stay for exploring Vancouver parks if you want a cool and quirky hotel with a bit of retro style. The hotel features a retro-inspired decor, and each room is unique and decorated in its own style. The hotel also has a rooftop terrace with great views. If you’re stayed at Hotel Zed in Tofino on Vancouver Island, you’ll dig the Burrard in Vancouver. Rates can be as low as $149 if you time your trip right.