What are the best outdoor activities in Vancouver?

Answers from Our Experts (2)

Carolyn B. Heller

Vancouver’s most famous (or some might say, infamous!) hiking route is the Grouse Grind, a steep stair-like climb that rises more than 850 meters (2,800 feet) in elevation on the 2.9-kilometer (1.8-mile) trail. You’ll find a broader range of trails in the nearby Cypress Provincial Park, also on the North Shore. Within the Vancouver city limits, you can hike the 73 kilometers (45 miles) of trails in the rainforest Pacific Spirit Regional Park, near the University of British Columbia campus.

Vancouver is a bicycle-friendly city with off-road bike routes and designated bike lanes around the region. For an easy, flat pedal around Vancouver, follow the seawall along False Creek and around Stanley Park. You’ll find bike rental shops downtown in the West End (near Stanley Park) and in Yaletown near the seawall. The City of Vancouver website has a free map of area cycling routes.

In a city surrounded by water, it’s no surprise that kayaking is a popular sport. The Ecomarine Paddlesport Centres rent kayaks from three locations: Granville Island, English Bay, and Jericho Beach. They also rent standup paddling gear. Another option for kayak rentals is Creekside Kayaks on False Creek at the Olympic Village.

Snow sports
It snows infrequently in the city of Vancouver itself, but there’s plenty of the white stuff on the nearby North Shore mountains. You can ski and snowboard at Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain, and Mount Seymour. Cypress and Seymour are popular snowshoeing destinations as well.

Stéphane Mouttet
  • Stéphane Mouttet

  • Chef Concierge, Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver

  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

If you are adventurous in heart, whether you are 5 or 85 years old, Vancouver has an endless supply of fabulous outdoor activities to experience - no matter what time of day or what time of year it is, there is always a spectacular excursions awaiting. 

Adventures are available for all skilled levels, from beginner to sky is the limit. There is no better place to raft the heart-pounding class IV rapids of the Thompson River, fly among the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains or cruise the stunning Pacific coastline.

Whale Watching: Wild Whale Vancouver
Wild Whales Vancouver is located 10 minutes away from Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver. Trips last from 3 to 7 hours and you will be brought to some of the most diverse wildlife on the Pacific Coast, such as sea lions, harbour seals, gray whales, minke whales, bald eagles, river otters and such. The whale watching excursions lead straight into the Gulf of Georgia and beyond in search of the resident orca pods. Choose between the fully enclosed "Quick Change II" or the open-to-the-elements "Pod Pilot" vessel.

Ziptrek: Grouse Mountain
Begin your adventure with the stunning trek around Blue Grouse Lake on our original lines and then zip at top speeds of 80km/hr across the peaks of Grouse and Dam Mountains on the brand new lines. The original lines will give you a unique perspective on the Blue Grouse Lake region of the mountain, combining heart-pounding thrills with an exploration of BC’s breathtaking old-growth forests. Along the way you will learn about indigenous flora and fauna and its significance to First Nations people.

Sky Diving: Vancouver Sky Dive
Skydive Vancouver offers first-time tandem skydiving for people who have never tried it. We also offer skydive courses for people who wish to learn to solo skydive through our accelerated freefall program. All of our tandem skydives here at Skydive Vancouver are done with a tandem skydiving instructor here at our Abbotsford Drop Zone which is located about 45 minutes drive east of Downtown Vancouver.

Fishing: Bites On Salmon Charter
Bites On offers a 5-hour, 8-hour and 10-hour guided Chinook/King and Coho/Silver Salmon fishing adventures on downtown Vancouver's highest quality twin-engine, 28-foot Transport Canada inspected sportfish charter boats that can accommodate up to 60 guests in total comfort. Our friendly captains and guides are certified by Transport Canada and are very knowledgeable in all aspects of fishing the waters of Georgia Strait, the Gulf Islands and Howe Sound. All vessels use the latest electronic fish-finding equipment to ensure your best chance for catching salmon. Our prime months for fishing are March through October but the winter months can also produce some very nice Chinook/King Salmon. Deep-sea salmon fishing in Vancouver is at its best. 

Adventure Tours: Fire and Ice Discovery
On this fully guided day tour, you’ll discover the majesty of the aptly named Sea to Sky corridor. You’ll visit Porteau Cove and the magnificent Shannon Falls, before boarding a helicopter just north of Squamish.

During your aerial tour, high above the Garibaldi Volcanic complex, you’ll glimpse at Black Tusk and Table Mountain, Garibaldi Lake, the Barrier and numerous glaciers, as you learn about the forces of nature that conspired to create them. Back down on earth, your experienced guide will lead you off the beaten path as your 4x4 takes you high into the mountains. Your private viewing deck (1865 feet above sea level) will afford astonishing views, and you’ll be able to indulge in a delicious gourmet picnic from your perch overlooking Howe Sound. Your tour concludes with a relaxing journey back to Vancouver.

Canopy: UBC Botanical Gardens       
Open year round, this 308-meter (1010 feet) aerial trail system offers a rare perspective of the natural beauty of the west coast forest canopy eco-system and provides visitors with outstanding views. Located in the David C. Lam Asian Garden, the walkway will offer a unique viewing and educational opportunity. The aerial trail system will allow for interpretation of the tree canopy, thereby providing dynamic new research and learning possibilities, as well as creating a first-class tourist destination.

Boat Cruises: Harbour Cruises & Events
Come join an unique Vancouver experience that offers unparalleled panoramic views of the city skyline, the surrounding Coastal Mountain range and many of the area's most famous landmarks. Harbour Cruises is proud to offer Vancouver’s only narrated tour of the inner-harbour, the city’s most popular Sunset Dinner Cruise and the Luncheon Cruise through a magnificent Coastal Mountain fjord.

Kayaking: Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre
Guided kayaking tours are an excellent way to enjoy the water, vistas and adventures Vancouver has to offer. Beginning with an introduction to the sport of kayaking and all the gear needed to safely enjoy it, our guided tours are excellent for beginner and experienced paddlers alike. There are guided tours that set off from the dock on Granville Island and English Bay.

Rafting:  Canadian Outback Adventures
Canadian Outback Adventures prides itself on offering a variety of rafting adventures for all ages and skill levels. Whether you’re 5 or 85, we have a Vancouver and Whistler river rafting adventure that will allow you to experience the beauty and serenity of Super Natural British Columbia. Adventures are available for families, couples and singles between November to September.

Hiking: Grouse Grind
Trail Distance: 3 km - (1.8 Miles)
Time: 1 to 2 Hours
Rating: Moderate to Hard

The Hike: The Grouse Grind, billed as the world's biggest stair-climb, is the outdoor venue these days to work out at and to meet new friends. During summer months, hundreds of trim, fresh-faced hikers ascend the steep-sided mountain from its trailhead on the east side of the Grouse Mountain parking lot at the north end of Capilano Road. A workout on the Grouse Grind is excellent preparation for a backpacking trip. This is a quick way to stretch your lower calf muscles (the ones you rarely call upon except with a 50-pound/22.5-kg pack on your back) into shape. If you're hard-core, you'll do the trail both ways.

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