Stanley Park in downtown Vancouver is a beautiful and astoundingly huge network of hiking/walking/biking trails. An estimated 8 million hikers, walkers, rollerbladers and cyclists visit the park yearly. The wonderful spider web of trails throughout the park add up to a staggering 200 kilometres, which explains how the park generally feels serene and relatively quiet most days despite its phenomenal popularity. Stanley Park can be walked or biked in any number of routes and lengths. Certainly one of the popular, and most straight forward routes is by a large, 10k circle, paved trail that runs around the perimeter.
You can park at one end, for example near English Bay, and head along the coastal, paved trail and follow the beautiful circumference of Stanley Park and return to where you started after a wonderful and constantly scenic 10k seawall route. The interior trails wind their way through the unexpectedly huge trees within Stanley Park. Some trees stand over 70 metres (249 ft) and are centuries old. The more impressive trees include Douglas-fir, Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock and Sitka Spruce. The trees are numerous and the forest so thick that you would certainly get lost if not for the excellent and well organized trail layout in the park.
The park has frequent concession stands, washrooms and points of interest. Stanley Park is also the home of the Vancouver Aquarium, with its considerable array of marine life, from penguins to Beluga whales. Stanley Park is not so much a hike as an amazing walk, but certainly a must see in Vancouver. It definitely is the most convenient and scenic. If you are entering Vancouver from Lions Gate Bridge, you will notice just as you leave the bridge you will see a turn lane and road entering the park on your right. This takes you to Prospect Point(pictured below). This is a wonderful way to start your tour of the park. A large viewing area over the ocean and Lions Gate Bridge amazingly close. There is a small restaurant, a cafe and dozens of picnic tables in this amazing setting. This is a fantastic way to watch sunsets and appreciate the enormous gap the Lions Gate Bridge spans.
From Prospect Point, Stanley Park Road continues through the park with the next parking area being on your left for the Hollow Tree. Definitely worth a look, this massive, now hollow tree has quite an interesting history, depicted on pictures and murals near it. The next parking area is for Third Beach where you will find concessions, washrooms and stairs to this remote feeling and often very lively beach. Further along the road you come to Second Beach, more concessions and home to frequent festivities throughout the year. A huge swimming pool and kids play park is located here as well. From here you can continue driving to English Bay or turn left and along Lost Lake, cutting across the park to the other side.
Why should you go to Stanley Park?
Any visit to Vancouver should include a wander around Stanley Park. Everything about it is beautiful. The seawall, the huge trees, the ocean views, small beaches, the gardens. The Vancouver Aquarium is a great sight to see as well as the various landmarks scattered throughout the park. The pitch and putt golf course, the seaside swimming pool, the Theater Under the Stars, the Nine O'Clock Gun, Siwash Rock and of course the Hollow Tree. Finally, seeing the Lions Gate Bridge from below as you pass under via the seawall is quite a sight.
Whistler Mountain Aerial Views
The alpine hiking trails on Whistler Mountain are the ultimate in luxurious hiking. Little hiking effort gets you amazing views of turquoise lakes, snowy mountain, valleys of flowers, waterfalls and spectacular glaciers. In the summer months, Whistler Mountain is somewhat divided in two. The lower half of the mountain is for biking and the upper half is for hiking, sightseeing, trail running, eating and drinking.
There are a few directions you can start hiking from the Roundhouse Lodge, however, taking the Peak Express(quad chairlift) up to the summit of Whistler Mountain is an amazing place to start. The Peak Express is an exhilarating ride that takes you to the start of Whistler Mountain's best hiking trails. The Half Note Trail, High Note Trail and Mathew's Traverse start here. The High Note Trail in turn leads to the Musical Bumps Trail to Russet Lake and Singing Pass in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
The summit of Whistler Mountain is also a destination of its own. Spectacular views all around from this rocky, alpine summit visible from almost everywhere in Whistler. Black Tusk comes into view as you exit the Peak Express. This amazingly distinct pinnacle of jet-black rock is a local icon and remnant of a not too distant history of volcanism in the area. As you admire its absurdly vertical form, remind yourself that there is almost certainly a few hikers looking back at you from its summit.
Looking right as you get off the Peak Express you will see an enormous inuksuk. A remnant of the 2010 Olympic Games and now a fixture in thousands of photos. This beautiful stacking of huge rocks is a take-away from the Inuit tradition of marking routes in an otherwise stark landscape with a human form. The inuksuk is part of the Whistler Summit Interpretive Walk. This 1.6 kilometre(1 mile), trail takes you along an excellent route around the summit of Whistler to one amazing viewpoint after another.
Branching off of the Whistler Summit Interpretive Walk you will see the High Note Trail extend toward the rocky cliffs. The High Note Trail is a beautiful trail that skirts the edge of Whistler Mountain for several kilometres before bending back around Whistler to the Roundhouse Lodge. A total of 9.4 kilometres(6 miles), the High Note Trail is a must-see trail on Whistler. For much of the trail you have Cheakamus Lake down the valley on your right. This huge lake fills the valley below with an extraordinarily vivid turquoise colour. This amazing colour caused by glacial meltwater filling the lake with suspended particles of rock which in turn reflect the light in an absurdly beautiful way.
Why should you hike Whistler Mountain?
Whistler Mountain is a spectacular way to explore the alpine mountain of British Columbia. Luxurious feeling gondola and chairlifts take you to the top of the mountain and there are plenty of food and drink options available. Your day-pass to access the mountain is relatively inexpensive and also gives you access to the incredible Peak to Peak Gondola that spans Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. This of course gives you access to Blackcomb's amazing hiking trails system as well. If you enjoyed the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, then Whistler will blow your mind.