Stanley Park - Downtown Vancouver Trails
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.
Directions to Stanley Park
There are several good and spacious places to park in Stanley Park and all of them link to the excellent walking, biking, hiking and rollerblading trail system. Pay parking meters are located everywhere and run about $3.25 an hour or $12 for the day. Depending on your itinerary for your day in the park will dictate the best place for you to park. Parking areas are plentiful and well organized, so you can just drive into the park and find what interests you by following signs to what you want to see and you will find plenty of parking there.
More Trails Near Stanley Park
Pacific Spirit Park surrounds the University of British Columbia on the shores of Georgia Straight. The park has a beautiful array of trails, 73 kilometres in total, that run along beaches, some old growth forest and even a bog. The network of trails interconnects so often that you can do small 15 minute sections if that is all you are after. Pacific Spirit Park is one of Vancouver's most popular parks and located in the wonderful and expensive neighbourhood, Point Grey. You can wander the park for hours if you want as there are an endless number of trails heading in all directions. The Kitsilano beaches begin as soon as you cross the Burrard Bridge and enter the residential paradise of Kitsilano. Though only this first beach is named Kitsilano Beach, you can walk from one beach to the next via some short and scenic residential detours. So you can connect the beautiful Kitsilano Beach to Jericho Beach, then Locarno Beach then Spanish Bank Beach. Walking them all will add up to about 8k (one way) of wonderfully varied beaches, parks, marinas, the enormous Kits Pool and endless vantage points to English Bay and Burrard Inlet. This is not a hiking route but rather a fantastic beach walk anytime of the year. With the changing weather and seasons change the wonderful feel you get walking around Vancouver.