48 Hours in Vancouver is a weekly series appearing on the Inside Vancouver blog featuring photos and information on interest-based itineraries such as food/wine, arts & culture and luxury travel; helping visitors plan the best Vancouver trip possible based on what they love. Today’s feature focuses on scenic viewpoints that showcase the Vancouver travelers think they know-and a few that they don’t.
What You’ll Need to Go on a Scenic Exploration
• A vehicle (rented or your own)
• A good quality camera (Doesn’t necessarily have to be an SLR, but should have a good zoom function)
• A tripod (to make it easier for panoramic shots)
• A picnic lunch
• A swim suit
• Good quality hiking boots/walking shoes (You’ll be doing a lot of walking)
Mid-Morning to Early Afternoon 11am to 1 pm
Start your day off after breakfast in a Vancouver viewpoint not even many locals know about. Located on 999 Charleson Street and a mere 6 minutes from the downtown core is a hidden gem in the Charleson neighborhood. Charleson Park gives you amazing views of False Creek and Downtown Vancouver without having to deal with the crowds across the way at David Lam Park.
Peaceful pathways and lush green plants add to the ambiance and provide the perfect environment to read, ride a bike or go for a jog.
What’s more, you can also enjoy the relaxing pond and soothing waterfall in the area and get a low-key, comfortable start to your sightseeing vacation, including snapping some photos. Your dog will also appreciate playing fetch in the off-leash areas.
Here’s an extra fun fact about Charleson Park: As you walk through the 7.14 hectares, you’ll notice a community garden, run by the Charleson neighborhood residents and lovingly tended to by students in the CityStudio programme.
From Charleson, it’s just a 3 minute drive to your next destination of Coopers’ Park in Yaletown.
What makes Coopers’ Park different?
Well for starters, Coopers’ Park offers views of False Creek from the opposite direction of Charleson Park, it still gives visitors the same serene calm without the large crowds but there’s the added bonus of being able to have an energetic game of basketball with a few friends.
Not only will your dog appreciate being able to run around the area, but your inner skateboarding fan will love the fact that the park has a skatepark, complete with two skate benches and a grind rail.
Here’s an extra fun fact about Coopers’ Park: The site once housed the Sweeney Cooperage, the largest barrel manufacturer in the British Empire from 1889 until 1980. The sawmill that produced the wooden barrel parts was built in 1945 and overlooked False Creek at this location. The cooperage closed in 1981 to make way for the construction of B.C. Place and the Cambie Street Bridge.
Before you leave Coopers’ Park for your next destination of Whytecliff Park, which takes half an hour, make sure you take several photos of the amazing views of False Creek and the Cambie Street Bridge.
Situated along the shore of Howe Sound in Horseshoe Bay close to nearby Bowen Island, Whytecliff Park is in a class all its own.
Located half an hour from the downtown core, the park has everything to offer the nature enthusiasts. You can walk along the rocky shores of the beach, have a picnic in the park and hike the myriad of trails, starting from the top of the park’s overflow parking lot.
If you happen to be taking a walk on the beach at low tide, you can hike, skip and hop a path up the rock steps to the peak of the connected Whytecliff Island. But, don’t stand on the peak too long, otherwise you’ll get trapped on the island and be unable to make it back to shore.
Rain or shine, if you stand on the beach, you have a perfectly clear view to nearby Passage Island. Passage Island marks the entrance to Howe Sound and has few full-time residents living there.
For travelers who love the water as much as they love the serene scenic horizons, Whytecliff Park is also one of the Lower Mainland’s most beloved spots for scuba divers, with easy access along the shoreline.
Here’s an extra fun fact about Whytecliff Park: For DC comic book lovers, you’d be happy to know that the hit CW show Arrow, starring Toronto-born actor Stephen Amell, films their Lian Yu island scenes at Whytecliff. In particular, the pilot episode that sees Stephen’s character on the island in real time, heavily features Whytecliff.
From Whytecliff Park, it’s off to the High View Lookout at Cypress Mountain, located only 18 minutes away.
Afternoon to Early Evening: 1pm-6:30 pm
Once you get to the viewpoint at High View Lookout on Cypress Mountain, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of North Vancouver, Burnaby, Burrard Inlet and Downtown Vancouver on a clear sunny day.
On a clear day, you can even see Canada Place standing out among the downtown skyline and all the way to Mount Baker in Washington State.
It’s an amazing spot to take some great panoramic shots and maybe even a few videos as it shows you even more of what Vancouver has to offer and beyond. Explore the Vancouver you thought you knew.
Here’s an extra fun fact about Cypress Mountain: For snowboarding junkies on their vacation, did you know that night boarding first opened on Black Mountain and Mount Strachan in 1985? It might be worth saving some money and checking out night boarding on Cypress for your next thrill-seeking vacation.
From the High View Lookout, it only takes 20 minutes for you to get to your next photo opportunity: Lynn Canyon Park.
Once you arrive at Lynn Canyon Park, there are several places that you can hike to for great vantage points to take some amazing photos and videos and enjoy the ambiance of the rushing water and wind moving through the trees.
When you are on the Baden Powell Trail, it’s a 10 minute hike to get to the Twin Falls. The waterfalls crashing along the rocks is soothing and provides the perfect backdrop to take a seat on the nearby shore and enjoy the amazing pools the waterfalls feed into. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic snack.
4: 15 pm
Take the extra time to enjoy the waterfalls and relax while on the shore, but when you’re ready to get going again, it’s back on the Baden Powell Trail for a 15 to 20 minute hike from the Twin Falls Bridge to the 30 Foot Pool. Be prepared to have a long climb up a wooden stairwell at the top of the canyon. There is a lookout point on the stairwell with great views of the 30 Foot Pool and the surrounding area. There’s also great swimming to be had, so come prepared with your swim suit and take a dip!
5:30 pm-6 pm
When you’re finally ready to tear yourself away, it’s another 15 to 20 minute hike on the Baden Powell Trail back to the Ecology Centre and a 23 minute car ride back to the downtown core. You’ll still have enough time for dinner and downtime for you to enjoy some of the breathtaking sights, amazing photos and videos as well as the great experiences you’ve had on Day One of your 48 Hours in Vancouver for Scenic Viewpoints.
Here’s an extra fun fact about Lynn Canyon Park: For bird lovers, you can catch a glimpse of several rare visitors in Lynn Canyon, including the Northern saw-whet owl, the Ruffed grouse and the Cooper’s hawk.
Mid-Morning to Early Afternoon: 11 am to 1 pm
Start Day 2 off with a trip to Burnaby Lake Park, just 24 minutes away from Downtown Vancouver.
The Lower Mainland’s largest lake boasts a rich ecology filled with geese, different species of wood ducks, beavers and many other shore birds such as the great blue heron. It also has a 10 km path that you can hike that encompasses the entire park area.
The park even has a viewing tower available for you on Piper Spit to get a better vantage point on some of the harder to spot wildlife, including the green backed heron.
Take a breather, enjoy the rich ecology of the lake as well as the wildlife before moving onto your next stop at Burnaby Mountain Park, which takes a mere 15 minutes by car.
Here’s a fun fact about Burnaby Lake Park: The park’s rowing pavilion has a rich history of hosting events, including the 1973 Canada Summer Games Event that was held in Burnaby and New Westminster.
Once you arrive at Burnaby Mountain Park, be sure to take in the absolutely awe-inspiring horizons of Deep Cove and Burrard Inlet. Don’t forget to also enjoy snapping a few photos of the Centennial Rose Garden, right next to the iconic Horizons Restaurant.
While you’re enjoying the beautiful scenery and perhaps taking a few photos of the legendary Kamui Mintara (also known as Playground of the Gods) as they tower over the park, sit down on Horizon’s patio and relax to an amazing lunch of West Coast fare.
There are also numerous hiking trails connected to the park, if you feel so inclined to go for a hike. Each trail varies in its difficulty, grade (ie. how steep it is) and the length, so be sure to wear comfortable and reliable hiking boots before setting out.
Once you’re finished with lunch, it’s only a 22 minute drive to your next destination of Cates Park in Deep Cove.
Here’s an extra fun fact about Burnaby Mountain Park: For hikers, the area boasts a new trail for you. The Velodrome Trail is a 1,400 metre long route that begins from the gravel parking lot at the Doug Drummond trailhead located just north of the Harry Jerome Sports Centre on the north side of Barnet Highway. Hikers’ experience natural forests through the gradual (average grade 20%) 240 vertical metre elevation climb. Reaching the hillside base are the impressive 500 timber stairs that wind up the steep slope and into Pandora Trail. The trail continues until it enters the open meadow below Horizons Restaurant.
Afternoon to Early Evening: 2 pm to 6:30 pm
At Cates Park, you’ll be able to take some amazing beachfront photos from the shores of North Vancouver’s largest seaside park. You can take photos of Burnaby from across Burrard Inlet as well as nearby Belcarra.
If boating is on your agenda, you can also launch your kayak, canoe or sailboat off the nearby dock. Rain or shine, Cates Park is an ideal place to paddle or sail a boat without large crowds or harbour traffic.
If you’d rather explore the scenery underwater, Cates Park is one of the best places to scuba dive next to Whytecliff Park and you can find Dungeness crab, red rock crab, snails and flounder everywhere you look.
Once you’re done with scenic photos-of the beachfront and underwater variety-head on over to Mount Seymour, your last stop of the day that only takes half an hour by car.
Here’s an extra fun fact about Cates Park: Every summer, Cates Parks holds a series of outdoor concerts all throughout July and August on Saturdays, featuring new local Vancouver bands and young and upcoming talent.
Once you get to Mount Seymour, you can enjoy views of the clouds and the late afternoon sun before it sets, overlooking Port Moody, Indian Arm and Burrard Inlet as well as the Coastal Mountain range.
Over the course of the next few hours, to get to the viewpoint of your choice, you have several hiking paths to choose from. The first one can lead you up to Dog Mountain, whereas the second longer trail takes you on a path to Mount Seymour to two different viewpoints: First Peak and Second Peak.
No matter which peak you choose to snap photos and shoot videos on, you have incredible views of the city available right at your fingertips.
Once you’ve completed your hiking circuit, it’s only a 37 minute drive back to the downtown core, just in time for dinner by 7 pm.
Here’s one last extra fun fact, this time about Mount Seymour: Every summer, Mount Seymour offers summer camps for kids. The eco-adventure camps teach kids how to build tinder bundles, friction fires and survival shelters as well as track animals and learn which wild plants are edible.
So if you have children and are scratching your head on what activities to sign them up for this summer, visiting Mount Seymour and attending their summer camps is a good choice!
Insider’s Tip: If you’re willing to go a little farther out for some of the Lower Mainland’s best scenery on your next vacation, try Golden Ears Provincial Park in Maple Ridge.