Vancouver Hidden Gem: Buntzen Lake

(c) Remy Scalza

Natural wonders are in abundant supply in and around Vancouver.  We’ve got rugged beaches, wild mountains, canyons and rivers.  But one thing that can be hard to find is a good lake.  As lake-lovers know, the atmosphere at a lake is different than at the ocean – a bit more tranquil, a bit more intimate.   When you’re in the mood for a day at the lake, nothing else will really do.

Fortunately, there are several gorgeous lakes within reasonable proximity to downtown Vancouver.  My favorite is Buntzen Lake in the suburb of Port Moody, about 40 minutes east of downtown by car.  Nestled within the Coast Mountains, the 4.8-kilometer lake is used to generate hydroelectric power for the city of Vancouver.  And the entire area has been turned into one of the nicest parks in the Lower Mainland by BC Hydro, the provincial power company.

A long road leads into the park, creating the illusion that you’re leaving civilization behind and heading into the backcountry.  The lake itself is surrounded by mountains, which are thickly forested and slope steeply down to the water.  At South Beach, the most popular access point,  a large picnic area with plenty of tables and grassy spaces, as well as restrooms and other facilities, fronts the water.

(c) Remy Scalza

When I visited on a sunny weekend in September, the area was filled with families lounging in the grass and barbecuing.  Kids played on a sliver of sandy beach, thinner than normal this year owing to high water levels.   A dock extending out into the water was filled with fishermen.  Out on the lake were canoes, kayaks and even a few swimmers floating by on big inner tubes.

A network of hiking trails – some short and sweet, others much more ambitious – winds around Buntzen Lake.  The trails are open to mountain bikers and horse riders, as well.  I opted for the Diez Vistas trail, which climbs the western shore and offers views of both the lake itself and the Burrard Inlet and downtown Vancouver.   After about 90 minutes of intense climbing, I reached the first of the scenic overlooks.  Far below were the waters of Indian Arm and, farther still, the distant profile of the Vancouver skyline.  Here’s a video someone posted on YouTube of the overlook (complete with amateur narration):

As for the remaining nine vistas on the Diez Vistas trail, they remain a mystery.  With the afternoon light fading, I headed back down to the water for a quiet sunset.  The mountains and clouds reflected into the calm water and the sky slowly faded – a perfect end to a quick lake retreat.

Anyone else a fan of Buntzen Lake?  Please share any thoughts/suggestions about visiting below.

Remy Scalza

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