Vancouver’s Hidden Waterholes: Exploring Jug Island Beach

Photo credit: ebbandflo_pomomama | Flickr

Photo credit: ebbandflo_pomomama | Flickr

When the weather heats up in Vancouver, the city’s beaches fill up fast.  On hot days, finding a spare square of sand to lay your towel can be a challenge at downtown hotspots like English Bay, Third Beach or Kits Beach.

Thankfully, however, there are a few hidden waterholes left in Metro Vancouver, places where you can enjoy a refreshing dip without the crowds.  But you have to know where to look.

One of the best may be in Belcarra Regional Park, an 11,000-hectare park located on the northeastern edge of the Burrard Inlet.  If you’ve ever been to the North Shore community of Deep Cove, you’ve probably seen the vast forests of Belcarra beckoning from the opposite shore of Indian Arm.

Over the weekend, I decided to finally seek them out.  The park is a bit of a trek from downtown Vancouver, requiring a 45-minute drive east to Port Moody and then some backtracking to the tiny community of Belcarra.  But it’s worth the trip.

The parking lot at Belcarra Regional Park sits on the edge of Belcarra Bay, a scenic waterfront with covered picnic tables and a dock extending far out into the inlet.  On a hot afternoon, I was tempted to jump right in.  But getting to the best swimming hole requires a bit of a hike.

I picked up the Jug Island trail just behind the picnic tables and headed into the woods, plunging into the thick, second-growth forests of Belcarra.  The initial stretch of trail is somewhat steep, climbing through woodlands to a scenic overview of the small community of Bedwell Bay far below.

Now hot and sweaty, I started a long, slow descent.  After about an hour of hiking, the trail finally dead-ends at Jug Island Beach.

The beach itself is small and covered with coarse sand and stones.  But the big draw is the location.  Jug Island Beach sits on the remote, eastern shore of Indian Arm.   It’s backed by thick forest and the nearest sign of civilization is literally kilometres away.  Plus, the lengthy hike means there are rarely more than a handful of people around.

In short, it’s a private little waterfront paradise, not far from the heart of the big city.  I waded into the chilly, clear water and swam to tiny Jug Island, which sits just about 100 metres off-shore.  A seal played in the channel and a pair of sailboats at anchor swayed back and forth.  Other than that, the scene was absolutely still and quiet.

And when I got back to the little beach, there was plenty of room to lay a towel.

The Jug Island Beach trail is 5.5 kilometres round-trip and takes roughly 2.5 hours to complete.  For a detailed description of the hike and directions to the park, check out the great page on the Vancouver Trails website.

Has anyone been to Jug Island Beach?  What did you think of it? 

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6 Responses to Vancouver’s Hidden Waterholes: Exploring Jug Island Beach

  1. I’ve visited once or twice, but only by boat. I didn’t know it was accessible from land – now I might have to go test that out!

  2. Kev

    How does this hike compare to The Chief? I found the Chief to intense and hard on the knees…

    • Hi Kev – It’s nothing like the Chief. It’s a leisurely, hour-long hike (max) each way. Enough to work up a bit of a sweat, but nothing more than that.

  3. Annie

    I used to do this hike every summer as a kid with my mom and sisters. There is a nice view at the end point.

  4. I love the beach and the water. As soon as the weather gets hot enough I am on the beach so it’s great to learn about some places that offer me the opportunity to really relax.

  5. This place is so great! I can’t believe more people haven’t discovered it yet. It’s so close to the city and it’s peaceful and beautiful. just perfect!