Hiking Trails

Three Beginner Trails on the North Shore

Vancouver’s “North Shore” (which includes the municipalities of West and North Vancouver) is one of the most popular areas in the Lower Mainland for hikers. And it’s easy to see why! The North Shore has many different trails of varying difficulty, and many of them are fairly accessible via transit or shuttlebus.

Since there are so many to choose from, here are my three favourite trails on the North Shore for beginner hikers.

1. Whyte Lake – West Vancouver

The beautiful still waters of Whyte Lake

Whyte Lake was one of the first trails that I did, and it’s still one of my favourites. It’s relatively flat and the trail is well established so it can be done even in light trail running shoes without poles. The entire distance is between 5 and 5.5 kilometres and is “out and back”, with the midpoint being the scenic Whyte Lake dock where you can sit and have a snack. Swimming is allowed but there is a lot of debris and fallen trees in the water so most people simply enjoy the view. If you’d like a longer hike you can continue on the path around the lake that will link to the famous Baden-Powell trail, which runs east-west across the North Shore, and from there you can continue to Horseshoe Bay by turning left or to Eagle Bluffs by turning right.

Since most of the trail is under tree cover, it’s a good hike to do even in the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) when it’s likely raining. Dogs are allowed on leash. Find out more information and transit/driving directions from Vancouver Trails.

Note: This is also a great trail for those who are wanting to learn more about the forests of BC, as this is a typical Pacific temperate rainforest with a mix of old-growth and second growth trees, notably Douglas Fir and Western Cedar, and many different types of ferns.

2. Capilano Pacific Trail – North Vancouver and West Vancouver

This trail can be easily split up into different sections, all of which are accessible by transit. It starts near Ambleside and Capilano River at Park Royal Mall in West Vancouver, then follows the river up the canyon and ends at Cleveland Dam in North Vancouver. Although there is a moderate elevation gain compared to Whyte Lake, it’s so gradual that this is still a great trail for beginners. The trail itself is also well-established, and most of the lower section of the trail is gravel. The distance is approximately 15 kilometres round trip. 

A stunning view at the Cleveland Dam

Easily the best parts are the first and last parts of this trail, as the middle section goes through some residential areas and isn’t very scenic. If you prefer to do a shorter version of this route, you can start at Cleveland Dam in North Vancouver, then walk down into the valley following the Great Fir Trail and do the Coho Loop. Note that this part of the hike has more elevation changes as you are at the highest part of the canyon. If you’re walking during the day, you can also visit the Capilano Salmon Hatchery, which is located on the east side of the Capilano river and accessible from the canyon trails. 

Dogs are allowed on-leash, and parts of the Capilano Pacific Trail and Great Fir Trail are leash optional. Check out more information and transit directions from Vancouver Trails.

3. Lynn Loop Trail – North Vancouver

I spent a lot of time in the Lynn Headwaters Park during the early days of COVID-19 as it was one of the only regional parks open. It’s a beautiful network of trails that include Lynn Peak Lookout and the popular Norvan Falls. Lynn Loop is the most beginner trail in the park at 5.5 km round trip . It does have more elevation gain than the other two, but if you do the loop counter-clockwise it’s quite gradual (otherwise you’ll end up having to go up Second Debris Chute which is root-y and rocky).

While this trail doesn’t have a viewpoint like the others, it’s a beautiful walk through second growth coast forest and has a nice view of the rushing Lynn Creek headwaters at the beginning of the trail. Like the others, dogs are allowed on-leash and you can find transit instructions at Vancouver Trails.

Those are just a few of my favourite beginner trails on the North Shore. What are some of your favourites? 

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