7 Easy Ways to Experience the Great Outdoors in B.C.

No gear? No car? No problem! Embracing the outdoors is easier than you think

No gear? No car? No problem! Embracing the outdoors is easier than you think

We are positively flush with natural beauty here in Vancouver. Ringed by soaring mountains and sparkling oceans, outdoor adventure should be within easy reach for us all. But with the price of equipment, nowhere to store said equipment and transit troubles… well, who needs the aggravation, right? Wrong!

Even if you don’t have access to wheels or a bunch of fancy outdoorsy-type equipment, there are plenty of simple ways to get yourself out into the wilds of B.C. for a day of exercise and excitement. Here are seven of our no-fuss, no-muss favourites.


1. Gear up at M.E.C.

One of the simplest ways for Vancouverites to connect with the grand outdoors at an affordable price is with M.E.C.’s program for renting stuff like stand-up paddleboards, canoes, cross-country skis and snowshoes. You can even rent everything you need for a camping tripfrom tents to pans to stoves. I mean, who among us has the garage space for all that kit? This way, gearing up is a total breeze.

And if you’re a newbie when it comes to outdoor adventure, M.E.C. also runs a number of workshops and meet-ups which will connect you with experts and other people looking to explore their outdoorsy side, so you can get up-to-speed on running, cycling, backcountry camping and how to stay standing up on those stand-up paddleboards.


2. Get a Discovery Pass

Parks Canada is celebrating Canada’s 150th by handing out free Discovery Passes. The Pass is your golden ticket to exploring the 46 National Parks, 171 National Historic Sites, four National Marine Conservation Areas and eight Historic Canals across the country, without doling out any admission fees. Keep in mind: this only applies to National Parks, not Provincial ones; also, all overnight stays, including backcountry camp permits and premium Parks program experiences, do come with a small fee. You can apply for your free Discovery Pass here or pick one up at the aforementioned M.E.C.


3. Hitch a ride with the Parkbus

As a dog lover with no car to call my own, one of the things that really grinds my gears is the B.C. transit system’s baffling intolerance toward canines. I’d love to be able to go for a hike with my furry pal, but it’s exceptionally difficult… or at least, it was. Parkbus runs a seasonal service from downtown Vancouver to a host of campgrounds, trails and lodges at such Lower Mainland spots as Alice Lake, Joffre Lake and Garibaldi Provincial Parks; and they take dogs on board. Hurrah! Check out their website for schedules, rules and a full list of destinations and prep yourself for a summer of breathtaking excursions.


4. Hit the trails

Leave the treadmill behind and embrace the gentle bounce of running on forest trails. If you’re feeling competitive, the Coast Mountain Trail Series has a season of events, from 8k fun runs through to an ultra distance 50k. Better than a stairmaster is the BC Cancer Foundation’s annual Seek the Peak, a 4,100-foot trek up Grouse Mountain. More of a newbie? Sign up for Kintec’s 10-week program, which covers everything you need to know about trail running from navigation, safety and hydration to nutrition, trail etiquette and avoiding injury; they even supply you with a pair of running shoes for $129.95.


5. Pedal the day away

Head out for a full day of walking and wheeling. Into the Wild tours runs a bike-and-hike trip to Lynn Canyon Park over the roaring water of the canyon, through to the thousand-years-old forest. After a hike past maple and alder trees along the Baden Powell Trail and a picnic lunch, it’s time to pedal through Pitt Meadows along the Trans Canada Trail with the mountains of Golden Ears framing you on both sides. Best of all, they offer a pick-up service from downtown and, of course, provide bikes, so all you have to do is book and show up!


6. Experience nature in the heart of the city

Of course, one of the absolute easiest ways to enjoy B.C.’s natural bounty is by treking into Vancouver’s beautiful, iconic Stanley Park to explore the 27 km of trails under the canopy of sweet-smelling cedar, fir and hemlock. Make it a genuine learning experience with Aboriginal-owned and -run Talaysay Tours, who offer leisurely guided walks like Spoken Treasures and Talking Trees, engaging with First Nations culture and history (some of them even come with traditional tea!); they’re guaranteed to give you a fresh perspective on our city and its greenery.


7. Take to the water

Surrounded by sea as we are, your exploration of B.C.’s wild side won’t be complete until you beef up those paddle skills and take to the open water. There are several outfitters downtown who’ll take you on a guided paddle or teach you how to up your kayak and paddleboard game. Try Ecomarine, who has locations on Granville Island, and seasonally at Jericho Beach and English Bay. You can rent equipment here too, or check out Creekside Kayaks in Olympic Village. Starting in June from Granville Island, Vancouver Water Adventures will be running an evening “Light Up the Night” paddleboard tour with a kit fitted with lights. Once you’ve got the bug, check out Meetup.com for groups of like-minded paddlers to explore with.