POV: You’re an outdoor adventurer who is planning on visiting Vancouver but don't want to be swamped by the wildly inflated prices and the bustling city. Instead, you’re looking for a place with the perfect mix of civilization and the great outdoors. No more than an hour-long transit ride away from the hustle-and-bustle of downtown Vancouver and a 37-kilometre drive away from the peacefulness of Golden Ears Provincial Park, Coquitlam (co-quit-lam, for those who want to blend in with the locals) is the town to visit if you’re looking for the perfect mix of busy city and outdoor adventure.
How to Access Coquitlam
Coquitlam is a little under 40 kilometres away from YVR, Vancouver’s international airport. It’s easy enough to access this city from the airport, no matter whether you’re driving or taking public transit.
If you’re driving, your biggest challenge is most likely the traffic. Heading to Coquitlam from YVR won’t take you past the downtown hub, but chances are you’ll encounter stretches of busy road. From the airport, you’ll want to head into the Richmond-core via Sea Island Way, then head onto highway 99. Turn onto highway 91and follow it until you get to Queensborough Landing. Head over the bridge into New Westminster and follow Front Street, continuing on it as it turns into Brunette Avenue. Once you reach Braid skytrain station, turn onto the Trans-Canada Highway and follow the signs that point towards Coquitlam.
Taking transit to Coquitlam is easy enough. The skytrain itself is like the standard inter-city train or tram and comes to each station every six minutes or so. There are a few options for purchasing your Translink fare: grab a day pass, purchase a compass card (for longer visits) or tap your debit or credit card on the scanner to pay for a one-time train ride.
From the airport skytrain station, take the Canada Line until you reach Vancouver City Centre station in downtown Vancouver. Switch lines by walking down Granville Street to Granville station and take the train that directs you to Production Way-University. There is an option to make this ride shorter, but for ease’s sake, stay on this train until you reach Lougheed Town Centre. Switch lines, getting on the line bound for Lafarge Lake-Douglas, and ride this train until you reach your desired station.
From the traditional hotel experience to suburban rental houses, there are many places to book yourself into in the Coquitlam area. My recommendation is that if you plan on heading towards downtown Vancouver frequently throughout your trip, book a stay somewhere close to transit, as traffic can get a little hectic. However, for those looking to stay solely in Coquitlam, find a spot that will immerse you in the natural beauty of this little city. Both options can be found below.
The Executive Plaza Hotel is located near Lougheed Town Centre, making it a 20-minute skytrain ride away from the heart of Vancouver. This hotel has a restaurant, bar, fitness centre, outdoor tennis court and swimming pool. Book yourself a stay here for a traditional hotel experience.
Poco Inn and Suites may be located outside of the general Coquitlam area, but staying out here will allow you to beat some of the morning traffic rush to get out to Golden Ears Provincial Park. Moreover, a quick drive up Oxford Street (and a right turn on David Avenue) will bring visitors to Minnekhada Regional Park.
This Airbnb in the Harbour Chines neighbourhood is walking distance from Como Lake. It's in a great spot for those looking to stay within the suburbs while still getting their fill of the surrounding nature.
You'll be sure to wake up with a pleasant view when staying in this private suite located near the Burrard Inlet. Located off Ioco Road, which will lead you up to Belcarra Regional Park, White Pine Beach and Buntzen Lake, this suite is sure to be a "sweet" stay for your trip.
For the quintessential Coquitlam experience of being both in the city and close to nature, book yourself into this apartment located steps away from Coquitlam Centre. You'll have close access to public transit, a variety of restaurants to grab dinner from and hiking trails galore found directly in your backyard.
For those who wish to get as close to the wilderness as possible, Anmore Camp and RV Park is the place to stay. You'll be nice and close to Buntzen Lake while still having access to showers, laundry facilities and 30 or 50 amp power.
Pick Your Perfect Park
There’s no shortage of outdoor activities near the Coquitlam area that you can indulge in. Kayaking, hiking or having a picnic are just some of the things you'll be able to do in these parks. Here are a few of the spots I recommend.
Belcarra Regional Park
A 10-kilometre drive will bring you to Belcarra Regional Park, home to lush forests, massive mountains and lakes that are perfect for a morning dip. Host a picnic, do some morning crabbing or bring your SUP to the boardwalk and enjoy a peaceful day out on the water. Buntzen Lake and White Pine Beach are two classic Coquitlam summer experiences that I guarantee everyone who grew up in this area has checked off their bucket list. If you’re looking to spend a day exploring these forests on your own two feet, check out Admiralty Point, Sasamat Woodhaven Connector or other hikes in this area. When visiting any of these spots, plan accordingly—book your day-pass, arrive early, pack all the gear you think you’ll need and remember to adhere to Leave-No-Trace principles.
With this park located a 10-minute walk away from my house, I've spent a lot of time hanging out within the trails. Mundy Park is stippled with short but easy walking trails, making it the perfect place to walk your furry friends. I've done the Perimeter Trail quite a few times, but the crisp air and the sound of the rustling trees never gets old. There are two small lakes in the park that are great for short walks, though swimming, kayaking or other water-based activities are not permitted. Spani Pool, which is currently undergoing a facelift, will be open towards the west-side of the park by Summer 2024. Here, you'll also find a baseball and softball diamond, disc golf area, sports field and picnic shelters.
Minnekhada Regional Park
The best thing about Coquitlam is how close you can get to nature without completely abandoning the boundaries of the city. Nine kilometres away from Coquitlam’s main hub (Coquitlam Centre) is Minnekhada Regional Park. This park is a great place to get into the woods and explore. You’ll get the true backyard-exploration experience when wandering through Minnekhada’s crops of tall trees and mossy rocks. If you decide to visit, be mindful—bears are often visitors to this park, so be sure to brush up on your bear-encounter information.
Pinecone Burke Provincial Park
A 12-kilometre drive will take you to some of the prettiest natural waterfalls in the tri-cities area. Pinecone Burke Provincial Park is home to a multitude of sights, sounds and splashes of waterfalls spraying off the rocks. Exploring this park will treat you to views of Sawblade, Crystal and Woodland falls. The lakes are nothing to snooze at either—Munro, Hourglass and Radek are some of the fantastic lakes that may cross your path when wandering around this park. My favourite spot to visit in this park has always been Crystal Falls, though the trail heading in has been altered recently due to land claims, so be prepared for a tougher hike by bringing your hiking poles.
Wondering where to go to get the best fair food? Looking for a place to enjoy the outdoors while listening to some live music? We've got you covered. Here are a couple of attractions near Coquitlam.
Separated only by a small sign, Coquitlam and Port Moody are like the two neighbours who exchange Christmas gifts and keep an eye on each other’s houses while the other is away. These two cities go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly, marshmallow and graham cracker or mountain and ocean. The heartbeat of Port Moody, Rocky Point, is a surefire destination point if you’re ever visiting Coquitlam. Home to some of the best breweries in BC, an ever-popular boardwalk, quiet beach (no longer than a 3-kilometre walk away), a kayak-renting company and an ice cream shop that boasts over 25 flavours, there’s something for everyone at Rocky Point. A two-minute walk over the bridge will bring visitors to Taps and Tacos and the Hard Bean Brunch Company—two restaurants that never disappoint. Come to Rocky Point during the summer for outdoor concerts and various food festivals.
With a skytrain station dedicated to it, Lafarge Lake is the place to go if you’re looking to spend a day outdoors. The walk around the lake is no longer than a kilometre. In the winter, colourful Christmas lights decorate the walking path. Beside the lake itself is the wide variety of outdoor sporting amenities such as tennis courts, basketball courts, volleyball sand pits, a racing track, a skate park and turf fields. There’s also a huge playground for little ones to enjoy to their heart’s content—when I was a kid, my favourite thing here was the massive Christmas tree-shaped spinning apparatus made of ropes (there’s no official name for it, apparently). Visit during the summer for outdoor events at the amphitheater such as culture days, summer concerts and food truck vendors.
Where to Go to Get the Best View
One of the best things about Coquitlam is the diversity in elevation. The city's core itself is nestled at the base of a bunch of mountain ranges, allowing for access to both sky-high views and reflections off the water. You're certain to find your perfect view at the places listed below.
As I’m heading into my fourth year at Simon Fraser University, I can safely tell you that there aren’t many good things about having late-night classes on the Burnaby campus. Buses only run until a certain time, no one else is on campus to hang out with and a lot of the food places are closed. The one saving grace for these later classes are the stunning sunsets that are viewable from almost any point on Burnaby Mountain. Most sunset-watchers head to Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area to catch an undisturbed view of the sunset—there are also short trails that can be hiked starting from this point. However, on clear days, the sunset is visible from pretty much any point where you can see the sky.
Old Orchard Park
Ah yes, the ‘quiet beach’ that I mentioned earlier. Old Orchard Park is a hidden gem that not many, besides tri-city locals, know about. This spot is perfect for catching the sunset, walking to-and-from Rocky Point or simply hosting an outdoor get-together. My friends and I have had many sunset book club gatherings at this park, and after spending a bit of time here, you’ll want to as well. Take your kayak and paddle out to the water to catch some of the best views near Coquitlam.
This view requires a bit of a trek in order to get there. Lace up your best pair of running shoes, bring a full bottle of cold water and prepare for a challenge as you race up the Coquitlam Crunch stairs. Many will do just the stair portion for a quick workout, but feel free to follow the entire trail. At the top, check out the stellar views of Coquitlam. I did the crunch after I did the Grouse Grind—trust me when I say that it was a landslide easier.
Coquitlam is a city that hosts plenty of options for those looking to get out on their next backyard adventure. When visiting, you'll encounter our endless supply of hiking trails, diverse food options and plethora of outdoor adventure experiences. It's a great place to visit if you want to get away from the busyness of Vancouver while experiencing the beauty of the West Coast landscape.