Rapelling down to the ocean

There’s no need to drive all the way to Whistler or even as far as Squamish. Greater Vancouver’s got everything you want—climbing, hiking, paddling and wildlife—all within the city limits. The convergence of the Pacific Ocean, the Coast Mountains and the Fraser River has created one of the greatest outdoor playgrounds in the world. Here are three one-day adventures to help you experience it.

Hike Strachan Mountain


While crowds toil up the uninspiring Grouse Grind for bragging rights, expend your energy on a more worthwhile objective in welcome solitude. Strachan Mountain is not an impressive looking peak from downtown Vancouver—tucked behind the Cypress Mountain ski resort—but from this strategic pinnacle it’s possible to look up Howe Sound, into the Coast Range, across the Fraser Valley to Mount Baker, and over the Strait of Georgia as far as Victoria. Plus, besides short sections at the beginning and end, the hike has a real wilderness feel. It follows the start of the Howe Sound Crest Trail, climbs an avalanche gully to twin summits, and returns down the other side of the mountain through old-growth forests. Expect to sweat and also be inspired.

Length: Four to five hours.

Directions: From Highway 1 in West Vancouver, take the Cypress Bowl exit and drive 16 km to the ski area parking lot.

Resources: Get trail info at the Cypress Mountain day lodge or from Don’t Waste Your Time in the BC Coast Mountains, by Katy and Craig Copeland.

Climb Lighthouse Park


It’s hard to imagine a more scenic place to throw up a rope than this sunny oceanside crag, the closest rock climbing to Vancouver. The pillows of granite at the northern point of the city’s harbour drop into the ocean in a vertical 65-foot pitch, and the salt spray has cut into the rock creating edgy face climbing. The views—south to UBC, east to downtown, north up Howe Sound and west to Vancouver Island—are some of the best around. Anchors are in place for top roping; just set up a rope, walk or rappel to the water’s edge, and start climbing. There are about a dozen climbs in the area ranging from 5.6 to 5.12.

Length: Two to eight hours.

Directions: Take the Trans-Canada Highway west through West Vancouver to the Collingwood exit. Follow the switchback down to the ocean and turn right on Marine Drive toward Horseshoe Bay. Turn left onto Beacon Lane and drive to the parking lot. Take the Juniper Point Trail to access the top of the bluffs.

Resources: Stop in at the Edge Climbing Centre in North Vancouver for beta.

Paddle the Ladner Marsh


Less than an hour from downtown Vancouver is one of the most important wildlife reserves in North America—and you’ve probably never heard of it. The Ladner Marsh at the mouth of the Fraser River Delta is a gourmet buffet on the migration path of 1.5 million birds from 310 species, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, great blue herons and snow geese. California sea lions, river otters, beavers and muskrats are regularly spotted here as well. The best way to see them is from the cockpit of a sea kayak. Launch at Ladner Harbour and cruise through float homes and fish boats up the Fraser River and into the marsh. Aim for high tide so you can get into the backwater.

Length: Two to three hours.

Directions: Take Highway 99 to the community of Delta, then exit onto River Road heading west and follow it until it ends. Turn right and then immediately left to the water access next to the Ladner Outdoor Store.

Resources: Rent a kayak, get directions or arrange a guided tour at the Ladner Outdoor Store.

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