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Beaches

Greater Vancouver is well endowed with beaches—from the pebbly coves of West Vancouver to a vast tableau of sand at Spanish Banks, in Point Grey—but the waters are decidedly cool, with summer water temperatures ranging from 12 to18˚C (54 to 64˚F). Aside from kids and the intrepid, most stick to quick dips, sunbathing, or wearing a wetsuit for water activities. That said, the city has several exceptional outdoor pools—right on the ocean. The most spectacular is Kitsilano Pool, a heated saltwater pool where you can gaze up at the North Shore Mountains while swimming lengths or splashing in the shallows. Beaches at Kitsilano, Spanish Banks, and Locarno are popular beach-volleyball venues. At English Bay, the city's historic beach and round-the-clock social venue, you can swim, rent a kayak, or simply stroll with an ice cream cone and people-watch. Vancouver is also known for its clothing-optional beaches, the most celebrated being Wreck Beach, which reflects the city’s cosmopolitan perspective.

If you're staying in the downtown core and looking for convenient beaches, English Bay is most accessible, followed by Kits, the Stanley Park beaches, then Jericho and Spanish Banks. Jericho and English Bay are good options if you want to rent kayaks.

All city beaches have lifeguards, washrooms, concession stands, and most have paid parking. Information is available through the city, 311or 604/873–7000. Liquor and smoking are prohibited in parks and on beaches. With a few exceptions, dogs are not permitted on beaches.

Ambleside Park and Beach. West of the Lions Gate Bridge, this long stretch of sand is West Vancouver's most popular beach. There are tennis courts, volleyball nets, and a water park in the summer. This local favorite beach area is just off Marine Drive at the foot of 13th Street. There are superb views of Stanley Park from all along the Seawall. There's also a huge off-leash area for dogs. Amenities: food and drink; showers; toilets. Best for: sunrise; swimming; walking. Argyle Ave. and 13th St., West Vancouver, Vancouver, V7T. westvancouver.ca/parks-recreation/parks/ambleside-park.

English Bay Beach. The city's best-known beach, English Bay, lies just to the east of Stanley Park's southern entrance. A long stretch of golden sand, a waterslide, volleyball courts, kayak rentals, and food trucks keep things interesting all summer. Known locally for being gay-friendly, it draws a diverse crowd. Amenities: lifeguards; water sports; food and drink; toilets; parking (fee). Best for: fireworks; partiers; kayaking; swimming; walking; sunset. 1700 Beach Ave., between Gilford and Bidwell Sts., West End, Vancouver, V6E 1V3. 604/665–3424; www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/english-bay-beach.aspx.

Jericho Beach. Home to the Jericho Sailing Centre, this Point Grey beach is popular for windsurfing and kayaking (rentals are available), especially at the western end. Swimmers can use the eastern section, where the expansive sands and a grassy park invite sunbathing. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); toilets; water sports. Best for: kayaking; swimming; Vancouver Folk Festival; walking; windsurfing. 1300 Discovery St., Point Grey, Vancouver, V6R 4L9. www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/jericho-beach.aspx.

Kitsilano Beach. West of the southern end of the Burrard Bridge, Kits Beach is the city's busiest beach—Frisbee tossers, beach volleyball players, and sleek young people are ever present. Facilities include a playground, restaurant, concession stand, and tennis courts. Kitsilano Pool is here: at 137.5 meters (451 feet), it's the longest pool in Canada and one of the few heated saltwater pools in the world (open May to September). Just steps from the sand, the Boathouse on Kits Beach serves lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch inside and on its big ocean-view deck. There's also a take-out concession at the same site. Inland from the pool, the Kitsilano Showboat, an outdoor amphitheater hosts music and dance performances during the summer. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); toilets. Best for: sunrise; sunset; swimming; walking. 2305 Cornwall Ave., Kitsilano, Vancouver, V6K 1B6. 604/731–0011; www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/kitsilano-beach.aspx.

Spanish Banks Beaches. The Spanish Banks and Locarno beaches form a sandy chain, and have huge expanses of sunbathing sand backed by wide lawns full of picnic tables. There are also volleyball courts. The shallow water, warmed slightly by sun and sand, is good for swimming. Farther west along the coastline, toward the Spanish Banks Extension, the scene becomes less crowded. Spanish Banks West and Locarno beaches are designated "quiet beaches," which means that amplified music is prohibited. Amenities: water sports; food and drink; toilets; lifeguards; parking (free). Best for: swimming; walking; windsurfing. Northwest Marine Drive, at Tolmie Street, Point Grey, Vancouver, V6T 1A9. www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/spanish-bank-beach.aspx.

Stanley Park Beaches. There are two fine beaches accessed from Stanley Park, with other unnamed sandy spots dotted along the seawall. The most popular with families is Second Beach, which has a playground and large heated pool with slides. Third Beach is a little more removed than the other central beaches. It has a larger stretch of sand, fairly warm water, and unbeatable sunset views. It's a popular evening picnic spot. Amenities: lifeguards; toilets; food and drink; parking (fee). Best for: sunset; swimming; walking. 7495 Stanley Park Dr., Stanley Park, Vancouver, V6G 3E2. www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/third-beach.aspx.

Sunset Beach. Farther along Beach Avenue toward Burrard Bridge, Sunset Beach, between Thurlow and Broughton streets, is too close to the downtown core for clean safe swimming, but is a great spot for an evening stroll. It's also a "quiet" beach, which means no amplified music. You can catch a ferry to Granville Island here. Amenities: lifeguards; food and drink; toilets; parking (fee). Best for: walking; sunset. 1204 Beach Ave., between Broughton and Thurlow Sts., West End, Vancouver, V6E 1V4. www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/sunset-beach.aspx.

Trout Lake Beach. The only freshwater lake in the center of Vancouver, Trout Lake's sandy beach has a swimming raft and places to launch small kayaks (though no rentals available). Family picnics are popular here, and there's an attractive farmers' market on summer Saturdays. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); toilets. Best for: walking. 3300 Victoria Dr., between E. 14th and 19th Aves., Commercial Drive, Vancouver, V5N 2J5. 604/738–8535; www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/trout-lake-beach.aspx.

Whytecliff Park. West Vancouver residents are fond of leaping from the cliffs along this rocky beach for a quick, cheap thrill. This calm cove is usually good for swimming and sunset watching. Also along the north side of Burrard Inlet in West Vancouver are dozens of coveted retreats for in-the-know beach-seekers, including (from west to east) Kew Beach, Caulfield Cove, Sandy Cove, West Bay, and Dundarave. East of Marine Drive is a designated off-leash area for well-behaved dogs. Amenities: food and drink; parking (fee); toilets. Best for: swimming; walking; sunset. 7116 Marine Dr., west of Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver, V7W 2T4. 604/925–7275; www.westvancouver.ca/parks-recreation/parks/whytecliff-park.

Biking

Vancouver's most popular bike path is the 9-km (5½-mile) Stanley Park Seawall, which follows the park's perimeter, hugging the harbor along the way. The views of Lion's Gate Bridge and the mountains to the north are breathtaking. The path connects at both ends with the city's longer seawall path, if you feel like making a day of it. Rent your bike near the entrance to Stanley Park, in the West End, as there are no rentals once you're inside the park.

In North Vancouver, the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve has some trails that are bike accessible, as does Pacific Spirit Regional Park in Point Grey, and Cypress Provincial Park in West Vancouver.

For biking on city streets, downtown Vancouver's "separated bike lanes" have made biking even easier—most bike lanes have a barrier between them and the traffic. Especially useful ones are along Hornby and Dunsmuir streets. These lanes are in addition to the city's many bikeways, identified by green bicycle signs.

Vancouver cycling routes connect with those in nearby communities and here most routes do share the road with cars, but they're quite safe and include cyclist-activated traffic signals and other bike-friendly measures. Many TransLink buses have bike racks, and bikes are welcome on the SeaBus and on the SkyTrain at off-peak times. Aquabus Ferries transport bikes and riders across False Creek, too. If cycling is a key component of your visit, check online with the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition (www.vacc.bc.ca).

There are detailed maps and other information on the website operated by the City of Vancouver (www.vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/biking-and-cyclists.aspx). Cycling maps are also available from most bike shops and bike-rental outlets. Helmets are required by law, and a sturdy lock is essential.

Seawall. The paved bike paths of Vancouver's 22-km (13½-mile) seawall start Downtown at Canada Place, go around Stanley Park, and follow False Creek to Kitsilano. Downtown, Vancouver, www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/seawall.aspx.

Bike Rentals

Bayshore Bike Rentals. If you're starting your ride near Stanley Park, try this friendly store. It has a wide range of bikes as well as bike trailers for kids, and in-line skates. 745 Denman St., West End, Vancouver, V6G 2L6. 604/688–2453; www.bayshorebikerentals.ca.

Reckless Bike Stores. This outfit rents bikes on the Yaletown section of Vancouver's seawall route. To explore Granville Island, check out the branch at 1810 Fir Street in Kitsilano. 110 Davie St., Yaletown, Vancouver, V6Z 2Y1. 604/648–2600; www.reckless.ca.

Spokes Bicycle Rentals. Near Stanley Park, Spokes has a wide selection of mountain bikes, tandem bikes, and children's bikes. Everything from hourly to weekly rentals are available. Helmets, locks, and route maps are complimentary. 1798 W. Georgia St., West End, Vancouver, V6G 2V7. 604/688–5141; www.spokesbicyclerentals.com.

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking may be a worldwide phenomenon, but its most radical expression, known as free-riding, was born in the 1990s on the steep-and-rugged North Shore Mountains. This extreme type of mountain biking has thrill-seekers riding ultra-heavy-duty bikes through gnarly forests, along log-strewn trails, over rocky precipices, and down stony stream beds (not to mention along obstacles like planks and teeter-totters). The Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve in nearby North Vancouver has challenging biking trails through alpine meadows, forested slopes, and river flood plains: the Corkscrew and Salvation trails are classified as advanced or extreme. There are also advanced mountain biking trails on the lower slopes of Mount Fromme (next to Grouse Mountain) and Mount Seymour.

Endless Biking. Convenient to North Vancouver's challenging trails, this bike shop specializes in mountain bikes including those with rugged suspension systems. Reservations are recommended. The shop also runs guided tours, as well as a shuttle to local trail heads. 1401 Hunter St., North Vancouver, British Columbia, V7J 1H3. 604/985–2519; www.endlessbiking.com.

Mountain Bike Rentals

Endless Biking. Convenient to North Vancouver's challenging trails, this bike shop specializes in mountain bikes including those with rugged suspension systems. Reservations are recommended. The shop also runs guided tours, as well as a shuttle to local trail heads. 1401 Hunter St., North Vancouver, British Columbia, V7J 1H3. 604/985–2519; www.endlessbiking.com.

Diving

The rugged coastline of southwestern British Columbia offers excellent and varied diving with vistas of below surface sheer rock walls and thick plots of plumose anemones. From late summer through winter, when water clarity is best and allows visibility of up to 100 feet, the region delivers some of the most spectacular temperate-water (average 4–8˚C [39–46˚F]) diving in the world, including sightings of the North Pacific Giant Octopus. Dry suits are imperative.

Rowand's Reef Scuba Shop. This PADI-certified scuba and snorkeling business specializes in year-round diving trips to nearby Howe Sound. Courses are also available. 1731 West 4th Ave., Kitsilano, Vancouver, V6J 1M2. 604/669–3483; www.rowandsreef.com.

Ecotours and Wildlife Viewing

Given a temperate climate and forest, mountain, and marine environments teeming with life, it's no surprise that wildlife-watching is an important pastime and growing business in and around Vancouver. Many people walk the ocean foreshores or park and mountain trails, binoculars or scopes in hand, looking for exceptional or rare birds. Others venture onto the water to see seals, sea lions, and whales—as well as the birds that inhabit the maritime world.

Sewell's Marina. This marina near the protected waters of Howe Sound runs year-round, two-hour ecotours of the surrounding marine and coastal mountain habitat. Sightings range from swimming seals to soaring eagles. High-speed rigid inflatable hulls are used. They also offer guided and self-driven salmon-fishing charters in Howe Sound and to the mouths of the Capilano and Fraser rivers. 6409 Bay St., West Vancouver, Vancouver, V7W 3H5. 604/921–3474; www.sewellsmarina.com.

Steveston Seabreeze Adventures. In April and early May thousands of male California sea lions settle on rocks near the mouth of the Fraser River to feed on the eulachon, a member of the smelt family. Seabreeze's sightseeing boats make the short trip into the estuary from Steveston, in Richmond—south of Vancouver. During the autumn bird migratory season, Seabreeze also ventures to the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary on Westham Island; summer means orca and occasional humpback whale sightings. They also operate fishing charters as far west as the Gulf Islands: the seven-passenger boats, with guides, cost C$1,000 on weekends, C$900 on weekdays. 12551 No. 1 Rd., Richmond, Richmond, V7E 1T7. 604/272–7200; www.seabreezeadventures.ca.

Bird- and Eagle-Watching

Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park. Between mid-November and mid-February, the world's largest concentration of bald eagles gathers to feed on salmon at Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, near Squamish, about an hour north of Vancouver on the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway. The Brackendale Art Gallery has a teahouse that's a good place to stop along the way. 41950 Government Rd., off Hwy. 99, Brackendale, V0N 1H0. www.brackendaleartgallery.com.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. More than 280 species of migratory and nonmigratory birds visit this nearly 350-hectare (850-acre) site on Westham Island, about an hour south of Vancouver. A seasonal highlight is the arrival of 50,000 to 100,000 Lesser Snow Geese, from early fall through winter. 5191 Robertson Rd., Delta, V4K 3N2. 604/946–6980; www.reifelbirdsanctuary.com. C$5. Daily 9–4.

Whale-Watching

Between April and October pods of orca whales migrate through the Strait of Georgia, near Vancouver. The area is also home to year-round pods of harbor seals, elephant seals, minke whales, porpoises, and a wealth of birdlife, inlcuding bald eagles. Other migrating whales include humpbacks and grays.

Prince of Whales. This established operator runs four-hour trips from Vancouver's Coal Harbour waterfront across the Strait of Georgia to Victoria, in season. The Westin Bayshore, 1601 Bayshore Dr., West End, Vancouver, V6G 2V4. 888/383–4884; www.princeofwhales.com.

Wild Whales Vancouver. Boats leave Granville Island in search of orca pods in the Strait of Georgia, often traveling as far as Victoria. Rates are C$135 for a three- to seven-hour trip in either an open or glass-domed boat (trip lengths depend on where the whales are hanging out on a particular day). Each boat leaves once daily, April through October, conditions permitting. 1806 Mast Tower Rd., Granville Island, Vancouver, V6H 4B6. 604/699–2011; www.whalesvancouver.ca.

Fishing

You can fish for salmon all year round in coastal British Columbia, weather and marine conditions permitting. Halibut, at 25 kilograms (55 pounds) and heavier, is the area's other trophy fish. Charters ply the waters between the mouth of the Capilano River in Burrard Inlet and the outer Georgia Strait and Gulf Islands. A fishing license can be purchased from the boat rental or tour operator. Sewell's Marina is also known for its salmon fishing excursions.

Bonnie Lee Fishing Charters. From moorings in the Granville Island Maritime Market, this company runs five-hour fishing trips into Burrard Inlet and the Georgia Strait, year-round. Guided outings start at C$425for the boat. 104-1676 Duranleau St., Granville Island, Vancouver, V6H 3S4. 604/290–7447; www.bonnielee.com.

Golf

Vancouver-area golf courses offer golfing with fantastic scenery. Most are open year-round. Three championship golf courses (including serene Fraserview) are operated by the city, meaning they are more affordable. To reserve up to 30 days in advance, contact the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation (www.vancouver.ca/parks/golf). The Vancouver Park Board operates three 18-hole pitch-and-putt sites, including one right near Stanley Park and one in Queen Elizabeth Park.

Last Minute Golf. For advance tee-time bookings at about 20 Vancouver area courses, or for a spur-of-the-moment game, call Last Minute Golf. The company matches golfers and courses, sometimes at substantial greens-fee discounts. 604/878–1833; 800/684–6344; www.lastminutegolfbc.com.

Fraserview Golf Course. The most celebrated of Vancouver's public courses, the 18-hole Fraserview Golf Course sits on 91 heavily wooded hectares (225 acres) overlooking the Fraser River. It has a tree-lined fairway, a driving range, and a lovely clubhouse. There's a golf institute staffed with instructors who teach players of all levels. Golf carts are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 7800 Vivian Dr., South Vancouver, Vancouver, V5S2V8. 604/257–6923; www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/fraserview-golf-course.aspx. C$65.

Northview Golf and Country Club. In the rolling terrain southeast of Vancouver, this lovely golf club is home to two Arnold Palmer–designed courses. The Ridge Course crosses meandering streams, while the Canal Course has wide fairways and undulating greens. An optional cart at either course costs C$40. There's a strict dress code: no jeans or T-shirts allowed. 6857 168th St., Surrey, V3S3T6. 604/576–4653; 888/574–2211; www.northviewgolf.com.

University Golf Club. In Point Grey's Pacific Spirit Park, this challenging 1929 public course includes a clubhouse and restaurant and is home to the British Columbia Golf Museum. The course's narrow fairways, lined with old-growth trees, appeal to golfers of all skill levels. 5185 University Blvd., Point Grey, Vancouver, V6T1X5. 604/224–1818; www.universitygolf.com. C$69.

Health, Fitness, and Yoga

Vancouver embraces health and wellness with open arms. Public and private gyms are well patronized, and there are myriad martial arts, yoga, and Pilates classes offered around the city. If you're craving a fitness fix, you’ll easily find something that suits you.

Richmond Olympic Oval. This speed-skating oval was built alongside the Fraser River, in Richmond, for the 2010 Olympic Games. The facility, with a gorgeous glass-and-steel design, contains Olympic-size ice rinks and a huge fitness center with a climbing wall. It's a 15-minute walk from the Canada Line. 6111 River Rd., Richmond, V7C 0A2. 778/296–1400; www.richmondoval.ca. Day passes C$16.50.

Robert Lee YMCA. This downtown YMCA has the latest in fitness facilities, including an indoor pool, sports courts, and yoga studios. 955 Burrard St., Downtown, Vancouver, V6Z 1Y2. 604/689–9622; www.robertleeymca.ca.

Semperviva Yoga Studios. The Granville Island location of Semperviva, one of Vancouver's most popular yoga studios, is called the Sea Studio, and it overlooks False Creek. The drop-in fee is C$22, including a mat. Pier 32 Bldg., 1333 Johnston St., Granville Island, Vancouver, V6H 3R9. 604/739–2087; www.semperviva.com.

YWCA. With aerobics and yoga classes, a six-lane indoor pool, a cardio room, three weight rooms (one reserved for women only), and a hot tub and steam room, the YWCA has it all. 535 Hornby St., Downtown, Vancouver, V6C 2E8. 604/895–5777; www.ywcahealthandfitness.com. Day pass C$17.

Hiking

With its expansive landscape of mountains, inlets, alpine lakes, and approachable glaciers, as well as low-lying rivers, hills, dikes, and meadows, southwestern British Columbia is a hiker's paradise. For easy walking and hiking, you can't beat Stanley Park in downtown Vancouver but for more strenuous hiking, there are fabulous parks not far away. Popular hiking desintations include Mount Seymour Provincial Park, Lynn Canyon, Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, and Capilano River Regional Park in North Vancouver; Pacific Spirit National Park in Point Grey; and Cypress Provincial Park and Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. With their photo-worthy profile, the North Shore Mountains may appear benign, but this is a vast and rugged territory filled with natural pitfalls and occasionally hostile wildlife. Areas and trails should be approached with physical ability and stamina in mind, and you should exercise great caution. Every year, hikers wander off clearly marked trails, or outside well-posted public areas, with tragic results. If you're heading into the mountains, hike with a companion, pack warm clothes (even in summer), bring extra food and water, and always leave word of your route and the time you expect to return. Remember, too, that weather can change quickly in the mountains.

In addition to the Mountain Equipment Co-op , there are several places around town for good books, maps, and advice.

Environment Canada. It's always a good idea to check the weather forecast with Environment Canada. 604/664–9010; www.weather.gc.ca.

Wanderlust. A major supplier of goods and gear for travelers, Wanderlust also stocks maps and guidebooks. 1929 W. 4th Ave., Kitsilano, Vancouver, V6J 1M7. 604/739–2182; www.wanderlustore.com.

Hiking Trails

Baden Powell Trail. This 48-km (30-mile) trail crosses the entire length of the North Shore Mountains, from Horseshoe Bay in the west to Deep Cove in the east. On the way it passes through both Cypress Provincial Park and Mount Seymour Provincial Park, and is best completed in three or four sections. For a quick and scenic taste of the route, make the 4-km (2.5-mile) round-trip jaunt up to Quarry Rock in Deep Cove. North Shore Mountains, North Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia, .

Capilano River Trails. About 26 km (16 miles) of hiking trails explore in and around Capilano Canyon—where the Capilano River is flanked by old-growth forest. There is also a salmon hatchery that's open to the public. Trailheads are off Capilano Road in North Vancouver (near Capilano Suspension Bridge) and near Ambleside Beach. 4500 Capilano Park Rd., North Vancouver, Vancouver, V7R 4L3. 604/224–5739.

Dog Mountain Trail. One of the popular routes in Mount Seymour Provincial Park, this trail is a scenic 5-km (3-mile) return trip (about 1½ or 2 hours), with minimal elevation. It's best done June to October. For a longer, half-day trek, head to one or all three of the peaks of Mount Seymour. Mount Seymour Provincial Park, North Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia, .

Garibaldi Provincial Park. About 80 km (50 miles) north of Vancouver, Garibaldi Provincial Park is a serious hiker's dream. You can't miss it: the 2,678-meter (8,786-foot) peak of Mount Garibaldi kisses the heavens just north of Squamish. Alpine meadows and wildlife viewing await you on trails leading to Black Tusk, Diamond Head, Cheakamus Lake, Elfin Lakes, and Singing Pass. Mountain goats, black bears, and bald eagles are found throughout the park. This is truly one of Canada's most spectacular wildernesses, and being easily accessible from Vancouver makes it even more appealing. A compass is mandatory, as are food and water, rain gear, a flashlight, and a first aid kit. There are also two medium to advanced mountain bike trails. Take seriously the glacier hazards and avalanche warnings. Snow tires are necessary in winter. Hwy. 99, between Squamish and Pemberton, Squamish-Lillooet, 800/689–9025.

Grouse Grind. Vancouver's most famous, or infamous, hiking route, the Grind, is a 2.9-km (1.8-mile) climb straight up 853 meters (2,799 feet) to the top of Grouse Mountain. Thousands do it annually, but climbers are advised to be very experienced and in excellent physical condition. The route is open daily during daylight hours, from spring through autumn (conditions permitting). Or you can take the Grouse Mountain Skyride to the top 365 days a year; a round-trip ticket is C$41.95. Hiking trails in the adjacent Lynn Headwaters Regional Park are accessible from the gondola, including Goat Mountain Trail. Grouse Mountain, 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, Vancouver, V7R 4K9. 604/980–9311; www.grousemountain.com.

Saint Mark's Summit. Though the Howe Sound Crest Trail continues north for a multiday trek, this first portion to Saint Mark's traverses old-growth forest and woodland trails to a rocky outlook. It covers about 11 km (7 miles) return. This is one of many hikes within Cypress Provincial Park. Equally lovely alternatives include the route to Eagle Bluff and cross-country routes near Hollyburn Lodge. West Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia,

Sendero Diez Vistas Trail. In the most accessible section of Indian Arm Provincial Park, the lovely 13-km (8-mile) Sendero Diez Vistas is a moderate trail that reaches scenic heights at 10 or so viewpoints. The return leg follows the shores of Buntzen Lake (stop at North Beach for a swim if it's hot), and takes about 4 to 5 hours. At Buntzen Lake, North Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia,

Saint Mark's Summit. Though the Howe Sound Crest Trail continues north for a multiday trek, this first portion to Saint Mark's traverses old-growth forest and woodland trails to a rocky outlook. It covers about 11 km (7 miles) return. This is one of many hikes within Cypress Provincial Park. Equally lovely alternatives include the route to Eagle Bluff and cross-country routes near Hollyburn Lodge. West Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia,

Guided Hiking Tours

Novice hikers and serious walkers can join guided trips or do self-guided walks of varying approach and difficulty. Grouse Mountain hosts several daily "eco-walks" along easy, meandering paths, including a discussion of flora and fauna and a visit to the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. They're free with admission to Grouse Mountain Skyride.

Rockwood Adventures. This company gives guided walks of rain forest or coastal terrain, in areas including Lighthouse Park, Lynn and Capilano canyons, and Bowen Island in Howe Sound. Many of the tours also include a gourmet picnic or box lunch. 6342 Bruce St., West Vancouver, Vancouver, V7W 2G4 . 604/913–1621 ; 888/236–6606; www.rockwoodadventures.com.

Stanley Park Ecology Centre. A calendar of guided nature walks and discovery sessions is filled with fun, kid-friendly options. Despite its urban access, Stanley Park offers incredible wildlife diversity—from the namesake rodents in Beaver Lake to a rookery of great blue herons near the tennis courts. The organizaiton also operates the Stanley Park Nature House on the shores of Lost Lagoon. Alberni and Chilco Sts., Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, 604/257–8544; 604/718–6522; www.stanleyparkecology.ca. Free.

Running

Vancouverites go for a run at any time of day, in almost any weather. The seawall around the downtown peninsula remains the most popular route, though the hilly byways of the North Shore are also popular with trail runners. Visitors staying downtown will be drawn to the 10-km (6-mile) route around Stanley Park, or the short 2-km (1-mile) circuit around Lost Lagoon.

Running Room. This Canada-based business is a good source for gear, advice, and downloadable route maps. There are many branches around the city and throughout British Columbia and the rest of Canada. A running club leaves from this location at 6 pm on Wednesday and 8:30 am on Sunday. 679 Denman St., Suite 103, West End, Vancouver, V6G 2L3. 604/684–9771; www.runningroom.com.

Water Sports

From kayaking in False Creek to windsurfing in English Bay, white-water rafting in North Vancouver rivers, or excursions farther afield, Vancouver is full of opportunities for water sport enthusiasts. There are also several spots to go stand-up paddleboarding, including right downtown in False Creek, English Bay, and Sunset Beach. Eco-marine Ocean Kayak Centre and Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak Centre rent SUP equipment, as well as kayaks and canoes.

Boating and Sailing

With an almost limitless number and variety of waterways—from Indian Arm near Vancouver, up Howe Sound and the Sunshine Coast, across Georgia Strait to the Gulf Islands, and on to Vancouver Island, southwestern British Columbia is a boater's paradise. And much of this territory has easy access to marine and public services. One caution: this ocean territory is vast and complex; maritime maps are required. Always consult the Environment Canada marine forecasts (604/664–9010, www.weather.gc.ca).

Blue Pacific Yacht Charters. This company rents speedboats and sailboats for cruising around Vancouver Island and Seattle, including the San Juan Islands, Southern Gulf Islands, and the Sunshine Coast. Sailboats and power boats can be rented for a day or for longer excurions. 1519 Foreshore Walk, Granville Island, Vancouver, V6H 3X3. 604/682–2161; 800/237–2392; www.bluepacificcharters.ca.

Cooper Boating. Sailboats and cabin cruisers, either with or without skippers, can be rented at Cooper Boating. There is a two- to five-day minimum. 1815 Mast Tower Rd., Granville Island, Vancouver, V6H 3X7. 604/687–4110; 888/999–6419; www.cooperboating.com.

Canoeing and Kayaking

Kayaking—seagoing and river kayaking—has become something of a lifestyle in Vancouver. Many sea kayakers start out (or remain) in Downtown's calm False Creek, while others venture into the open ocean and or head along the Pacific Coast. You can also white-water kayak or canoe down the Capilano River and several other North Vancouver rivers. Paddling in a traditional, seagoing First Nations–style canoe is an increasingly popular way to experience the maritime landscape.

Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre. Ocean-kayak rentals, guided excursions, and lessons for everyone in the family are available between April and October at this company's waterfront base in North Vancouver. Winter paddling tours are also available. 2156 Banbury Rd., North Vancouver, Vancouver, V7G 1L2. 604/929–2268; www.deepcovekayak.com.

Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre. Lessons and rentals are offered year-round from this well-regarded company's main branch on Granville Island. There are also locations at Jericho Beach and English Bay. 1668 Duranleau St., Granville Island, Vancouver, V6H 3S4. 604/689–7575; 888/425–2925; www.ecomarine.com.

Takaya Tours. A trip with Takaya Tours is a unique experience: you can paddle an oceangoing canoe while First Nations guides relay local legends, sing traditional songs, and point out the sites of ancient villages. The two-hour tours leave from Cates Park in North Vancouver or Belcarra Park in Port Moody. They also have kayak trips along the Burrard Inlet and up Indian Arm. Reservations are essential and trips run on a six-person minimum. North Vancouver, Vancouver, V7H 2R5. 604/904–7410; www.takayatours.com.

River Rafting

Snowmelt from the coastal mountains, and broad rivers that run through the Pemberton Valley, north of Squamish, provide some of the best white-water rafting in British Columbia.

Canadian Outback Adventure Company. White-water rafting and scenic, family-oriented floats are offered on day trips from Vancouver. Transportation to and from Vancouver is available for an extra charge. North Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia, 800/565–8735; www.canadianoutback.com.

Windsurfing

The winds aren't heavy on English Bay, making it a perfect place for learning to windsurf. If you're looking for more challenging conditions, head north to Squamish.

Windsure Windsurfing School. Sailboard and wetsuit rentals as well as lessons are available between May and September at Jericho Beach, in Point Grey. Skim boarding (a low-tech activity using a wooden board to skim along wet sand) and stand-up paddling lessons are also offered. 1300 Discovery St., Point Grey, Vancouver, V6R 4L9. 604/224–0615; www.windsure.com.

Winter Sports

Whistler-Blackcomb, just a two-hour drive from Vancouver, is the top-ranked ski destination in the region but there are plenty of winter sports and activities closer to Vancouver proper. The North Shore Mountains have three excellent ski and snowboard areas: Cypress Mountain, just 30 minutes away, is the largest of the local ski hills and was a venue for the 2010 Olympics; Grouse Mountain is particularly known for night skiing; and Mount Seymour is generally known as the most family friendly of the three. All have rentals, lessons, night skiing, and a variety of runs suitable for all skill levels. All three also offer snowshoeing and snow tubing, and Cypress Mountain has cross-country trails complete with a historic cabin, Hollyburn Lodge, that serves warm treats. Grouse Mountain can be reached using TransLink buses. Cypress and Seymour each run local shuttle buses.

Ski areas and trails are generally well marked; pay close attention to maps and signposts. The ski season generally runs from early December through early spring.

Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, and Snow-tubing

Cypress Mountain ski resort. Just 30 minutes from Downtown, the ski facilities at Cypress Mountain include six quad or double chairs, 53 downhill runs, and a vertical drop of 610 meters (2,001 feet). The resort has a snow-tubing area and snowshoe tours. This is also a major cross-country skiing area. Summer activities at Cypress Mountain include hiking, geocaching, wildlife viewing, and mountain biking. Cypress Provincial Park, Cypress Bowl Rd., West Vancouver, Vancouver, V7V 3N9. 604/926–5612; www.cypressmountain.com.

Grouse Mountain ski resort. A 15-minute excursion from Downtown Vancouver, the Skyride gondola takes skiers up to the ski resort on a slope overlooking the city. The views are fine on a clear day, but at night they're spectacular, and the area is known for its night skiing. Facilities include two quad chairs, 26 skiing and snowboarding runs, and several all-level freestyle-terrain parks. There's a choice of upscale and casual dining in a handsome stone-and-timber lodge. Summer activities at Grouse Mountain include hiking, disc golf, zip-lining (in winter, too), and wildlife viewing. 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, Vancouver, V7R 4K9. 604/980–9311; 604/986–6262; www.grousemountain.com.

Mount Seymour ski resort. A full-service winter activity area, the Mount Seymour ski resort sprawls over 81 hectares (200 acres) accessed from eastern North Vancouver. With three chairs for varying abilities; beginner's lifts, equipment rentals, and lessons; as well as toboggan and tubing runs, it's a favorite destination for families. Snowboarding is particularly popular, as is snowshoeing on ski hill trails and provincial park routes. The dining options aren't fancy. 1700 Mt. Seymour Rd., North Vancouver, Vancouver, V7G 1L3. 604/986–2261; www.mountseymour.com.

Skating Rinks

Robson Square Ice Rink. Rent skates and lace them up tight to enjoy this free ice-skating rink in the city center. It's the best of indoor and outdoor skating combined—with a triodesic glass dome covering the open-air rink. The season runs mid-November through February. 800 Robson St., Downtown, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6Z 3B7. 604/822–3333; www.robsonsquare.com. Free.

Hockey

The Canucks have sold out every game since 2004. Tickets can be purchased at legal resale outlets. Watching NHL hockey in a Canadian city is an unparalleled experience, so try and catch a game if possible at Rogers Arena. If you can't attend in person, head into any bar on game night, especially Saturday, which is "Hockey Night in Canada."

Vancouver Canucks. The city's most beloved sports team, the Vancouver Canucks, plays at Rogers Arena. 800 Griffiths Way, Downtown, Vancouver, V6B 6G1. 604/899–7676; canucks.nhl.com.