Garibaldi Lake view

6 Vancouver hikes that you can hit up without a car

The verdict’s in (and it’s a good one): you don’t need a car to experience some of BC’s best parks and trails. Thanks to MEC’s partners at Parkbus – a service that connects Canadians with national and provincial parks – and transit options, getting out of Vancouver and into nature has never been easier, even if you’re car-free. Which means the only question left is: where to this weekend?

“If it’s your first time using Parkbus, look through our site to figure out which destination is right for you. Are you an experienced hiker? Or maybe you’re just looking for an easy daytrip to relax and take a small break from city life?” – Alex and Boris, Parkbus co-founders

1. Alice Lake Provincial Park

Located in the Squamish region just off the Sea-to-Sky Highway is this swimming, floating, camping and all-round good times park. In summer, Alice Lake Provincial Park is a popular spot for Vancouverites who want to enjoy nice weather – so why not head out for a daytrip with Parkbus? The Four Lakes Trail is a relaxing 6km path that loops around Edith Lake, Fawn Lake and Stump Lake, and will have you work up just enough of a sweat for the cool waters of Alice Lake to seem inviting.

How to get there: Parkbus Alice Lake daytrips

2. Bowen Island

If you want a break from the mainland, Bowen Island is a natural playground just a short bus and ferry ride away. Once you land at Snug Cove, you’ll find a couple of hiking trails within reach. Killarney Lake loop is nice for beginner hikers, as it’s a short walk from the ferry terminal and about 10km in total around the lake and back.

If you’re more experienced and want a challenge, the hiking trail up Mount Gardner is a full-day option. The view from the top offers a whole different perspective of Howe Sound, the Sunshine Coast, West Vancouver and Burrard Inlet, all in one.

How to get there: Jump on the 257 Translink bus from downtown Vancouver heading west to Horseshoe Bay. The ferry to Snug Cove costs $10.45 for foot passengers, and has a super short crossing time of only 20 minutes.

3. Shannon Falls and Stawamus Chief

Hiking the Chief is no walk in the park, but this ever-popular ascent offers incredible panorama views of the Squamish Valley, with just a few hours of uphill effort. If you’re looking for an easy scenic picnic spot, spend the afternoon at Shannon Falls. The base of the falls is just a short stroll from the parking lot.

How to get there: Parkbus Stawamus Chief/Shannon Falls daytrips

“One thing people are always surprised about by Shannon Falls and Stawamus Chief is that you can hike from one to the other along the connector trail – you can visit two parks in one day!” – Alex and Boris, Parkbus co-founders

4. Cypress Provincial Park

Cypress Park: so close to the city, but unless you have a car, so far… until now. Hop aboard Parkbus for a daytrip to hiking trails, refreshing lakes and bigtime viewpoints. Bowen Lookout, St. Mark’s Summit, Cabin Lake and Eagle Bluffs are a few of the dayhike options. Be ready for a workout – there are steep sections – and make sure you’ve got your route planned and know the conditions, since backcountry access is close.

How to get there: Parkbus Cypress Park daytrips

The journey is sweeter when it is with those around you that care for you, that make you laugh, that help you, and that test you. I wouldn’t be in the mountains today if it wasn’t for the genuine support that I’ve received on this path. Time and time again I am meeting great humans who give me the boost that I need to get to a place that my heart wants to be. Sometimes it’s the helping hand. Sometimes it’s their belief in you when they say “of course you can you got this!” And sometimes it’s their unwillingness to let you give up on yourself that brings you to great things. Or great views 😊 Looking for a hiking buddy?? Send me a DM!! #chasingsunrise #keen #keencanada #mecnation #explorebc #hellobc #eaglebluffs #hike #friendshipgoals #womenwhoexplore Photo my the AMAZING @stevetan!! Check out his photography!!! 👌🏽👌🏽👌🏽👌🏽👌🏽

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“There are so many places from Vancouver worth exploring, but if we had to pick an easy and beautiful daytrip it would be Cypress Provincial Park. It’s near the city, and offers plenty of hiking opportunities and stunning scenic views.” – Alex and Boris, Parkbus co-founders

5. Garibaldi Provincial Park

This challenging 18km round-trip to Garibaldi Lake rewards hikers some crazy alpine views (you may have seen it pop up in your Instagram feed). If you’re in good physical shape, you can do the full hike in one long day, but this isn’t a wise choice for new hikers or anyone slowly building up fitness. It’s a long climb with many switchbacks until you reach the payoff: Black Tusk above, lake scenery ahead, and remote wilderness all around.

How to get there: Parkbus Garibaldi daytrips… make sure you’re ready before you sign up, as it’s a tough hike and you don’t want to miss the bus for its return back to the city.

6. Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

Well-loved for the 3 turquoise lakes along the trail – Lower, Middle and Upper Joffre lakes – this hike is a great way to experience the rugged alpine area north of Whistler. The trail to Upper Joffre Lake is 10km return, so it’s possible to tackle all 3 lakes in a single day.

Joffre is by far one of the most popular trails in the area, which means it’s extra important to follow the principles of Leave No Trace, and pack out everything that you bring into the park. “We’re working with BC Parks to make sure Parkbus is a positive force and part of the solution. One bus takes off up to 50 vehicles off the road, and Parkbus passengers are educated about Leave No Trace principles as well as safety info onboard the bus to help ensure they leave minimal negative impact in the park,” Alex and Boris from Parkbus shared.

How to get there: Parkbus Joffre Lakes daytrip

With so many destinations to choose from, don’t let the lack of a car discourage you from going on an adventure to the local mountains. As with any hike, it’s important to be prepared:

Tips before you go

  • If you’re not sure where to begin, or hesitant to go on your own, look into Parkbus ActiveDays programming for group outings, where you spend the day exploring together (and meeting new people).
  • If you’re new to hiking, check out a hiking or camping workshop to learn the essentials.
  • Need outdoor gear? MEC provides Parkbus riders with 50% off gear rentals!
  • Stay safe and be prepared. Check out the weather before you leave, tell a friend where you’re going and when you plan to return, and bring first aid supplies and proper clothing. For more tips, check out day hiking for beginners.
Steph Ortiz, writer
Steph Ortiz

Writer, half-marathon runner, cultured traveller, rookie surfer, climber of mountains and recent owner of a splitboard.