Canada: Chilling in Vancouver

After enjoying the tropical Caribbean weather for two months, it was quite a shock to the system to touch down in Vancouver in January at around 11 at night. I had stocked up on warm clothes in Mexico but it was definitely very bracing – Vancouver was cold. My opinion on it would vary. Sometimes it was nice and refreshing and other times it was just too much but it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected. It was odd to have to limit my time outdoors though, given I usually spend so much time out and about when I’m on the road. In Vancouver, I was constantly on the hunt for the nearest café where I could get a hot drink.

It was great to finally be here though. Vancouver is constantly ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world and, whilst being here in mid-winter meant I couldn’t fully appreciate that, it was still a fantastic city to experience for my short stint here. I stayed right in the centre of town at the fantastic Samesun hostel. Obviously being Vancouver, hostel prices were nowhere near as cheap as in Mexico but with Samesun you did seem to get value for money. The pod-like beds were very cosy, the staff were friendly, they provided a delicious breakfast each morning and the downstairs bar was a great place to meet other travellers. The location was also about as downtown as you could get which was handy.

The Vancouver skyline from Lonsdale Quay

Having only 5 days in the city and with the weather mostly being very questionable, I probably didn’t see Vancouver at its absolute best so the fact it still managed to impress is a testament to what a cool city it is. Luckily, on my very first day there, the weather did hold up so I decided to take advantage and head into nature, something which is never very far away in this city. I took a ferry over to North Vancouver. Starting relatively early meant I got a clear blue sky and a fantastic view of the city skyline. The ferry left from the central Waterfront station and headed north to Lonsdale Quay, costing around $4 (£2.30). There’s a Starbucks at Lonsdale, as well as some other small shops to pick up supplies and a small park with a great view of the skyline. The bus station is dead ahead and I waited about 20 minutes for the 228 bus which heads to Lynn Valley, where my hike would start.

My actual starting point was Lynn Canyon Park and the bus doesn’t quite go that far, so you have to walk about a kilometre or so down the road to reach there. Once I got inside the park, I was following the Baden-Powell Trail, a well-marked and popular route for walkers. It started off with the pretty cool Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and from there snaked through dense woodland and boardwalks. In the shaded areas there was even some snow on the ground and even in the sun it was pretty chilly. It was fantastic to be lost in woodland though, after a few months of beaches and tropics.

The trail was never too steep or particularly difficult, though I was slightly unnerved by the grizzly bear warning signs. Fortunately I never came across one. The sheer number of towering trees throughout the trail was incredibly impressive. It was pretty hard to believe one of Canada’s biggest cities was just a few kilometres away.

After a few hours of hiking through dense forest, I was nearing my final destination – Deep Cove. On the way there, there’s a great little viewpoint in the form of Quarry Rock where a few other walkers were gathering to admire the early, wispy sunset. I even forgot about how cold I was whilst looking at the fantastic view. The teeny tiny skyline of the city could just about be seen in the distance too.

From here, I headed back down to Deep Cove and grabbed a bus to Phibbs Exchange, from where I could change to a frequent bus back to downtown. From Deep Cove, bus 211 or 212 are the ones to catch. In summer, Deep Cove seems like a cool place to hang out with a nice waterfront park and plenty of cafes and restaurants.

Freezing though it was, it was great to get out and explore the outdoors right on Vancouver’s doorstep whilst the sun was out. It also made me realise I would absolutely love to come back to BC in the spring or summer when I could explore more of the hundreds of gorgeous trails here.

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