Great Runs in Vancouver, BC
Vancouver is one of North America’s top running cities. Surrounded by ocean and mountains, Vancouver’s planners have taken full advantage of the city’s spectacular geography by building a wonderful network of parks and trails. The 17-mile Seawall Trail is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path. And even though downtown is looking increasingly Hong Kong-esque with its huge skyscrapers, Stanley Park, with miles of oceanfront and forested trails, is at your doorstep. There are also great beaches, parks, and running trails in the western part of the city, from the “Kits” area over to the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus. In North Vancouver and heading toward the mountains, there are huge parks and recreational areas, with world-class trail running. The ‘Grouse Grind’ is an iconic run/walk/hike. For those with time, B.C. is a recreational mecca, between Vancouver Island, a ferry ride away, and the mountains to the north. Vancouver has great public transportation: Skytrain light rail system, ferries/aquabuses, and buses.
The good news about Vancouver’s weather is that it is mild — especially compared to other Canadian cities. Temps rarely fall much below freezing in winter, and there is little snow. However, it’s cloudy and wet, averaging 20 days with measurable rainfall and 17% average sunshine in winter — similar to Seattle. So pack wet weather gear, and plan for runs away from the water on really stormy days.
The Iconic Routes
- Stanley Park Trails
- The Seawall
- False Creek/Burrard St. Bridge/Kits Beach
- Area around Univ. of British Columbia
- Lion’s Gate Bridge
- Bonus: A trail run in North Vancouver
The three best bets from the main business/hotel area of downtown: north side into Stanley Park; south side to English Bay Beach/Sunset Beach part of the seawall; and over the Burrard St. Bridge to Vanier Park/Vancouver Museum/Kitsilano Beach.
Stanley Park is one of the most spectacular urban parks in the world. At more than 1,000 acres and surrounded by the waters of Vancouver Harbour and English Bay, the park is running heaven — and easily reachable from downtown hotels. There are rain forest trails, bucolic gardens, and a 5+ mile seawall trail with great views of the water, mountains, and downtown’s burgeoning skyline. Since there are so many options, it’s hard to recommend a specific running route in Stanley Park, so here are some highlights.
- Seawall Loop. 5.8 miles, MAP. Vancouver’s seawall extends 20+miles, but there is great 6 mile seawall loop specifically in the park. Flat, with great views of the water, Lion’s Gate bridge, mountains, and skyline. Starting at the Vancouver Rowing Club, just past the bridge, highlights include Hallelujah Point, Brockton Point Lighthouse (1.2m), Siwash Rock (3.65m), passing under Lion’s Gate Bridge (2.7m), Third Beach, and lost Lagoon. The full loop is 5.8m but one can continue south and west another 0.7m to English Bay Beach and 1.8m to the Burrard St. Bridge, over to Kitsilano.
- Forest trails. The inland parts of the park feature 17 miles of Western Rainforest Trails through lush red cedar, hemlock, and douglas fir trees. See the trail map.
- ‘Round the Lakes. It is 0.6 miles around Beaver Lake, ~1 mile around Lost Lagoon, and ~0.6 miles between the two.
The 17-mile Seawall is the world longest uninterrupted waterfront path. A good option fr0m downtown is to do the ~8 mile loop around Stanley Park, past English Bay, and an express return along Burrard St. Another option is to run as much of the Seawall as you like, using a ferry/aquabus for the return.
False Creek Loop
5.7 miles. Start: Burrard St. & Pacific. MAP
The “False Creek Loop” is referred to in Vancouver running circles as the part of the Seawall path that begins around Sunset Bech/Burrard St., runs past the Plaza of Nations, Science World, the Olympic Village and continues through Granville Island. Great water views, skyline views, and tour of Vancouver’s ever-growing glass condo high rises. Our loop is 5.7 miles. It can be extended on the downtown side by heading north to English Bay and Stanley Park, or on the southern end by running along some of the streets of Granville Island or along the Seawall to Kits Beach and Jericho Beach Park. There are fun restaurants and parks in the Kitsilano area, and pleasant residential streets for running as well.
Jericho Beach - Spanish Banks Beach Park
This is a neat area for running, sort of a continuation of the trails near Kits Beach. Wonderful views of the water and the mountains to the north. We haven’t proscribed a particular route here. Options include the ~2 mile off-road trail along the water between Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks Beach. Inland from the water are wonderful Jericho Beach Park, with numerous trails and recreational activities, and the wilder forested trails of Spanish Banks Beach Park.
UBC/Endowment Lands/Pacific Spirit Park
On the western shore of Vancouver sits the University of British Columbia (UBC), whose setting must be one of the most spectacular of any academic institution in the world. The UBC campus includes some wonderful paths for running, access to extensive beach front, and the trails of Pacific Spirit Park, which sit in the University’s ‘endowment lands’. This area is a 10–20 minute drive from downtown, accessible by public transportation too. There are lots of running options here:
- Beach — We’ve created a 7.7 mile loop along the Foreshore Trail, which starts at Acadia Beach and goes around the top of UBC to the southern side, then heading east. You can then join the Park trails and head through the UBC campus back to the northern side, along Westbrook Mall. There are some stairs along different points of the beach that lead to the UBC campus.
- Park/Endowment Land Trails. There is an extensive series of wooded trails in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. The main park site has a nice 10k loop mapped out, but there are numerous additional options. Good to combine with some of UBC campus and beaches. Park trail MAP
Lion’s Gate Bridge
1.6 miles ONE-WAY from Prospect Point in Stanley Park or Taylor Way North Vancouver.
Canola Pacific Trail: 4.6 miles, paved, ONE WAY. MAP
The Lion’s Gate Bridge is one of the world’s great “bridge runs”, up there with the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s exhilarating, with with fabulous views in all directions. It’s about 1.5 miles across the bridge. Pedestrian access is via Prospect Point in Stanley Park, or Taylor Way in North Vancouver. A great add-on option in North Vancouver once over the bridge is the Capilano Pacific Trail. It is 4.6 miles one-way from the eastern terminus of the trail 0.7 miles east of the bridge to Dundrave Park to the west. MAP
Iona Beach Jetty
5 miles RT to end of jetty and back. Start: Parking lot. MAP
Close to the airport, in Richmond, is Iona Beach Regional Park. A great five mile run is a there and back along “The jetty”. The causeway is firm sand and completely flat. Ocean views the whole way…and not much else. Note: the trail is quite exposed to wind and weather.
Near Airport/Cambie: Middle Arm & West Dyke Trails
Trail starts at Cambie Rd. & River Rd., near airport hotels. Various length options. MAP
A good bet near the airport area hotels in Cambie is to run along the Dyke trail, east of Terra Nova Park. The trail starts just west of Cambie Rd., and runs parallel to River Rd., passing the Olympic Oval and the UBC boat house. It is 3 miles one-way to Terra Nova Park, where the West Dyke trail can be picked up, heading south for another 3.5 miles to Garry Point Park. It’s another 0.5 miles to Steveston Village (see below).
Richmond: Steveston, South Dyke, West Dyke
A 20-minute drive from Vancouver airport, the area around Steveston provides a great taste of scenic Vancouver. There are two options here: a scenic tour of Steveston, which is ~6.3 mile RT starting in the village and heading east. Sites include Garry Point Park with great ocean views, the cute fishing village of Steveston, the Imperial Landing canning area, shipyards, fishing piers, and at the eastern end the agricultural fields to the north and great views of the Fraser River, Ladner and Mt. Baker to the south. A second option is the West Dyke. Starting in Steveston Village, head west and do a tour of Garry Point Park, then head along the unpaved West Dyke trail, with views of the water a 21,000 acre estuary, to the end at the Fraser River and and Terra Nova Park, with the airport just across the Georgia Strait.
Burnaby: Burnaby Lake/Deer Lake
6.3 miles around lake. Start: parking lot off Piper Ave. MAP
Burnaby is Vancouver’s major eastern suburb. The best running option in the area is Burnaby Lake Park, where a 6.3 mile gravel path circles the lake. There are a couple of brief road sections. Note that vegetation obscures water views for some of the time. From the southern end of Burnaby Lake, it’s a short jaunt over to Deer Lake, which has an extensive network of trails and a 2-mile perimeter path around the lake. There are good views of the water most of the time.
Burnaby Central Park
Burnaby Central Park is another great choice for running in east Vancouver. At 200 acres, the park is notable for its immense douglas fir, western hemlock, cedar, poplar and maple groves. There are lots of trails for running, but a popular option is the 5k Terry Fox Route. Anyone running in Canada should be familiar with Terry Fox — he was a Canadian athlete who, having lost a leg to cancer, embarked in 1980 on a 5,300 mile run across Canada to raise awareness and money for cancer research.
Once over the Lion’s Gate Bridge, you are in North Vancouver. Easily accessible right over the bridge is the flat, 4.6 mile Capilano Pacific Trail, also known as the West Vancouver Seawall. After that, it’s up into the parks and mountains, which are a mecca for trail running but can be challenging and technical for the novice.
Best options for North Vancouver running are:
- Capilano River Trail (West Vancouver Seawall). 4.6 miles ONE-WAY. Relatively flat and accessible running in north Vancouver, just over the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Great water, skyline, mountain views. MAP
- The Grouse Grind. A famous 1.8 mile run/walk/hike consisting of 2,830 stairs and gaining 2,800 feet in elevation. Part of Grouse Mountain, which is a major recreation destination 20 minutes drive from Vancouver. This website has great info about the Grind, including various PRs.
- Lynn Loop. Lots of trails in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, which is 1/2 hour from downtown. The Lynn Loop is a popular forested trail run which is not too challenging. The shorter option, about 6k, is a gradual gradient along a river trail. The longer option, ~10k, is more technical, but still has modest elevation changes. Info on park trails.
Vancouver is quite compact. There are lots of hotels right downtown, most within 1–2 miles of Stanley Park, the Seawall, and the trails around False Creek and over the Burrard St. Bridge. There’s also a cluster of hotels near the airport, which is fairly close to the city. There is good access from hotels just east of the airport to trails along the Fraser River, starting at Cambie Rd. North 2nd Rd. and paralleling River Rd. Our maps below are a general Vancouver view and a more detailed downtown area/lower mainland/UBC view.
Running Stores and Clubs
There are lots of running stores in Vancouver, which speaks to the city’s recreational culture and great running options. Running Room is a national chain in Canada with several locations in Vancouver. There are many group run opportunities each week. Calendar.
The Running Room. Right near Stanley Park. Group Runs Wed.: 6:00 p.m. & Sun.: 8:30 a.m.
New Balance. Heart of downtown. Great advice on running technique, apparel.
Lululemon Lab. Vancouver is the HQ location of this well-known yoga & running apparel chain. This store is their lab location, with a focus on new designs and concepts are
Forerunners. Great local shop. Group Runs Wednesday 6:30 and Saturday 8am, $5 but lots of resources.
Distance Runwear. Great store. Also location in North Vancouver.
Running Room. Group Runs Wed. 6:00 p.m. & Sun.: 8:30 a.m.
Vanvouver Running Company. Near Kitsilano Beach. Group Runs Thursday 6:15 pm. Also special group runs and training. More info.
Forerunners. Great local shop. Group Runs Wednesday 6:30 and Saturday 8am
Running Room. Group Runs Wed.: 6:00 p.m. & Sun.: 8:30 a.m
Distance Runwear. Great local running store. Thanks to Dave for his help!
Running Room. Group Runs Wed.: 6:00 p.m. & Sun.: 8:30 a.m.
Popular meetup groups in Vancouver for running:
BMO Vancouver Marathon. May. Marathon and other distances. A major event.
Vancouver Sun Run. April. Popular 10k, attracts 40,000 runners.
Seawheeze Half Marathon. August. “It’s over 10,000 Agents of Change descending on Vancouver to sweat it out over a summer weekend of yoga, running, and, of course, one hell of an awesome party”. Affiliated with Lululemon.
East Side 10k. September. Popular 10k in the eastern part of the city, a good ‘architectural’ tour. Part of the Canada Running Series
WestVanRun. March. Various length options.