Are you bound for the rugged mountains or the cosmopolitan city? British Columbia reigns as the country’s adventure capital. There’s no time like the long days of summer to enjoy its offerings. Between ATV rides and waterfall hiking in the rugged mountains, stand-up paddling and boardwalk biking in the city, you’ll find plenty of reasons to enjoy the sunny outdoors.
The mountains offer the most diverse range of active diversions for an immediate deep dive. Squamish, roughly halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, is a great backdrop for hiking, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing alike—among others. But for something a little different, warm up with a yoga session at the Summit Lodge, located at the top of the mountain’s 3,000-foot-high Sea to Sky Gondola. The classess offered through mid-September, and are held on a circular deck overlooking the fjords of Howe Sound and its surrounding peaks. For more unbeatable views, don’t miss the 360-foot-long suspension bridge that connects the lodge to a number of trailheads.
When you’re ready for an adrenaline boost, it’s time to experience legendary Whistler. This area is most known as a ski destination in the winter, but summertime in Whistler is all about the mountain bike park. It offers more terrain than any other bike park in North America, with a whopping 70 trails spread over four mountain zones. Beginners can try the EZ Does It trail—a smooth, wide path with easy turns and a few fun features like a short bridge. More experienced bikers can challenge themselves with steeper and tighter corners, faster speeds, and small jump and drop features along the B-Line route. Get there via the Peak 2 Peak Gondola—the world’s highest lift of its kind—which links Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains and spans nearly 14,500 feet. Pro tip: To best view the region’s alpine forests, volcanoes, and glaciers, opt for the glass-bottomed cabins.
To get even more speed, an ATV ride through the backcountry trails and thick forests of Cougar Mountain, about six miles north of Whistler, makes for an exciting off-road morning. We recommend an hour-long tour with Adventure Group, which rents powerful two- or four-person RZR vehicles for climbing over gravelly paths, rocks, and mud patches. You’ll round into a few clearings that open up to views of the wild mountain range, too, so be sure to bring a camera. Don’t worry if you’re a first-timer; the beginner level is novice-friendly, while the moderate level suits bigger daredevils.
Also within easy access from Whistler Village is Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, just a 15- to 20-minute drive out. The star attraction here is the waterfall for which the park is named, tumbling from a tree-rimmed rock wall down more than 200 feet into what eventually becomes Daisy Lake. Snap some photos from the designated viewing platform, reachable via a flat and well-maintained trail from the parking lot. A one-hour hike can take you down to the base of the waterfall, through the woods and down the boulders—but it’s only recommended for experienced hikers who are comfortable going off-trail.
Even when you’re in bustling cities like Vancouver, you’ll find plenty of enticing green spaces to play in. Vancouver, for example, which is well-loved among outdoor enthusiasts for its Seawall. This bike-friendly trail runs for 17 uninterrupted miles along the city’s waterfront, connecting the Vancouver Convention Center on one end and Spanish Banks Park on the other. Our favorite part along the entire route is probably the stretch around Stanley Park, a beautifully landscaped 400-hectare playground between English Bay and Coal Harbour. The best photo opps here include Lions Gate Bridge, a 5,890-foot-long suspension bridge, and Siwash Rock, a 32 million-year-old rock outcropping that rises just off the shore.
Over in the Yaletown neighborhood, David Lam Park is the waterfront home to concerts, movie screenings, grill outs, and other events during the summer and fall months. Any time of the day, public sculptures and abundant birdlife make any stroll thoroughly pleasurable. There are basketball and tennis courts; rollerblading, throwing a frisbee around, and setting up a volleyball game are also popular ways to spend an afternoon here.
From the park, take an Aquabus mini-tugboat to Granville Island. Once a busy industrial hub, this area under the Granville Bridge has become a busy gathering spot. Pick up some provisions at the Public Market or the outdoor Farmers Market, where you can sample the best of Canada’s produce (keep an eye out from Okanagan Valley fruits) alongside baked goods and other treats. Wander the landscaped paths, giving yourself time to pop into the various galleries and theaters if the mood strikes—and save some time for kayaking or stand-up paddling from the island to False Creek.
With all this to choose from, from laid-back to extreme, it’s easy to see why British Columbia is Canada’s ultimate active destination. Of course, it’ll be the choosing that’s going to be the challenge—which is why we suggest budgeting enough time for both the mountains and the city.