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SCENIC TRAILS & URBAN PATHS: VANCOUVER’S BEST RUN ROUTES

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Hollie Holden

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Vancouver, birthplace of lululemon, home to the highest concentration of yoga pants and sneakers owned per capita in North America (we might have made that fact up, but it sounds right), and more than 100,000 people have claimed the BMO Vancouver Marathon finish line as their own. We guess you could say we’re a city on the move.

And with miles upon miles of pedestrianized walkways, urban dirt paths, and rocky North Shore trails, this city makes it so easy for you to train.

Really, if you aren’t into outdoor living, then you’re just doing Vancouver wrong. And you would be missing the entire point of living in this spectacular gateway to the mountains, crisscrossed with the best running trails anywhere.

We’ve all seen the landmark forest dominating the Vancouver skyline as you enter the city from Lionsgate Bridge, but did you know that in addition to the 500,000 trees across 1,001 acres of forest, it also houses a 27-kilometre-long network of shady gravel trails? Our favourite six-kilometre loop starts at Second Beach: take Rawlings Trail up to Prospect Point (making sure you stop here to check out the views and snap a #beautifulBC selfie), then head down Bridle where you’ll have the option to add on an extra one-kilometre time-trial lap around Beaver Lake. By now, you should be feeling pretty sweaty? Good — that’s what we were aiming for. Cool off in the beachfront outdoor pool at the finish.

More a destination to aim for than a place to clock those kilometres, Queen Elizabeth Park sits at 152 metres above sea level and offers up one of the best views in the city. Hill repeats on the schedule? This is the place to do it. Plus, November Project YVR also meets here on Wednesday mornings at 6:29am (yes, 6:29am) — we challenge you to make it a double workout day!

Okay, so it’s not technically a ‘run’ (unless you are one of those crazy people who can do it in less than 30 minutes), but it’s still one hell of a workout. 2,830 steps climbing up 853 metres over just 2.9 kilometres—from the base of Grouse Mountain to the chalet at the top—will get your heart rate dancing and those quads burning. Leg day? Who needs leg day when you have these mountains on your doorstep!

Trail running is serious business in Vancouver — the North Shore is home to hundreds of technical trails that will challenge even the most extreme ultrarunner. Two-time (almost) Barkley Marathons finisher Gary Robbins lives and trains on those mountains, so they are no joke. But if you’re new to trail running and want something a little more gentle, hit up Pacific Spirit Park. With 50+ kilometres of urban trails amongst 750 hectares of lush forest, you won’t even know you’re still in the city. Our favourite is Salish Trail, but half of the fun is just going with the flow and finding your own route. Fitt Tip: there are so many maps on the trail, you’ll never get lost. (Actually, maybe — so don’t quote us on that!)

At 28 kilometres long, this is the world’s longest, uninterrupted oceanside path. Be it a quick five-kilometre recovery run or a 30 kilometre long and slow, the Seawall caters to everybody. And by everybody, we mean E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y. Get out there at sunrise for “stop and take an Instagram Story” views as well as absolute peace and quiet. Let’s just say, this route is Vancouver’s busiest (and arguably best) for a reason.

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Fed up with mountain views? (C’mon, really?) Then you should skirt the 10 kilometre section of Seawall around Vancouver’s inlet, False Creek. Framed by the bright lights of Yaletown, the buzz of boats zipping across the harbour, and the glow of the Science World dome in the corner, this is city running at its finest. Start and finish the route at Burrard Bridge, then head to Musette Cafe to refuel with an artisan americano and only THE BEST banana bread ever. Fitt Tip: when the days grow longer, it can be hard to find routes that are well lit. No need to worry about that here — this loop is our winter go-to.

Where else in the world can you run with the ocean lapping just metres away from your feet yet have snow-capped mountains framing the horizon? Best of all, the route is entirely flat — not even a hint of an incline (unless you carry on past the anchor and up the hill to UBC…). No? Happy with the beach? We thought so. With these kind of views, you could keep running forever and ever. Oh, Vancouver, stop it with your beauty already.

If you’re looking to up your trail game, the place to go is Lynn Headwaters Park, and specifically Lynn Loop trail. This trail has the perfect balance of up and down, smooth and rocky, forest and waves. We recommend parking at End of the Line General Store, then hopping on down to the Varley Trail to the start of Lynn Loop for a 5.1-kilometre round-trip. Looking for something less hilly? At the start of Lynn Loop, head through the gates on your left and make your way along the Norvan Falls Trail (we’re talking seven kilometres one way with waterfall rewards at the end).

In early 2017, a disused railway was transformed into the Arbutus Greenway, opening up a brand spanking new, uber-pedestrian-friendly asphalt path extending nine kilometres from Granville Bridge to the Fraser River in the south. With minimal road crossings, no traffic, and no route planning required — pavement pounders, this out-and-back walkway is the path for you. Think that such a suburban trail would have limited scenery? Think again. The route has a (very) gradual incline peaking in Kerrisdale, rewarding you with breathtaking views across to the mountains of the North Shore.

This bridge is the entrance into the Port of Vancouver and one of our most recognizable landmarks. And considering its southern end launches from the forested Stanley Park, the Lions Gate Bridge makes for a stunning 10-kilometre out-and-back run. Catch the sunset (or sunrise — we see you early-risers) for some incredible views as you climb to the bridge’s midpoint peak. Feeling like a long and slow? Extend your jog along Ambleside in the North Shore or through Stanley Park’s many trails and Seawall segments.

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Fitt

Get Fitt delivered to your inbox.

Stay up to date on what’s happening in Vancouver’s health and fitness scene.

Get Fitt delivered to your inbox.
Fitt

Get Fitt delivered to your inbox.

Stay up to date on what’s happening in Vancouver’s health and fitness scene.