Writer-broadcaster Jack Christie is one of Canada’s most trusted sources on travel, recreation and sport. And he did a quick Q & A on hiking with kids in Vancouver, BC. We should consider ourselves very lucky!
As the outdoors columnist with Vancouver’s Georgia Straight newspaper (Canada’s largest circulation weekly) since 1986, he has filed over 500 reports, many of which are posted on line at straight.com. Jack, along with his partner in creativity, photographer Louise Christie, is the best-selling author of a series of 17 adventure guides, including 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver, The Whistler Book: All-Season Outdoor Guide and Best Weekend Getaways from Vancouver: Favourite Trips and Overnight Destinations (Greystone Guides).
Does he have kids? “Louise and I have two grown boys who are now enthusiastically making their way in the world on their own two feet as well as by bike, skis, snowboards, and motorcycles,” Christie says, with characteristic aplomb.
Let’s see what Jack says about hiking with kids in and around Vancouver, BC.
1. Is there a kid-friendly hike within Vancouver’s city limits that you recommend? What do you like about it?
Based on our family’s experience, a “kid-friendly hike” is an oxymoron. Our kids told us they didn’t “get” hiking until they were 14+ teenagers. Stick to walks and let kids decide how far they want to go and what they want to see and do.
In Vancouver, visit Queen Elizabeth Park, second largest next to Stanley Park with far fewer visitors, great views, neat little hiding places dotted among spectacular gardens, good picnic spots, with a big dancing fountain on top in which kids can frolic on hot days. (Note: Photo at right is the view from Queen Elizabeth Park)
2. Is there a hike within 45 minutes of downtown Vancouver, that’s good for families with toddlers? A spot accessible by public transportation?
By transit: North Vancouver’s Maplewood Flats Conservation Area (run by the Wild Bird Trust of BC) on Dollarton Road. You’ll find a gentle loop trail, great spot for wild birds, a small beach, views of the inner harbour. (Read a lovely description of a visit to Maplewood Flats with children on the Outdoor Vancouver blog)
(Consult 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver for details on both locations)
3. Can you recommend a similar hike (near downtown Vancouver) that’s good for elementary-age kids — children who can go a little further without complaint?
Port Moody’s Rocky Point Park offers an ocean side approach along the Shoreline Trail which touches on five pocket parks. In summer, good swimming both at a beach or freshwater pool and water playground for kids to cool down in. Bonus: Great fish & chips at Pajo’s kiosk in the park, a must-visit to reward non-complaining kids.(Consult 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver
for complete details)
4. How about tweens and teens who can go as far as an adult? Do you have a recommendation for a close-to-downtown hike that’s still a bit challenging?
Metro Vancouver’s sprawling Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Pacific Spirit Regional Park’s Wreck Beach stretches for 5 kilometres (3 miles) and can be accessed from a variety of trails numbered 1-7. Trail 6 leads to the section informally known as “Coney Island” where the majority of clothing-optional folks hang out.
The Trail 4 approach that I recommend is naturally removed from the main action by a mile of rocky headlands and very family-friendly. Trail 4 starts with a 300-step staircase directly behind the UBC Museum of Anthropology and leads along a cobble-and-sand beach to twin gun towers, graffiti-plastered relics from World War 2. Lots of driftwood to picnic on, panoramic views of the mouth of the harbour and the Strait of Georgia. My kids loved the wild side of this section of beach.
If families are really turned off by the sight of an occasional bare bum, try downhill along Northwest Marine Drive at the park’s Acadia Beach, next to the city’s Spanish Bank West Beach. They’ll find picnic tables and washrooms and a leafy, gentler approach to Wreck Beach where a colony of blue herons stalk smelt beside net-casting fishers.
(Read a lyrical description of Wreck Beach on Jack Christie’s website)
5. What’s your favorite family-friendly hike between Vancouver and Whistler? What do you like about it? Who is it good for — which ages?
The Sea to Sky Trail, specifically the new stretch between Brandywine Falls Provincial Park and Whistler. One of the best-built, multi-use trails in the region. Starts with a stunning waterfall and leads beside the Cheakamus River. (View the video posted at www.jackchristie.com and consult The Whistler Book: All-Season Outdoor Guide for details)
6. Do you have a gentle, family-friendly hike recommendation in or around Whistler, BC?
The gentle Cheakamus Lake Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park at the south end of Whistler leads through a spectacular forest to a stunning turquoise-hued lake at the foot of Whistler Mountain, or the multi-use Tin Pants Trail in Whistler’s Lost Lake Park with its twig-furniture benches and grand views of the mountains on all sides (Consult The Whistler Book: All-Season Outdoor Guide for details on both).