To Vancouver... and beyond!
February 4, 2018 3:50 PM   Subscribe

I’ll be in Vancouver for a few days in mid-late September. While in the area, I want to see All The Nature Things over an extended two week trip. Can you help me build a realistic itinerary for a solo woman during that time of year?

I’m doing a half marathon in Vancouver BC on Saturday, September 22nd, where I’ll likely be Thursday-Sunday. My hunch is to save naturey exploring until after the half and through the end of September, rather than before (but I’m open to all recommendations).

I am more interested in all the majestic beautiful things - mountains, lakes, amazing trees, glaciers, scenery, as opposed to watching wildlife. I do some hiking, but nothing super hardcore. Should I see Banff? Is getting to see Glacier National Park too far? I would appreciate guidance on what’s realistic and worth seeing during this time frame, and how seasonal weather may impact things. At some point I’d also need to get back to an airport to fly home (does not have to be Vancouver).
posted by raztaj to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, BC (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Banff is very far, yes. It would take nearly a day to drive there each way. You would then be closer to Calgary Intl Airport. If 10+ hours in the car feels manageable to you, it is beautiful and you should go.

Locally, try Lighthouse Park, Lynn Valley, the Seawall. It will probably still feel like the cool-ish end of summer, unless you get unlucky and catch an early rainy spell.

I'm sure others will chime in with less obvious destinations as well. Driving to Whistler could be reasonable in the timeframe you're suggesting. It is beautiful in a mountainous way, but dense with tourists.
posted by unstrungharp at 4:29 PM on February 4, 2018

The Sea to Summit is a beautiful hike. If you do happen to be feeling hardcore, you can hike back down too, but the gondola ride is fun. Not a long drive out of Vancouver, so it's ~potentially~ doable on your short trip, and the drive itself is also beautiful. When you get back down, stop by Mag's 99 for a late lunch/early dinner.

If you would like a lower-impact-but-still-outdoors thing to do while you're in Vancouver, do visit the Queen Elizabeth Park for some (admittedly well-manicured) nature time.

Banff is gorgeous but as mentioned above it's a long drive from Vancouver. I'm assuming you have access to a car? You could make a road trip of it: drive from Vancouver to Kamloops and stay there for the night (it's maybe a four-hour drive). There's some hiking in Kamloops at Sun Peaks resort, if that's appealing to you. Then you could drive up to Lake Louise -- it won't be quite at its peak of colour, but it'll still be beautiful. After that, you could drive through the Columbia Icefield down to Jasper. You could check out Canmore, and then head to Calgary and fly out of there. You could also trek up to Edmonton, which isn't super-scenic but has some pretty good restaurants, and is pretty that time of year. Edmonton is a surprisingly pleasant airport to fly out of -- though it depends where you're flying to.
posted by halation at 4:38 PM on February 4, 2018

Keep in mind that if you are driving to either Whistler or Banff, you will need snow tires as of Oct 1st. Both are beautiful, but i personally think with only 2 weeks you’ll have more than enough to see in BC. It’s a long drive to Banff.
posted by cgg at 4:57 PM on February 4, 2018

I live in Banff, the drive from Vancouver can be done in a long day but I don't recommend it, budget at least a night in each direction. Still great driving and totally worth it if you have a 2 week trip. I recommend stopping in Kelowna one way, lots of vineyards and orchards along the way and they have their wine festival from Sept 27 to Oct 7 or so. Do Kamloops on the opposite trip (or Kelowna again if you love it). Make some pit stops along the way, Glacier National Park has some easy stops. End of Sept/early Oct things are finally starting to quiet down in Banff. Still lots of excellent hikes to be done, snow isn't really an issue until mid-late Oct, but you never know. Bring some layers if you come.
posted by furtive at 5:11 PM on February 4, 2018

While you’re in/near Vancouver, go to the Capilano Suspension Bridge! It sounds kinda dorky, and it is, but also so much fun and gorgeous.
posted by Drosera at 5:22 PM on February 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Trigger alert: if you have a thing about falling long distances, be a little careful of the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The last time I went there were only a few people around, and only me and a group of young Asian businessmen. Or so I thought. Young Asian devils was more like it. When they noticed I was nervous, they started vigorously making the bridge swing higher and higher.

Actually, I have to admit they were laughing so hard at my clutching the rope handrail, laughing and waving and obviously having so much fun horsing around that I finally started to laugh, too. And once I GOT OFF THE BRIDGE it turned into a great story.
posted by kestralwing at 6:34 PM on February 4, 2018

Are you restricted to the Canadian side of the border? Because while I usually would recommend you stick to the many spectacular options in B.C., mid-September can be a fantastic time to visit Mount Baker, just over the border in Washington's North Cascades. There's a wonderful but relatively easy (spectacular panoramic views, non-technical) trail on Ptarmigan Ridge that in many years is snow-covered until quite late in the summer and September is a great time to get to it.

If this is not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you my advice would be to save the Canadian Rockies for another trip -- they deserve a whole trip of their own. In the meantime you can have a phenomenal trip with first-class nature opportunities exploring the Cascades and coastal B.C.
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:09 AM on February 5, 2018

As others have said, it's a long drive from Vancouver to Banff; the first half is in my memory less scenic than the second half from Kelowna on. What I would recommend if you want to spend more time in the Banff area is flying from Vancouver to Calgary and doing the trip from there; the flights are frequent and cheap (~$150 CAD/90 minutes) and it's not much more than an hour driving from Calgary into the Rockies. (There is also a two-day luxury train, the Rocky Mountaineer, if that appeals to you.) Kelowna and the Okanagan area around it can be pleasant; orchards, vineyards and so on. I would only bother to do the drive to Banff from Vancouver if you were into that sort of thing and would welcome a stop for some wine tasting and so on.

Late September is a pretty good time for the Rockies in general -- the odds of snow are low (but not zero), the peak summer crowds are gone (although weekends are still busy), the larch and poplars are turning golden, it's often brisk but not usually terrible out.

I don't know a ton about the Vancouver area for nature -- one area that hasn't come up is Vancouver Island, which has a natural beauty of its own, although not really any mountains/glaciers.

The sections of the road most likely to be closed if there is a dump of snow (not likely, but not impossible) is the Roger's Pass area, which is in the middle of Glacier National Park (of Canada, which is in BC - not the Glacier Park in Montana), but again, that's unlikely. Speaking of Glacier Park (in Montana this time), I think it's too far to be worth it in your time frame - it's further than Banff from Vancouver, and would add a ton of driving if you were trying to do both. I'd add Jasper to Banff in an instant - the Icefields Parkway between them is an amazing drive (and you can visit a glacier) as an alternative.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:00 PM on February 5, 2018

Vancouver is great for the outdoors. Apart from the beaches and some of the urban parks, the entirety of the North Shore (North Vancouver and West Vancouver) is spectacular and there are trails everywhere. Note that most of them are up a mountain if you are from somewhere flat. See hiking resources/descriptions here and here. Some preparation is important - the trails are well used, beautiful and within view of the city but there are also some very dangerous areas if you are unfamiliar or ill-prepared. Just be careful and wise.

As others have mentioned, Whistler is also nice and there are easy to find buses or rental cars to get there (about 2 hours). Banff is spectacular but a long drive and probably a trip in itself. Glacier National Park is amazing (so much so I've been there for the weekend twice from Vancouver) but it's way far (13 or so hour drive plus uncertainty of the border). If you're really looking to get out of Vancouver I would go Vancouver Island (Tofino/Ucluelet being obvious for outdoors, but many options) or Washington state.
posted by sinical at 7:45 PM on February 5, 2018

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