By far the best way to experience Vancouver BC is by bike. Here are three of our favourite Vancouver bike routes, rated for distance, difficulty, and exposure to traffic.
If you want to skip the preamble…
Jump straight to the Vancouver bike routes
Don’t miss our other Vancouver travel guides: 17 Reasons To Visit Vancouver This Summer and Getting Merry on the Ultimate Vancouver Craft Beer Bike Tour →
Why You Should Cycle in Vancouver
Every time we visit Vancouver, we cycle everywhere. And every time we come, we try to ride at least a couple of our favourite Vancouver bike routes.
In Vancouver, we bike to the beach, out to dinner, to visit friends on the North Shore and even to concerts in Stanley Park. We also cycle to and from the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal – which leads to Vancouver Island – winding our way up, down, and along the North Shore’s outstanding coastline.
During the last few years, Vancouver’s cycling culture has leapt into the future, surpassing most cities we have visited. In response, the popularity of cycling has taken off like wildfire.
(Wildfire is also very prevalent around Vancouver.)
Vancouver has separated bike routes that will take you safely through the busy downtown core, dedicated bike lanes on many of the arterial streets radiating out from the city centre, and streets that are designated bikeways, on which bikes far outnumber cars. These three Vancouver bike routes take advantage of that wonderful infrastructure.
The main attractions of Vancouver are close enough together to be easily cyclable (even the airport is only 10km out of town), but if you want to head further afield, bikes are welcome on city transit, including the SkyTrain, the SeaBus, and all city buses, which have front-mounted bike racks.
So if you’re coming to Vancouver BC, plan on renting a bike and getting out on two wheels on one of these unbelievably gorgeous Vancouver bike routes.
Where to go for Vancouver bike rental
You can rent bikes in Vancouver near the starting point of all three of these bike routes. Try Cycle BC, a few blocks up Quebec Street from the Olympic Village or go to Simon’s Bike Shop, not far from BC Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver.
Update: Vancouver Bike Share from Mobi
Great news for visitors to Vancouver! Vancouver now has a bike share program from Mobi, so it’s easier than ever to get on a bike while you’re visiting Vancouver.
There are plenty of docking stations in downtown Vancouver, near Stanley Park, and around False Creek, so it will be easy to find a bike. They don’t have stations on the North Shore yet though.
The bikes also come with an attached helmet. Yay for safety (and also yay for abiding by BC’s bike helmet laws)! And, if you want to make a short stop-off somewhere — say to pop inside for a craft beer — there is also a cable lock on the bike.
Like most bike share programs, there are a few hoops you need to jump through before you can get on and ride.
Step 1: Join Mobi Vancouver Bike Share
To get started, you need to go online and register for Mobi. It’s a short process – they ask for name, phone number, address, and a 4-digit PIN code of your choice.
Step 2: Choose a Plan
Mobi offers a variety of plans to suit different riders such as visitors to Vancouver, casual riders, and commuters.
The day pass costs $9.75 and allows you unlimited rides of 30 minutes or less for 24 hours. You can rent multiple bikes on the day pass, but you must select that option online.
The major drawback is the overage charge, which is a pretty hefty $5 for each additional 30 minutes you have a bike away from a docking station.
So, the day plan is best if you want to make short hops between Vancouver’s major sights throughout the day.
If you want to follow one of our Vancouver bike routes, you’ll get a better (and cheaper) ride from one of the traditional Vancouver bike rental places. The Mobi docking station map helpfully points out the location of bike rental shops in Vancouver, too.
If you’ll be in Vancouver for a few months, one of Mobi’s monthly plans, which you have to get for a minimum of 3 months, is a great option. The Monthly Plus Pass gets you unlimited 60-minute rides for $20/month, the Monthly Standard Pass offers unlimited 30-minute rides for $15/month, and the Monthly Basic Pass is a pay-per-trip option which gives you 30-minutes of ride time for $2, plus a monthly fee of $10.
Weekly or 3-Day Pass
Unfortunately, there is no weekly pass or 3-day pass, but we think there should be! This is really the ideal amount of time for a visitor to Vancouver. So if you agree with us, email Mobi and let them know.
Step 3: Get Your 7-Digit Code
Once you’ve chosen a plan and paid online, you’ll be emailed a 7-digit code which you will use to access the bike. If you lose the code, you can always find it on your Mobi profile page. For monthly plan holders, you can also activate Mobi on any of your RFID cards (like credit or debit cards) which seems easier than messing around with a 7-digit access code all the time.
Step 4: Go Visit Vancouver by Bike!
Once you’ve jumped through the registration hoops, getting a bike and riding is easy.
Use Mobi’s docking station map to find a station – or just keep your eyes open as you move around Vancouver, you’ll see one. Then, just follow the instructions on the bike to ride!
OK, on with the show. Here are…
3 Unbelievably Gorgeous Vancouver Bike Routes
Here are three of our favourite Vancouver Bike Routes, rated for distance, difficulty, and exposure to traffic. For convenience, we’ve started each route at Science World, which is located at the end of False Creek.
Vancouver Bike Route 1: Stanley Park Seawall
Length: 21 km
Terrain: Bike paths, almost all flat
Best For: Slow rides with the family, romantic evening bike rides
Route: Stanley Park Seawall Bike Route
This is a classic Vancouver bike route. Nothing celebrates the beauty of Vancouver like this bike ride that keeps you teetering on the edge of Vancouver’s dramatic coastline and provides views of Vancouver’s iconic Convention Centre, the Coastal Mountains, Vancouver Harbour, Lion’s Gate Bridge, English Bay’s beaches, and False Creek.
Bring your camera and keep your eyes peeled for whales, which have been known to swim right into the city’s waterways.
The Stanley Park Seawall Route
From Science World, take the bike path along the north side of False Creek.
Yacht lovers will want to stop at the water’s edge to check out the excess on display. Money flows in Vancouver and much of it flows into ostentatious yachts that don’t make it off the dock very often. For more affordable boating options, you can rent a kayak and paddle around False Creek or take the Vancouver Water Taxi from Science World to stops all along False Creek.
But right now, it’s time to leave your aquatic dreams aside and look away from the sparkling water. Instead, look inland to get an eyeful of BC Place Stadium, home to the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, BC Lions football, and site of huge events like the FIFA Women’s World Cup and Taylor Swift concerts.
Trucks & Trains
If you want to stop off for a quick snack, take a detour off the bike path at Davie Street just after you pass under the Cambie Street Bridge. About 200m from the bike path, you’ll come to Pacific Boulevard. Look for the bright yellow Loving Hut truck on your left, parked on the southwest corner of Davie at Pacific Boulevard, right outside the Roundhouse Community Centre. Loving Hut, which is a worldwide vegan chain, serves tasty vegan burgers made with Gardein (a delicious Canadian meatless product and also our favourite brand of meat substitute).
Inside the Roundhouse you can get tourist info and visit the Engine 374 Pavilion, where you can see the engine of the first train to ever pull into Vancouver, marking the completion of Canada’s first transcontinental railway.
After lunch, head back to the Seawall, where you’ll continue to be treated to pretty views of False Creek and to be surrounded by fit Vancouverites and tourists getting their daily exercise.
Bridges & Beaches
You’ll soon pass under Granville Street Bridge. At the bridge, look across False Creek and you’ll see Granville Island, Vancouver’s touristy but enjoyable market, on the far shore.
Next, after passing under Burrard Street Bridge, you pass by Sunset Beach park which looks out onto English Bay. Bikini-clad Vancouverites and tourists flock to these beaches in the warm weather to get their tan on. In winter, the beach will be deserted and you’ll have the (often rainy) views all to yourself.
Parks & Public Art
Just past the park, you’ll come to a giant Inukshuk sculpture, a two-story granite cairn and an iconic piece of public art in Vancouver. Stop and get a cheesy tourist picture in front of it. You know you want to.
After the beaches of English Bay, you’ll come to Stanley Park, Vancouver’s 1,000-acre answer to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. According to tourism Vancouver, Stanley Park “is recognized as one of the greatest urban parks in the world”. We recognize it as such, so I guess it must be true.
When you get there, follow the bike path signs and turn right for the only inland portion of the ride.
The bike route around Stanley Park is one-way, counter-clockwise, so be sure to follow the signs and do what the locals do. It’s perfectly acceptable to ding your bike bell (politely) at clueless tourists who tend to walk or just stand in this section of the bike path. They have their own designated trail, so feel free to point that out to them as you ride slowly by. Politely. And with a ‘sorry’. When in Canada…
The path takes you past the serene Lost Lagoon. After a few minutes on the inland path, a tunnel takes you under the busy Highway 99 and you will emerge back onto the Seawall, this time looking out over Vancouver Harbour, the body of water that separates downtown Vancouver from North Vancouver.
Talk like a local: Though its full name is North Vancouver, locals just call it North Van. North Van is, somewhat confusingly, right next to West Vancouver. Collectively, West Van and North Van are sometimes referred to as The North Shore. If you call Vancouver “Van”, it’s a sign that you’re probably one of the many movie industry imports from LA, temporarily living and working in the city.
On your right, across the inlet, you’ll see downtown Vancouver, and the distinctive white sails at Canada Place. Turn left on the bike path to take you away from downtown.
A little further on, Vancouver’s answer to Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue sits a little way out in the water. This statue is a life-sized sculpture of a girl in a wetsuit, cleverly named Girl in a Wetsuit. The poor girl does not draw the crowds that her Danish finned cousin does. The mountains overlooking Vancouver are spectacular from here though, so be sure to gaze up from your bike without crashing into the sea, or another tourist.
Just past Girl in a Wetsuit you’ll come to another small beach and park, complete with a water park for the kids. This makes a good place to stop and rest or to eat your picnic lunch if you brought one.
Lions & Whales
Continue on and you’ll soon spot the beautiful Lions Gate Bridge, one of just two bridges that crosses the Burrard Inlet, which divides Vancouver from North Van. It’s named for The Lions, a couple of mountain peaks just visible from the bridge that look vaguely like a pair of lions.
If you look up, waaaay up, you’ll probably be able to spot a snarl of slow-moving traffic that is a constant on the busy bridge.
So far, no one has been able to come up with a sensible place to put a third bridge, so Vancouverites are stuck with this traffic bottleneck.
It’s also a bit of a bottleneck for cyclists, and even the separated bike paths can be busy with two-wheeled traffic. But, if you fancy a breathtaking (and possibly frightening if you don’t like heights) ride, see the Spirit Trail route below for details on how to get onto the bridge with your bike.
Just past Lions Gate, you’ll round a corner and get your first view out into what appears to be open ocean. Though you’re looking west, you can’t see Russia from here. It’s not actually open ocean, but the Strait of Georgia, named by Captain George Vancouver, who had a penchant for changing the names of things for his own edification.
If you took a boat straight across the strait, you would hit land just north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The massive island, which is about 1/4 the size of England, gives Vancouver protection from the wild waves and weather of the Pacific Ocean. It is also our home, so if you’re in the neighbourhood, give us a shout!
If you’re going to spot whales, which is possible if not likely, this is the place to see them, so keep your eyes on the water. The bike path here is narrow and winding, so be aware of other cyclists as you drink in the view and be prepared to take things slowly.
All too soon, you’ll be out of Stanley Park and retracing your route along False Creek.
Hotels & Hamburgers
On your left you’ll spot the old beauty of the Sylvia Hotel, which was built in 1912 and until the late 50s was the tallest building in the West End. Look around and imagine that, if you can.
If you’re hungry, you can stop by the Cactus Club for a casual lunch of Canadian fare (burgers, salads, and soups) or try The Boathouse for a slightly higher-end seafood meal. Both are a little touristy, but they serve decent food and you won’t be able to beat the views from their decks.
To get more from your bike ride today, ride up onto Pacific Street and cross False Creek on the Burrard Street Bridge. Be careful at Pacific and Burrard, as as this is one of the most crash-prone intersections in the city, although it has always felt pretty safe when we pass through. After the bridge, turn right (west) to extend your day significantly or left (east) to visit Granville Island before heading back to Science World using our False Creek to Wreck Beach route below.
If you choose to stay on the north side of False Creek, you’ll soon find your way back to your starting point. You can stop off at Science World to give the kids some afternoon entertainment or go a little way past into Olympic Village and pop into Craft Beer Market or Tap & Barrel for a sip of local beer, or try Urban Fare, an upmarket grocery store, for a snack.
Vancouver Bike Route 2: False Creek to Wreck Beach
This route exposes you (literally) to the beauty of Vancouver’s beaches, from Kitsilano Beach to Locarno and all the way to Canada’s only officially-sanctioned, government-maintained, clothing-optional beach, Wreck Beach. If you’re not a beach person, never fear, you also get a chance to visit False Creek, Granville Island, the Maritime Museum, and the gorgeous, if sprawling, campus of the University of British Columbia (called UBC by all). The alternative return route through Pacific Spirit park makes this into a nice, easy, loop ride.
Length: 32 km
Difficulty: Easy+ to medium
Terrain: Bike paths, packed, maintained forest paths, almost all flat. One long, slow hill to reach UBC.
Best For: Beach lovers, freedom lovers, naturists, and naturalists
Pro tip #1: Bring a packed lunch to save money for cold beers from vendors on the beach.
Pro tip #2: Also, if you stay at the beach long enough you may need lights for a nighttime ride home.
The False Creek Route
From Science World, take the bike route along the south side of the False Creek. The route starts in the former Olympic athlete’s village.
You can stop in at the upmarket Urban Fare grocery store here to pick up lunch and snack supplies. They have a salad bar, a sushi bar and a hot food bar as well an uber-fancy grocery selection, so your choices for a picnic lunch are varied. Legacy Liquor is just across the square, in case you need any alcoholic refreshments, but remember, drinking in public places is illegal in BC, so if you do it, be discreet.
Markets & Maritime
Gaze across False Creek as you ride to witness the upward climb of the high rises in Vancouver’s Downtown core. After you pass under Cambie Street Bridge, Granville Street Bridge and Granville Island come into view. If you didn’t pack a lunch, pop in at the Granville Island Market to eat, or pick up something to take to the beach. Actually, pop into Granville Island anyway, since it’s one of our favourite spots in the city.
The bike path takes you away from the water’s edge momentarily just past Granville Island, but it brings you back after you pass under the Burrard Street bridge, where the mouth of False Creek opens up, and Sunset Beach and English Bay appear on the opposite shore. The path follows the shoreline of Vanier Park, home to the Maritime Museum, housed in the tall A-frame you’ll spot on your left. Fans of old ships should stop in for a quick visit.
If you’re here in summer, you’ll see a slew of marquee tents set up in the park. This is where Vancouver’s marvellous Bard on the Beach annual Shakespeare Festival takes place.
Beaches & Boats
After Vanier Park, you’ll round a corner and be at the edge of Kitsilano (aka Kits) Beach, one of Vancouver’s most popular beaches.
Stop for ice cream, to use the bathroom, watch some beach volleyball, or take a photo of the tankers in the harbour, before continuing along the marked bike route, along the inland edge of the outdoor Kits pool and onto Point Grey Road. Much of the road is now a separated, or bike-only, route, so while you are off the shore for a little while, it’s still a pleasant ride.
Being on the street means you get to gawk at some of the most ostentatious and expensive homes in town. This is where David Duchovny lived when he was filming The X-Files here in the 90s. Lululemon’s Chip Wilson currently lives here in a $54 million mansion. Good to know where your yoga-pant budget is ending up.
Past the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club turn right towards Jericho Beach, rejoining a packed gravel bike path at the water’s edge. For the next 3 km, follow the beach path, past Jericho Beach and Locarno Beach, and onto Spanish Banks. These beaches are wide, sandy, and not usually as packed as Kits beach, so make a great place to stop for picnicking or a rest.
If traffic is light and you want to speed things up a bit, you can head onto NW Marine Drive at Locarno and get a break from the unpaved path.
When NW Marine heads inland and uphill, you have to join the road and make the climb. The bike path doesn’t continue along the beach, though at low tide is is possible to walk around. If you began your ride after 10am and the sun is out, this hill is a hot, seemingly never-ending ride. It really isn’t so bad, with only 80 m elevation change and just more than 1 km long, so take your time and walk up if you want.
You need to save your energy for lounging on Wreck Beach.
Anthropology & Alma Mater
Continue around the tip of the peninsula, past the Museum of Anthropology which is well worth a visit if you want to know more about First Nations history and culture. Not long after you reach the top of the hill and round the corner you’ll spot bikes parked on the right and people milling about. This is the trailhead for Trail #6, the main stairs to Wreck Beach.
I don’t recommend parking your bike here. It is probably fine, and if you’re on a rental and have a U-lock, go for it.
But, a bit of extra effort is worth the trouble so your bike is there when you return. Ride a bit further along to the next road, University Blvd, and turn left (east). The road quickly becomes pedestrians and bikes only. This is also where the new campus residence buildings stand. There are bike racks around these buildings and there is a pretty constant flow of people in the area. Win, win.
After locking up, you also have a chance to grab Italian food at Mercante, or walk a bit more into campus along University to the Starbucks or the convenience store next door to it.
Walk back west on University to where you first rode onto it, cross NW Marine at the crosswalk, and turn right, walking to the top of Trail #6. There are bathrooms here but there are also some at the beach. There is also usually someone selling convenience store-type items at the top of the trail in case you forgot sunscreen or water.
Ferns & Fig Leaves
A mere 500 stairs awaits you, taking you down through incredible old-growth trees, and ferns looking like they belong in Jurassic World. As the beach appears, if not sooner, so will naked people. The beach, now officially clothing-optional, was once almost exclusively clothing-free. These days you will see many people choosing not to bare all.
Find out more about Wreck Beach in our 17 Reasons To Visit Vancouver This Summer
One of the best parts of a visit to Wreck Beach is watching the sunset across the Georgia Straight with the mountains of Vancouver Island etched into the deep red sky. It’s well worth the wait even if the sun doesn’t set until 8:30 in the summer. Don’t stay too long after sunset though because the stairs aren’t lit and you still have to ride home.
After climbing back up the endless staircase and making your way back to your bike, head along University until it becomes the Bus Loop. This is straight out along the pedestrian walkway you parked alongside.
The route you took here, but in reverse, is pretty exceptional at sunset. Turn left from University onto Westbrook Mall, heading north towards NW Marine Drive. Westbrook becomes Westbrook Crescent at Chancellor Blvd and then stops at NW Marine. Turn right here heading downhill to Spanish Banks so you can rejoin your route to the beach but in reverse.
However, after all the stairs, sunshine, and riding, you may want an optional quicker route home.
To take the optional route, leave the UBC campus via the bus loop/University Blvd, heading east (towards Vancouver) along University.
In a little more than a kilometre, at St. Anselm’s Church you have a choice.
If it’s after dark, we recommend sticking to the streets, which means either continuing along University to Bianca Street, where you’ll turn left to cut down to the 8th Ave bike route, which will take you east through the city.
Rainforest & Roads
If you want a little more excitement, turn right into St. Anselm’s and ride through their parking lot, onto the Salish Trail.
Be careful which trail you take. There are two and it’s easy to end up on the wrong one. You want the trailhead closest to the church. It is signed as the Salish Trail, so that helps. This trail cuts through Pacific Spirit Regional Park, a rainforest preserved as part of the University Endowment Lands, a large protected area at UBC.
The trail is well groomed and winds its way over tree roots, some rocks, and around a few residents out running or walking dogs. The evergreens rise up hundreds of feet above you, blocking out most of the sunshine, and ferns and brambles scramble for space on the forest floor.
Birds and small animals, maybe a deer if you are lucky, scramble out of your way as your ride.
Be sure to breathe deeply through your nose. The air is scented with promise here.
Follow the Salish Trail until it reaches what appears to be its end, a T-junction marked Long Trail/Imperial trail (the name changes at this junction) and turn left (east). Follow this wider, more gravelly path, to its destination, 29th Ave.
Pro Tip: If you have super-small road tires this trail may be too rough for you. You could walk it as this portion is only 800 metres.
Turn right onto 29th and start following signs for the 29th Ave. bike route. It makes a few turns and offers a hill, between Yew Street and Angus Drive, to kick things off early. After that, it’s pretty easy going. The route is well marked and has lights at all major road crossings with cycle-accessible crossing buttons. These lights are part of the reason we love cycling in Vancouver.
For the most part, cars avoid this route unless they live locally, so it’s often a relaxed, tree-lined ride through some of Vancouver’s breathtaking chichi neighbourhoods.
Do watch out for car doors opening into your path though!
Past Cambie Street, the route goes a little funky because Queen Elizabeth Park gets in your way. Keep an eye out for Ontario Street, a major thoroughfare in terms of Vancouver cycling, and when you reach it turn left (north).
Snacks & Shops
If you’re hungry, keep going straight past Ontario and stop at Main Street. Meet On Main is a popular stop for omnivores (even though it’s vegan) near Main and 28th Ave.
Ontario is a busy cycle route, so watch for cyclists and expect them to pass you, from behind, on the left. The good news is, it’s all downhill from here back to Science World.
Stop at Broadway and Ontario to visit one of our favourite bike shops in town, Mighty Riders. They are right next door to their cycle clothing shop On the Rivet, which stocks very cool, if expensive, city cycling gear.
**Mountain Equipment Co-op (universally known as MEC), Canada’s far superior version of REI, is just a couple of blocks west along Broadway on the south side. They have amazing deals on cycle gear and great quality outdoor clothing and supplies.
It’s almost madness to pass up a chance to visit 33 Acres Brewing at 8th Ave & Ontario for craft beer and tasty foods. They have a bike rack, though it is often full-to-overflowing. Elysian Coffee, one block away at 7th source their own beans, roast in-house, and have excellent coffee options including a cold-brew nitro coffee. They also have a crowded bike rack.
Continue down Ontario, stopping at lights and stop signs, even if other cyclists don’t. Cars might not either. Ouch. The trail goes right down to the False Creek trail. When you reach the trail junction, turn right (east) along the trail and follow it to Science World, which you’ll be able to see easily from here.
Vancouver Bike Route 3: The Spirit Trail
The Spirit Trail is a picturesque bike route along the shore in North and West Vancouver, running from Ambleside Beach to the Second Narrows Bridge with optional extensions that can take you all the way from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. The main route is mostly along dedicated bike paths, with some sections on quiet roads. Our route starts in downtown Vancouver and only follows the Western half of the main trail.
It includes a ride on the SeaBus, a stop at Lonsdale Quay Market, plenty of beaches, opportunities for shopping and eating in style, and an optional crossing of the iconic Lions Gate Bridge.
Length: 34 to 56 km
Difficulty: Easy to medium
Terrain: Bike paths, almost all flat, some optional hills
Best For: Beach lovers and reasonably fit cyclists
Route: The Spirit Trail Bike Route
The Spirit Trail Route
This first part of this route, from Science World onto the Dunsmuir Viaduct is a little tricky, so make sure you take along our route map. There are usually other cyclists around and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to follow one of them through this first section.
Starting at Science World, head north on the bike path, which is just on the other side of the pedestrian promenade in front of Science World.
About 250m north of Science World, at the end of Creekside Park, turn right (east) and then immediately left (north), following the bike path to a set of traffic lights. Cross Pacific Boulevard and Expo Boulevard, go under the flyover and immediately turn right (east) onto Union Street.
This is a small road which runs alongside and slightly below the Dunsmuir Viaduct. In 150m you’ll reach Main Street, where the flyover comes to ground level. Do a U-turn to your right, which will take you onto the flyover in the wide separated bike lane. Watch for other cyclists coming across the intersection and stay out of their way.
Flyovers & Food
If you’re here around lunchtime, before getting onto the flyover, stop in at Harvest Community Foods, on Union just past Main Street, for a fresh bowl of fusion Asian noodles with tasty sauces and leafy greens on top. Matchstick Coffee Roasters is only a block north, on East Georgia. Here, you’ll find excellent speciality coffee, baked goods, and light breakfast and lunch dishes.
After lunch or coffee, head back to the Dunsmuir Viaduct.
Now you should be heading west on the Dunsmuir Separated Bike Path, which is a wide bike lane divided from the busy traffic by a barrier. A small climb will take you up onto the flyover and provide a soaring view of BC Place Stadium, where the BC Lions and the Vancouver Whitecaps have their home games.
In a minute or two you’ll be back down at ground level and in the heart of Vancouver’s downtown. Keep your eyes open for dedicated bike lights downtown and make sure you follow the correct signals. Vancouver drivers are fairly courteous, but they don’t take kindly to cyclists breaking the rules, even accidentally.
(I speak from experience on this one.)
Shopping & SeaBus
Don’t waste any time in the relatively uninspiring downtown core of Vancouver unless you’re aching to shop. If you want to spend spend spend, then head to Robson Street, where a mixture of high-end and affordable chain stores line the street.
If you’re skipping the shopping, turn right off of Dunsmuir onto Seymour Street. For some reason, there is no good bike route that leads directly to the SeaBus terminal, so for a few blocks you will be without a bike path. The road is wide and generally quiet, so this shouldn’t be a problem for most cyclists. Seymour Street terminates right in front of the busy Waterfront Station, inside which you’ll find the SeaBus.
Enter by the front doors (yes, bikes are allowed inside) and you’ll see a bank of ticket machines right in front of you. The SeaBus fare is always a 2-zone fare, so make sure you buy the right ticket: the current price is $4 for an single adult ticket. Once past the ticket machines, wheel your bike down the long walkway directly in front of you, following the crowds going towards the SeaBus.
Just before the escalators, there will be an elevator on your right. You can fit two riders and bikes into the fairly roomy elevator.
When you arrive at the boarding area for the SeaBus, go through the large metal doors between the turnstiles so you don’t have to try and drag your bike through the turnstiles. There is only one set of doors bikes are allowed to use to get on the SeaBus, so make sure you find the signs that show you where these are (at this station, it’s on your right after you pass through the doors). The SeaBus is not usually very crowded, even at rush hour, and there is no limit to the number of bikes they will carry, so you shouldn’t have any problem getting your bike on board.
Once on board, sit back and enjoy the view for the nearly 15-minute crossing to the north shore.
The SeaBus terminal ends at Lonsdale Quay Market, where you can shop for locally made goods, edible and otherwise, or stop in the food court for a taste of food from around the world.
Spirits & Shopping Centres
From the market, go back to where you exited the SeaBus and head west along the small road past the bus loop. Straight ahead, you’ll see the entrance to the Spirit Trail. Follow the bike path to the left until you see an alley-like road on your left, just before a small hill. This section of the trail is not well marked and there are various ways through, so just keep heading generally west keeping the water to your left and you’ll be alright.
Eventually, the trail dumps you out onto 1st Street West where you’ll join a painted bike path along a busy road for a few minutes. Soon, the bike path becomes separated and elevated and then pops off to the right onto Welch Street. Just past a few commercial-industrial buildings, a soft right turn takes you into a nice stretch of parkland. Keep your speed low here, as this section of the path is mixed use and a popular place for people with baby strollers to meander.
Continue along the route until you near the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Just before the bridge, the bike route makes a sharp right and then a left over a narrow low bridge (just past the RV Park) that is shared with cars.
After the low bridge, there is supposed to be a place where you can make a left turn back onto the Spirit Trail, but it’s currently under construction, so ride into the mall parking lot instead.
Park Royal Shopping Centre is a fantastic place for enthusiastic shoppers to make a stop. We just hope you brought your panniers or a roomy backpack. There are also lots of food services in the mall, including the poshest Whole Foods we’ve ever seen. The Village Taphouse is right next door to Whole Foods if you’re in need of a refreshing pint.
If you don’t want to stop at the mall, just turn left at the four way stop, around the left edge of the multi-tiered parking garage. You’ll come to a crosswalk which seems to lead off into the woods. This is where you can get back onto the Spirit Trail, so cross the crosswalk and turn right onto the paved trail.
Beautiful Views & Bellevues
You’ll now be in the picturesque Ambleside Park so take it slow and enjoy the nature.
The bike path makes a sharp left and then, about 250m later, a sharp right. Make sure you pause here and look left for a great view of the Lion’s Gate Bridge.
From the viewpoint, be sure to follow the bike route off into the interior of the park, rather than the pedestrian route which hugs the coastline. If you inadvertently ride on the pedestrian path, Canadians will tell you off, in a polite Canadian way, of course.
Beach lovers will want to dismount just past Ambleside Park for a stroll along Ambleside Beach. This is a great place to end your ride if you feel like spending the remainder of the day lying in the sand listening to waves lap on the shore.
The Spirit Trail peters out just past Ambleside, but the bike route continues along quiet Bellevue Avenue, which gives you plenty of opportunities for pretty ocean views and takes you past one of my favourite buildings in the city, an eye-catching pink condo building looking out over the water.
If you haven’t stopped for lunch yet, pop one block up to Marine Drive around 24th street for a nice selection of cute cafes and restaurants in Dundarave Village.
I don’t know about you, but to me, Temper Chocolate & Pastry sounds like a perfect place to take a well earned break.
At 25th St, hang a left over the train tracks and then a quick right onto the small street, which is confusingly also called Bellevue Avenue.
Hulking Homes & Lighthouses
If you’re continuing west, at 29th street, hang a right and then a left onto Marine Drive. Marine Drive is not strictly a bike route, but it is reasonably quiet and will give you a chance to gander at some of the most expensive real estate in the world. You’ll also get to gawp at the views the lucky few enjoy from their living room windows.
It starts to get a little hilly here, so those with tired legs might want to turn back.
For the hearty few, keep winding along Marine Drive until you reach the left-hand turn-off for (Lighthouse Park)[http://www.lighthousepark.ca/]. This gorgeous wooded park sits on a tiny point of land hanging off of the western edge of West Vancouver. It’s an ideal place for a picnic, crazy stunning views of the water and city, or a quick jump in the cold ocean.
Take a good rest in the park, because you still have to cycle all the way back to where you began.
Lion’s Gate Loop
You can either return along the route that brought you, or if you want to feel the rush of wind in your hair, follow the bike route signs onto Lion’s Gate Bridge, which features a separated bikeway. Just be warned, the bridge can be a little daunting for those with a fear of heights and the climb to the summit can be a long slog in the hot sun. The narrow bikeway may also be busy with commuters who think nothing of flying by you on their speedy road bikes.
Once across the bridge, you’ll find yourself in Stanley Park. Hang a sharp right just after the bridge onto Stanley Park Drive which will wind you through the park. After a few kilometres, just past the Stanley Park Teahouse, you’ll see a paved ramp to take you back down to the Seawall bike route.
Follow instructions in the Stanely Park Seawall Bike Route above to get you back to Science World.
Gastown Return Route
If you decide to return via the SeaBus there’s a sneaky exit from the SeaBus terminal on the downtown Vancouver end. Instead of taking the elevator up to the main level, let yourself out the exit door on your left just before the escalators. It looks like a staff-only door and leads onto a small parking lot at the back of the SeaBus terminal. It also leads to the almost-deserted West Waterfront Road.
Update: Reader Jeff did this ride in summer 2017 and says: “The ‘sneaky’ exit from the Seabus terminal worked out great, though I recommend the single door referencing a Helipad; the others are now marked emergency exit.” Thanks for the update Jeff!
Turn left onto West Waterfront and about a kilometre down the road, turn left onto the overpass that will take you across the railway tracks.
You are now back on Main Street. You can ride Main Street, which is busy but does have sharrows, all the way back to Science World. I prefer to take the first right after the overpass, onto Alexander Street. In two blocks, Alexander Street feeds into Carrall Street and the Carrall Street bikeway.
Carrall Street starts in Gastown, another iconic area of Vancouver, where you’ll find upscale restaurants rubbing shoulders with Vancouver’s grittier element. At the corner of Alexander and Carrall, notice the flatiron building on your left. It’s the current home of Hotel Europe and one of my favourite buildings in Vancouver.
Just outside of Gastown you’ll ride past Pigeon Park, notorious for attracting drug dealers and addicts and also a gathering point for Vancouver’s homeless population.
The corner is also home to a couple of incredibly high-end furniture and home decor stores, where I suspect you could easily spend $1000 on a lamp. Urban renewal at its most grotesque.
A few blocks later, on your left is the famous Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. For fans of Ming Dynasty gardens and / or Chinese revolutionaries, this is definitely worth a stop. The Carrall Street bike route ends at False Creek, and once you reach it, you’ll see Science World on your left.
Bonus Vancouver Bike Route: Central Valley Greenway
If you want to get a taste of the cycle commuting life in Vancouver, the Central Valley Greenway is an impressive route that takes you all the way from Vancouver to New Westminster. Much of the route is urban, running under the Skytrain tracks and through industrial parks. But it also offers access to the picturesque Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Deer Lake Park, and New Westminster Quay.
Visit City of Vancouver for more info about Vancouver bike routes.
Also, this very cool map shows Vancouver’s bike routes, water fountains, and bike racks! ♥