The Outsider’s Guide: The Best Bike Rides in (and Around) Vancouver

Weekend bike routes and gravel rides that'll inspire you to get pedalling next weekend.

There are people who cycle to get around, and then there are Bike People, for whom biking is about the journey, not the destination. These are the folks who plan their weekends in kilometres and always have a pannier packed and ready to go—and they’re also the experts* we turn to for the best routes when we’re ready for a little two-wheeled adventure.

*Special thanks to bike-thusiasts Amanda Fentiman, Kody Huard, Jeff Leeder and Kim Sicoli

The Best Weekend Bike Routes, According to Bike Lovers

Seymour Dam trail
Photo by Amanda Fentiman

The Seymour Dam

Bike buds say: “The absolute jewel of Vancouver riding.”

Ideal if: You’re dreaming of a pedal-powered forest jaunt.

Distance: 20 kilometres there and back.

If you’ve got a car and you don’t want to cycle over the Ironworkers Bridge, start this beautiful ride right from the parking lot of the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. (Braver souls with stronger calves can bike themselves to the starting line, of course.) Either way, Conservation Road is worth the trek: it’s paved and closed off to vehicles, so you’re just gliding along a tranquil path of punchy hills and smooth descents. (One of our biking correspondents described it as “hilly but not too hilly.”) The route winds through towering trees, over trickling creeks and past quaint picnic areas, so please: pack snacks. It’s easy to do an out-and-back ride here, but if you want to turn things into a loop once you get to the Seymour Dam at the end, you can take the gravel road down the other side of the river (see page 30 for more on this gravel ride!)—watch out for vehicles, though, and make sure your bike is up to the challenge.

Richmond West Dyke trail
Photo by Tourism Richmond

Vancouver to Steveston

Bike buds say: “The perfect weekend ride.”

Ideal if: You’re looking for a long Sunday morning jaunt that ends with fish and chips.

Distance: About 40 kilometres there and back.

Hop on the Arbutus Greenway at 10th Avenue to avoid the construction and pedal south: you’re pointing yourself toward the thrilling Canada Line Bikeway Bridge, which runs underneath the Skytrain over the Fraser River (ooh la la!). Hop on at West Kent Avenue and Ash Street to get yourself over to North Richmond. There’s an admittedly not-great chunk of the ride here as you manoeuver yourself to the Richmond West Dyke Trail, but once you’re on it, you’ve got four breezy, traffic-free kilometres of river views. At McCallan Road, take the smooth, straight 6K stretch of the railway bike path to Steveston. Snag a bite to eat and kick it at Garry Point Park before hopping back on the saddle for the journey home.

E&N Rail Trail

Vancouver to Parksville

Bike buds say: “A moderate introduction to a multi-day ride.”

Ideal if: You’re looking for something to brag to your coworkers about on Monday and love to take the ferry.

Distance: 230-plus kilometres from Stanley Park and back.

Your weekend getaway starts with some sweat. Get yourself across the Lions Gate Bridge and take Marine Drive (“slower traffic, better views”) up to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal. Enjoy the natural beauty of the ferry ride—and the sweet savings you get by not bringing a car—and then pop on to the E&N Rail Trail, which runs the length of Nanaimo and is a beautiful, breezy cyclist-safe road. At Lantzville, exit the trail and be wary: this is a less-than-pleasant 6K stretch on the Island Highway shoulder. But then you’ll take the Northwest Bay Road through some rural ’hoods, take a quick jaunt on East Island Highway and arrive at your destination: beautiful, beachy Parksville. Set up for the night at the B&B of your choosing and rest up, because you’ll do it all in reverse tomorrow.


More Day Trips for Aspiring Gearheads

Bowen Island

Bowen Island

Bike to the ferry, bike around the island, bike back, stop for coffee at Bowen’s Tell Your Friends at some point along the way.

Triple crown

Triple Crown

A triple-threat ride: up to the peaks of Grouse, Seymour and Cypress in one sweaty go.

Photo by Kamila Romanowski

Surrey to Bellingham

You’ll cross the border and follow a network of farm roads that guide you past idyllic cornfields and cows toward Bellingham’s breweries.


The Best Gravel Bike Rides Near Vancouver

The surge in popularity of so-called gravel rides—literally, bike rides on gravel roads instead of traditional trails or pavement—is perhaps surprising. (Wait, you want to make the ride harder?) But paired with a gravel bike—sturdy and geared for tough hills thanks to new tech from bike manufacturers—a gravel road gets cyclists into wilderness that you just can’t access via traditional roads or trails. And as gravel ride evangelist Phil Alma notes, “B.C. is really blessed to have so many of them—literally tens of thousands of trails exist throughout the province. Just look at a map and say, ‘I want to go there.’”

Photo by Thanh To

Fisherman’s Trail

The Why Great for beginners

The Where Seymour Lake to Rice Lake

Fisherman’s Trail is an easily accessible ride from transit if you’re without a vehicle—the bus will get you almost to the trailhead at Rice Lake. It’s a north-south route that has the benefit of being a net uphill if you start from Rice Lake, and net downhill back from Seymour Lake—but you can cheat that a bit by warming up on the nearby paved Lower Seymour Conservation route to Seymour Lake, and then heading into the trail back to Rice Lake from there. You’ll also notice how different the trail feels to that manicured paved path—it will seem like you’re miles from the city in a remote little forest. And if you want a detour—take a gravel spur over to a very warm little lake known as both Lost Lake and Rolf Lake for a quick dip before you’re on the trail again.

Photo by Nathan Reimer/

Sea to Sky Trail

The Why Test your tech skills

The Where North of Whistler

This is part of the Trans Canada Trail that runs parallel to Highway 99 up to Whistler, but parts of it are on highway, too. If you want to avoid the asphalt, pick up the Valley Trail in Whistler Village near the Audain Museum’s fourth parking lot. You’ll be on the east side of the highway and should expect a fair bit of up and down—be prepared to hop off and push your bike up a few hills. But it’s a wonderfully remote, very well-maintained trail. You’ll pass rivers and waterfalls—and also hit a few hairpin turns too, so it’s not a trail for first-timers. Remember that the trail runs in both directions, so keep your wits about you if you’re coming around a blind corner.

Photo by Amanda Fentiman

Pitt Marsh

The Why Bonding with birds

The Where East of Pitt River

Take the Lougheed until you cross the Pitt River Bridge, and then park somewhere around the Old Dewdney Trunk Road exit. The trail is on the east side of the Pitt River and it’s another part of the Trans Canada Trail—a wonderful series of gravel rides that head north all the way to Pitt Marsh. You’ll see Pitt Lake and the mountains of Golden Ears Provincial Park (and it’s also an excellent spot for birding). Ride to the peak of the marsh and then southeast into more trails, where you’ll pass through tall grass and won’t spot a soul… save for a few ducks.

Readers Vote: Best Bike Rides In and Around Vancouver

Photo by Micah McKerlick/Unsplash