Vancouver's far shore offers a trail haven and all the amenities of home. From world-class international fare to cafés catering to the most discerning coffee snob to miles of snaking singletrack, you'll find night life, day life and trail life all wrapped up in a convenient package.
Running the Brothers Creek Loop, Hollyburn Mountain. Photo by Rich Wheater
As many folks witnessed during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Vancouver is a stunningly beautiful city. From snow-covered, jagged mountains jutting out of the glistening Pacific Ocean, to lush green rain forests hiding massive, old-growth trees, to dozens of sandy beaches within the city’s center, to countless destination islands within striking distance, Vancouver provides a colorful palate to satisfy creative imaginations.
What many do not realize, though, is that the awe-inspiring mountainous landscape, the craggy cliffs that carry your eye from white-capped water to white-capped peaks, are in fact within the boundaries of North Vancouver’s North Shore. The North Shore is an encompassing name given to the three communities—West Van, North Van and the City of North Van—that outline this trail-runner’s haven. Within minutes from downtown Vancouver, you can access The North Shore via a short commute across one of two historic bridges or by hopping on a Sea Bus (water taxi). (Vancouver also boasts one of the smoothest transit systems in the country, so you could easily forgo the rental car.) The North Shore has a population of just over 150,000 and is often referred to as one of the fittest communities in Canada.
The rugged landscape of The North Shore erupts straight out of the sea, thanks to its placement within the northern reaches of the most active volcanic area on the planet, The Pacific Ring Of Fire. As such, options for 3000-foot-plus climbs and descents are nearly endless, and many of these take you among now-dormant, snow-covered volcanoes.
Outside of the most-popular routes, foot traffic is minimal and solitude easy to find. Three mountains with multiple aspects, also doubling as winter ski resorts, provide well over 200 kilometers of singletrack—even seasoned trail aficionados will marvel over the ease of access and variety of terrain. Best of all, almost all runs can be completed in a door-to-door fashion, as it’s rare to find yourself more than a mile from a trail access point within the city limits.
“Even while residing in a thriving metropolis, you can run all day on singletrack without seeing another soul,” says Keith Nicol, owner of the local Run The North Shore running series (www.runthenorthshore.com), which consists of 13 races ranging from 5K to 50K. “We’ve got everything from fast, flat groomed trails to gnarly, technical, vertical ascents, and all right out our back door.”