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Hiking in Stanley Park

On the weekend, friends of ours from the Island came to visit us. We decided to hike part of the seawall around Stanley Park—something none of us had done yet. Since moving here in January, we’ve only been to Stanley Park to get to the Aquarium. So we piled our kids (seven in total) into our minivans and headed for Vancouver’s favourite park.

Siwash Rock in Stanley Park

Before we left, I googled Stanley Parks and hikes there, trying to figure out where we should park and where we could access the trails. I didn’t find many answers. Google Maps wasn’t terribly helpful, other than showing a maze of trails through the middle of the park and a few parking lots scattered around. We decided to park at Prospect Point, so once we were over the Lions’ Gate Bridge we hung a right and dropped off the kids, my husband, and my friend’s mom (whom all the kids call Nana).

Then my friend and I shuttled one van to the parking lot at Third Beach. We figured that would give us a nice walk, and took the first van back to Prospect Point. From there, we started out down the trail—four adults, two strollers, and five kids running merrily ahead (until we gave them strict warnings about how busy the trail was and the fact that we needed to see them at all times and not have to shout at them to get their attention if they were too far ahead).

The Lion's Gate Bridge in Vancouver, viewed from Prospect Point in Stanley Park

We stopped at the lookout at Prospect Point and admired the Lions’ Gate Bridge. My husband reminded me that we’d gone under that bridge eight years ago on the cruise ship for our honeymoon. What a different perspective on the bridge! At that time, my memories of Vancouver consisted of passing through it, either on my way to Australia or on our way from the airport to the cruise ship terminal. I remembered cruising past Stanley Park and thinking it looked like a great place to explore, while someone told us of the terrible windstorm of the previous year and how many trees were down.

A family Hiking in Stanley Park

Then we were onto the trail through the trees—a nice gravel trail that wasn’t too hard for the strollers, wide enough for us to walk together, and shaded by trees that gave us occasional glimpses of the ocean out to our right and far below. We wondered if there was a way down to the seawall, and then decided that with the kids, we were probably better up here, where it was less crowded.

Views of the ocean from Stanley Park

We stopped at the Siwash Rock viewpoint to have a snack. The viewpoint is built on an old military lookout, which reminded me of the battlements at Fort Rodd Hill. We spread a picnic blanket there and had the entire lookout to ourselves, while the seawall trail below was crowded with bikers and walkers. On Siwash Rock sat a heron and another bird and far out to sea were various tankers and sail boats and pleasure crafts.

Stanley Park Seawall

From Siwash Rock, the trail was mostly downhill to Third Beach. Of course, once the kids saw the beach, they were headed for the sand. We parked the strollers by a bench, visited the concession for coffees, and let the kids play (while attempting to keep them out of the water so we didn’t have to clean them up too much).

Kids playing at Third Beach in Stanley Park

I love the sound of waves crashing on a beach, and it was fun to see the shells and crab pieces the kids found, and to watch the boats go past. A seal played peek-a-boo with us and two mounted police came down to let their horses look at the ocean.

Mounted police on Third Beach at Stanley Park

Finally we cleaned the sand off the kids and went up to the concession to get hot dogs for lunch. Then we got on the sea wall and followed it around the point. The water looked clear and gorgeous splashing over barnacle-clad rocks below us, with the sun sparkling through it. Around the corner, we were delighted by some temporary balanced stones by local artist Kent Avery.

Temporary balanced stones at Stanley Park by Kent Avery

We took the next trail to our left up to the road, then followed the sidewalk back to the Tea House at Third Beach, where we’d left our van. There again, Nana and my husband watched the kids play on the grass while my friend and I drove around to the other parking lot to get the other van. Then we headed home for the day… just in time to get stuck in traffic on Highway 1 (as always seems to happen when we leave Stanley Park!).

View of downtown Vancouver from Stanley Park

Stanley Park was a lovely place to hike. We found the upper trail to be a bit more kid-friendly, because it was quieter. If we tried this shuttle idea again, I think we’d park at Second Beach instead, which has a playground for the kids to play in. All parking in the park is pay parking and a bit expensive, but even on the long weekend there seemed to be lots of parking (except for around the Aquarium or the Tea House, which had a wedding reception when we were leaving).

The park is a bit complicated to navigate; I use my phone to try to keep us on the right path around the park. The main road around the outside is one way and there is limited access to the Highway from the park roads. There is tons to see within the park so we hope to be back again soon to explore more.

If you’re interested in this trail, or you’ve enjoyed it, you may also like these family-friendly hikes around greater Vancouver.

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