Go jump in a lake around Metro Vancouver
When it comes to summer refreshment, there’s nothing sweeter than a dip in a freshwater lake—not that Vancouver is in the same lake-country league as some B.C. regions, such as the Cariboo or the Okanagan. Around these parts, saltwater options far outweigh fresh.
Still, after a dip in the Pacific, a freshwater rinse is de rigueur or suffer the itchy consequences. As an added bonus, nothing beats the sleek feeling that a freshwater plunge imparts to a swimmer’s hair, even after it dries.
Due to high coliform-bacteria levels, Vancouver’s sole freshwater swimming hole, Trout Lake, has been off-limits to bathers this summer. Where to turn for a quick dip? Herewith is a quartet of lakes around Metro Vancouver.
Although it requires a bit of a trip via Port Moody to reach White Pine Beach on Belcarra Regional Park’s Sasamat Lake—and its nearby companion, South Beach, in B.C. Hydro’s Buntzen Lake Recreation Area—that doesn’t stop freshwater fans, especially those with young children, from making the journey. In fact, at this sunniest time of year, parking at either lake is usually at a premium by midday. All the more incentive to take public transit.
Sasamat is by far the warmer, and smaller, of the two, though its setting, albeit fringed with graceful western red cedar, doesn’t rival Buntzen’s pristine woodland. Both lakes feature boat launches (no power boats) for paddlers keen to do more than just stick a toe in the water. This time last year, South Beach was flooded while Buntzen’s hydroelectric power generator, the oldest in the Lower Mainland, underwent an upgrade, triggering a rise in lake levels. In June, waters retreated, good news for two- and four-legged swimmers alike as one of this lake’s unique features is a fenced, off-leash dog beach.
In between dips, check out the walking trails that encircle both lakes. Kids always get a kick crossing the floating bridge at Sasamat’s south end, an ideal place to toss in a fishing line. Both Buntzen and Sasamat are stocked with trout; children aged 16 and under do not require a freshwater fishing licence. On summer weekends, plan to go early or not at all.
Hands down, Metro’s biggest and best beach lakefront lies in the hinterland of Maple Ridge. No worries about finding space to spread a towel at Golden Ears Provincial Park’s Alouette Lake. For the quickest approach to the broad beach, head to parking lot 2, from where a wheelchair-accessible trail leads a short distance downhill to a shaded grassy picnic area. Alouette’s special charm lies in the clarity of its water as it spreads out over a gently sloping sandy bottom. Dogs aren’t permitted in the picnic area or on the strand except in the off-leash zone between the boat launch and the canoe-rental shop. The easiest access to this pooch-friendly section of the beach is from the boat-launch parking lot. Explore the Spirea Universal Access Interpretive Trail adjacent parking lot 2.
Diminutive Lost Lake in West Vancouver is a jewel tucked on the slopes of Hollyburn Mountain. Finding it is the reward for following the Brothers Creek Trail. Unlike Buntzen, Sasamat, and Alouette, bathers must first hike before discovering its charms. Over the course of the two-hour trek required to reach Lost Lake’s shrubby shoreline—no beach here—keep the mantra “swimming postponed is swimming enhanced” squarely in mind.
If a cold plunge is your freshwater preference, added refreshment this summer comes from the remnants of last winter’s snow pack that persist on the slopes above Lost Lake. Along the way, tempting swimming holes abound, particularly beside the Second and Third bridges that span the stream. Those who prefer not to retrace their steps will revel in the fact that the Brothers Creek Trail consists of two parallel paths on opposite banks. Depending on the time at your disposal, tie in a visit to Blue Gentian Lake—in truth, more of a lily pad–covered pond, but with two picnic tables—that lies a short distance west of Lost Lake. A narrow trail links the two and passes below the creek’s upper falls.
Access: Buntzen Lake Recreation Area and Belcarra Regional Park are located 30 kilometres from Vancouver. Details on Buntzen Lake are at the BC Hydro website , and Sasamat Lake at the Metro Vancouver website. Golden Ears Provincial Park lies 50 kilometres east of Vancouver in Maple Ridge. For directions, visit the Government of BC website. Brothers Creek Trail begins three kilometres north of the Lions Gate Bridge in West Vancouver’s British Properties neighbourhood. Details are at the West Vancouver website.