VANCOUVER WEEKEND: We’re Thinking… Best places to escape into nature

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      It's no secret: Vancouver has a bounty of green spots to choose from. 

      It's kind of the city's thing. Drive, hike, ski, boat, or bicycle in any direction and you'll likely hit some sort of forest or park or bog, even, to provide a soothing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

      But, as with hot beverages and neighbourhoods and winter activities, there are a few that stand out above the rest....To us, at least. 

      Bloedel Conservatory/Queen E Park

      Who knew that big bubbly thing at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park was chock full of cool looking birds? 

      …Most people, probably, but it was news to me when I finally ventured inside the other day to discover a lush paradise. The other entries on this list might showcase some of the best that a Pacific Northwest park has to offer, with its dense bushes, native fauna, and moss-covered evergreens, but maybe that juxtaposition is what makes a trip to the more tropical biodome such a treat. 

      At $7 an (adult) head to enter what amounts to a micro zoo, visitors are first met with a wave of unseasonable warmth alongside a sign reminding them to keep the door closed lest any brave birds dare venture out into the cold and rainy skies of Vancouver. Shuffling along the clockwise track brings you by tropical plants, squawking birds, peaceful ponds, and more than a few bewildered Vancouverites. 

      And then when you get tired of all that you can go for a walk around Queen E Park. Best of both worlds. -CW

      Pacific Spirit Park

      Do you like tall trees, winding trails, salmon rivers that never have any water in them, and Lululemon-clad yoga moms trying to summon their beautiful dogs back from the wilderness? Great news: Pacific Spirit Park is here for you. Once you’re a few minutes in, the noise of the city falls away to the gentle thrum of rustling leaves, chirping birds and speeding mountain bikers. Pacific Spirit is split into various areas: my go-to is the section below 16th that extends to the edge of UBC, though the portion that surrounds Wreck Beach is also beautiful and home to some old-growth trees that may be hundreds of years old.

      Although the park has been tended and kept, the bulks of the trees replanted after the original giants growing here were logged, the cedars and lush ferns are a reminder that this is what so-called Vancouver used to look like. I wish more of the city had room for these natural skyscrapers.  -VW

      Brohm Lake

      Brohm Lake is well over an hour off the Sea-to-Sky, but the drive overlooking Howe Sound is all part of the magic of this spot. Once you arrive, walk the easygoing lower loop around the lake, which then, just after the footbridge, branches off into 10 kilometres of winding trails where you can quite literally pick your own adventure. Hike through the forest, scramble the bluffs, find spectacular views of the Tantalus Range, or jump into the water for a swim. It’s a different—and always beautiful—experience, every time. -YS

      Mountain View Cemetery

      Vancouver is quite obviously renowned for its parks and natural beauty. To some, it’s the city’s only redeeming quality (here’s looking at you Jesse Brown) . But there is also quite a fascinating history here, even if most of the remnants of it have been dismantled and built over with towers of condominiums. This was a frontier town, complete with all the drama, trauma and adventure that comes with that. The Mountain View Cemetery, while morbid AF, offers as good of a connection to the city’s past as you’re likely to get.  You’re not going to know the exact stories of the people buried under these century-old tombstones – unless you’re some kind of hyper-nerdy history buff – but it’s fun to imagine. You can still feel the age and the weight of it all. It’s surprisingly meditative and sobering. The staggering views of the North Shore mountains drives home just how impermanent all of this really is, which can be a useful perspective when stressed to the maximum with the day-to-day grind of our common existence. Sigh. Just don’t go at night. It can get a little weird in there. -SS